Oak trees are the last to lose their leaves in autumn, a phenomenon I never noticed until I began a daily practice of sitting still. One sunny November afternoon, I decided I would make bench-sitting part of my daily routine. During those months of sitting in quiet solitude, I learned that I am a lot like that oak tree clinging so fiercely to its leaves.
I suspect a lot of us are. We clutch our camouflage—the person we present to the world, to ourselves and even to God. Sitting in silence every day helped me see my “leaves”: busyness and productivity, drive and efficiency, achievement and success. I used these leaves to insulate me from my deepest self.
When a Japanese gardener “prunes open,” he or she cuts away not only dead branches and foliage, but also a number of perfectly healthy branches that detract the tree’s essential structure. I was afraid of who I’d find if I began to prune away my layers of self-protection.
In both gardening and in life, “pruning open” takes discipline, insight and years of trial and error. It is the path toward smaller, rather than larger; toward quiet, rather than loud; toward slow, rather than fast; toward simple, rather than busy; toward dismantling, rather than building; toward less, rather than more. Pruning open is the way in.
This message is an excerpt from “Pruning open” by Michelle Derusha in the January/February 2021 issue of Gather magazine.
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