Living Discipleship and the Story of Grandfather Tree
After being told the story of Grandfather Tree’s power in the oak forest here at Ananda’s Meditation Retreat in Nevada City, California, I became enthusiastic about going to visit and meditate with this soul. Sometimes I would walk past Grandfather Tree on the way to my cabin, and hear him call to my heart.
A friend of mine once told me that trees are very advanced spiritually, and that trees’ souls often incarnate again either as another tree or as a human. She said that they have a special, communicative relationship with us— if only we would stop to listen to them.
Well yesterday, Grandfather Tree called to me again. At first, I thought, “Oh no, not this time, I want to go spend some time reading alone.” But then it occurred to me that this was my intuition, my inner voice picking up on the gift that Grandfather was trying to give me. So I decided to tune in to the possibilities of what was trying to happen in the moment, and went over to him.
My first visit with Grandfather Tree was actually a few days ago after Charles, the caretaker of the retreat’s gardens, took us on a tour to tell us the story of the divine guidance and presence of spirit on the land. Afterward, I returned alone to visit this particular tree, instinctively feeling that I was not to sit at the base below him, but rather lean my back — my spine — straight up against his trunk. It fit so perfectly! The moss in his bark made it very comfortable and I could easily place my hands against the moss in a position of open receptivity. I stayed there for some moments trying to quiet my mind, taking deep breaths, hoping to become still enough to feel Grandfather’s energy.
“He don’t talk much,” Charles had said.
At first, it seemed a bit funny to try to communicate with a tree, but I knew in my heart what to do and how to do it once I stopped ‘thinking’ about it.
After a minute or two in this position, I started to feel a peaceful, warm energy going in through my hands and back. I also felt a protective, fatherly consciousness coming from him. After some moments, I gave thanks to Grandfather and asked Divine Mother to come through me to send a loving energy back to him in return. I left him feeling I was welcome to return again if ever needed.
Well upon this day, I was able to open my heart to Grandfather Tree’s friendship even more deeply.
When I first arrived at the Meditation Retreat for the Living Discipleship program, a retreat for new residents of Ananda Village, I set the goal of becoming more patient; more kind. It seemed that Grandfather was in tune with my soul’s journey and lesson, and immediately upon leaning my spine against him I felt the meaning of time and patience that only a grandfather tree could share. It seemed that I needed to understand the longer rhythm of things, to feel myself not as a young person in this life, but as the soul on a part of its long, long journey back to God. That this life was but one flash, one moment. That I could use this concept to also be more compassionate and understanding toward others. If I could see them too as behaving or acting a certain way as a part of a greater reality for that soul’s journey, I could become more kind and supportive and unconditionally loving.
I saw how Swami Kriyananda, the founder of Ananda, had exemplified this perfectly in his life and especially as he led communities. He didn’t have a sense of limitation — whether time or space. He only saw the perfection of the moment and each soul as a perfect child of God. He could wait… and wait… and wait… until just the right moment to tell someone what needed “tinkering” within their behavior or activity. And yet, he never placed conditions on anyone, just accepted where they were at in the moment– their soul’s place in its growth over a span of many, many lives.
And Grandfather shared all of this with me.
I then asked, “Grandfather, how do you experience God?”
At first, my own thoughts ran around in my brain answering for him, “I experience God as nature, Divine Mother, the wind in the leaves, the sound of Aum…” But after these thoughts quieted and I remained still again, I felt the answer:
Warm, gentle love came emanating from Grandfather Tree into my body and I was able to experience the way that he experienced love.
Then Grandfather told me that all of nature is love. Everything is love. And it is all one. That he experiences this daily; he understands it from within.
And he said that all of nature — the flowers, the trees, the rivers, etc. want to share in that love with you.
We just need to open our eyes and see what gifts are awaiting all around us. He said the flowers want us to stop for a moment and give them our loving touch; the trees want us to stop and share a moment together in stillness. They want to smile at us and us to smile back, but we never stop to look upon their shining faces. They want humans to reconnect again.
If we do, he said, we would be able to remember our oneness.
And we would never have to go another day without feeling that love again.
I felt great joy and gratitude for the gift that Grandfather Tree shared. He gave us a message that we could all relate to and come back to time and time again. This remains one of the most memorable moments during the Living Discipleship program, and truly set the tone for my new life in community at Ananda Village.
Author’s Note: I am thankful for the opportunity to have spent this past month at the Ananda Meditation Retreat Center and for its historical role in Ananda’s spiritual growth. I want to extend my gratitude to all the staff who helped make this opportunity possible, and to my Living Discipleship gurubhais who encouraged me to share this story.