One of the most beautiful things about traditional dharma is that it comes from (and upholds) a world view in which the spiritural and the natural are one. Seekers don’t have to choose between serving spirit and serving life, or between the transcendent and the tangible.
As we practice, we find again and again that both the spiritual and the natural flow from the same power, and each is an expression of the other. In the modern era, there’s a real tendency to divide the two.
The tradition points us back repeatedly to the truth that the sacred has taken the form of the physical universe. As we walk through it, our task – our glorious challenge! – is to recognize this in everyone and everything that we meet.
The fifth suggested practice for Pitṛpakṣa is also very quintessential – to connect with and take care of trees.
In many indigenous cultures, there is an association between trees and ancestor energies. Perhaps it’s because the same trees were around when our ancestors walked the earth, and because they will live on even after we pass and become ancestors.
Like the ancestors, the trees are also generous guardians of life, sustaining entire ecosystems of creatures through their existence. And, our climate also depends on trees to regulate gases and temperatures around the world.
The simplest – and most traditional way – of serving the trees is to offer some water to a tree. It’s common to commit to doing this each day of Pitṛpaksa. And, it’s also a great practice for everyday life, if you can keep it up!
If you are inspired, you can take responsibility for stewarding a tree (or several). This is a really good thing to do if you have trees in your home, or elsewhere under your protection. You can make sure they have the right nutrients and environment in which to thrive – feed them and love them as you would any hungry being. Treat them with respect – they are powerful.
Another common practice is to plant a tree on behalf of your ancestors. Remember to keep your energy inwards, however, so no need to go crazy with a full garden renovation project at this time. If you are unable to do so yourself, there are a number of organizations around the world that let you plant trees or help protect existing forests. It’s common even in Western cultures to do so on behalf of our ancestors.
A traditional inner practice is to sit in the presence of a tree, and let your mind become silent. Once you experience its presence, you can dialogue with the tree and receive its wisdom. This works best if you commit to doing it regularly.
You can also meditate under a tree. As you do so, let yourself experience its ancient energy and align your being with its timelessness.
Simple dietary choices (local, seasonal, plant-based food, for example) can also have a huge impact towards protecting our forests and trees. In the same way that most of us have forgotten our ancestors, we have also forgotten our trees. We can enter once again into grateful, loving relationship with these ancient protectors.
If you have any questions, or want to share your experience, you can do so by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Teacher: Shivani Hawkins