The Root Cause
"Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life."
For the first four years of my life I grew up in the beautiful Kingdom of Swaziland. While most of my memories are sketchy I do recall a big garden with rolling hills and large trees. I like to think this is where my love affair with these silent, tall and majestic giants began.
When we moved to Johannesburg I was delighted to see that our new garden was also filled with these splendid beings. My favourites were the enormous mulberry trees that abundantly offered up delicious, sweet mulberries every summer. I remember spending endless afternoons sitting on the large rough branches of the mulberry tree, plucking off the berries and stuffing them into my mouth only to be left with purple fingers, lips and tongue.
I have always loved trees.
I hug them, I cherish them and I adore sitting in the shade of these tall, silent observers.
I admire how they stand firm against the icy winters and never fail to produce buds and fresh new leaves in the Spring, regardless of what is happening in the world. I've always believed we can learn a great deal about life by observing trees and so I wasn't surprised when I was recently gifted with a wise lesson from one of the dead trees in my garden.
I've always believed we can learn a great deal about life by observing trees...
Unfortunately over the past year we've lost two trees to the dreaded shot hole borers that are decimating trees across South Africa. We watched helplessly as they started shedding their leaves until they eventually stood naked and lifeless in the garden. We were advised to cut them down and so we now have two stumps where giants once stood. A few weeks ago I noticed the one stump starting to sprout small shoots. These shoots have grown longer and sturdier and are now covered in leaves. Amazingly, the stump is growing another tree! Every time I look at it I marvel at the miracle of life and am reminded of the instinctive desire that every living creature has to live.
Our tree was dead, 'kaput', 'overs kadovers'!
And yet it wasn't.
It continues to grow.
Yes, the beetles eroded the tree from the inside and produced a fungus which ultimately suffocated the vascular system. However, the roots were not destroyed and continued to do what they do - absorb water and nutrients in order for the tree to grow. The roots hadn't received the memo that said 'game over' because the tree has an innate wisdom to bring equilibrium back, to continue with life even if it means adapting to a new way of being. This internal 'belief system' drives the behaviour of the roots and then everything else follows.
The roots hadn't received the memo that said 'game over' because the tree has an innate wisdom to bring equilibrium back, to continue with life even if it means adapting to a new way of being.
Every living thing is programmed this way, until it no longer is.
As humans we also have this innate wisdom to self correct, to bounce back, to find a way. But sometimes we are completely floored by life's challenges - the breakdown of relationships, job losses, financial strain, little or no purpose, illness... Overwhelming challenges can slowly eat away at our resolve and impact all areas of our lives until we forget what peace of mind or joy feels like. We are like a bare tree in the garden that's forgotten how to produce leaves.
It can be paralysing and so we need a strong root system to inject 'life' back into us.
After observing this wise 'dead' tree trunk which now has new life courageously growing from it, I came to see that the tree's root system is like our human belief system. Just like the roots will continue to bring life to the tree so will our beliefs define how we deal with the challenges that life presents us with. Our foundational beliefs about ourselves, the people around us and the world at large will determine how we handle difficulties. We either continue to grow, even if it's in a completely 'new' way, or we retract and collapse.
Do you know you're navigating your adult life using a belief system that was constructed when you were a child? Our early experiences with our caregivers, our interpretations of events, influences as well as the things we were told to be true have defined who we are today and this affects how we are in the present moment.
Between the ages of 2 and 7 we went through an egocentric stage where we were not able to think outside of our viewpoints and so we were constantly trying to find meaning or a reason for everything in our lives. When our parents or caregivers laughed or clapped we linked their actions to something we'd done, as if we'd caused their reaction and this made us feel good. By the same token if we got yelled at, we may not have understood the real reason and so we attached our own meaning to it. We couldn't understand the uncomfortable feeling that came with the yelling and so our emotionally immature brain would try and make sense of it by creating a belief, "Dad is shouting because he doesn’t love me" or "I’ve done something wrong" or "There is something wrong with me". During these formative years our brains became unconsciously wired and so these beliefs were engrained.
Do any of these universal beliefs resonate with you?
"I am not good enough"
"I am not important"
"I am not loved" "I'm not lovable"
"There is something wrong with me"
"What I have to say is not important"
So by the age of 7 every human has created an entire belief system steeped in their own inadequacy and these conditioned beliefs become the lens through which we experience our world. It's not wrong, it's just our brain doing what it's supposed to do in order to survive. The problem is, our behaviour never deviates from our core beliefs.
The problem is our behaviour never deviates from our core beliefs.
The good news is we don't have to go through our entire lives using a premature and outdated belief system. Once we become aware of the limiting beliefs that are driving us we can begin to reconfigure them by literally investigating whether they are true or not.
I invite you to consider this:
Your belief is not a truth, it is an interpretation of an event.
And now consider this:
The beliefs you have are not actually yours, they were taught to you by others.
If you want to kick start your inner root system and transcend your limiting beliefs you need a process or method to work with. I first began this fascinating inner journey 32 years ago when I read Louise Hay's "You can Heal Your Life" followed by John Kehoe's "Mind Power". Your beliefs may be steeped in trauma and may require the assistance of a therapist in order to gently unpick your history. I've been using a simple yet powerful tool for the past 7 years - Byron Katie's Self Inquiry.
You begin by asking yourself the question,
"Is it true that there is something wrong with me?"
"Can I absolutely know there is something wrong with me?"
This is a meditative process so be really still and wait for the truth to surface.
"What happens to me, how do I react when I believe there is something wrong with me?"
Notice what comes up for you - your bodily sensations, emotions, reactions and actions.
Go to the next question,
"Who would I be in the world (or in this situation) if I didn't believe there was something wrong with me?"
Begin to feel into this. Feel what it would be like to not be held back by the constraints you have subconsciously imposed upon yourself.
And then consider...
"There is nothing wrong with me"
Could this belief be just as true or perhaps even truer than "there is something wrong with me?"
You can watch Byron Katie taking a man through the 4 Questions on "I'm Not Good Enough" here.
If you find it difficult to do this work on your own I encourage you to use a facilitator who can help you deconstruct your web of foundational beliefs. This is not sugar coating and exchanging a negative belief with a positive one. It is a method that dissolves your old beliefs because Inquiry wakes you up to what is truth and what is story.
You get to see that there is absolutely nothing wrong with you!
With a clear mind you are then be able to pause and really see what is unfolding for you. You begin to realise that no matter how many challenges are eating at you, just like the tree you have a root system that supports and keeps you moving forward. It holds you in such a way that a new life force, with new opportunities and a new way of being become who you are.
It can take a day, a week, a month or longer but as soon as you start to realise you're worth it and that there is nothing wrong with you, you blossom into the most extraordinary being with an internal root system that supports you every step of the way.
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