You've got to move to be still

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Posted on September 19, 2013

oak wood 1We all know that the essence of nature is flow, but I think we sometimes forget this in our quest to find certainties, answers, stability.

In a yoga class yesterday the (very bendy) teacher triggered a realisation in me when he refuted the names we use to describe our bodies. Rib Cage? It’s not a cage: it’s flexible, more like a basket. Spinal Column? Again, it’s so flexible and responsive, it's like a spiral, a spring.

This attitude set me thinking about the fact that nothing in life, in nature, is static. As humans when we become static, and stop moving, we lay the seeds for ill health, resistance, discomfort: this is similar in nature, if and when we try to constrain it. The natural way (what has been called Tao) is to find form within form, to express and grow within the space and conditions available. Trees send their branches up to find light – tall and thin with high branches in a dense forest, low and broad when isolated and free – and their roots spread out to keep them steady depending on the direction of the prevailing wind. Even within the apparently solid trunks there is continual movement of fluid and cells, elasticity in the midst of what seems like unmovable form. When conditions are too constraining, trees seldom flourish.

We are no less a part of nature than trees are, and as such, our thinking falls under the same tendencies – get stuck in our ways, attached to beliefs, overly black-and-white in our arguments, and we reject the chance to flourish. There’s less room for growth, on a personal level but also in the immediate environment. And, for the wider environment, when we begin to discuss what to do with land, how to boost biodiversity and sustainable land use, even how to approach some of the dizzyingly huge issues relating to oceanic pollution, climate change, flooding or food security, an element of flexibility in our thinking will go a long way.

The balance of the many demands on the land, and the many opinions about it, is constantly shifting. And it seems that the essence of maintaining stability is the ability to retain some flexibility, constantly, in our thinking, in our actions. Even the tallest tree sways in the breeze.

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