In one of my journals, from one of the workshops or retreats I’ve attended, I found a note I made about the importance of maintaining good posture. I’m not clear if it was something said by the facilitator or by another participant, or maybe an insight that I jotted down, but I do know it was not referring to physical posture but rather emotional and spiritual “posture”.
Walking about in the woodlands here, I’ve been noticing some of the small- and medium-sized cedar trees bent over by snow. It’s interesting to think about how they got that way. They had been standing up tall, their trunks around 4” diameter and their tops 12 or more feet from the ground. But a few snowflakes land on their boughs, then a few more on top of those, and then a few more again caught by those already landed. And so it continues… quietly, slowly, gracefully… until the tree is clearly listing and eventually may find itself in a full bow.
Part of it is that cedar is a soft and somewhat pliable wood. There are other tree species which would better withstand the snow load—that is, until they eventually snap. But cedars are less likely to snap, more likely to bend. And what determined which direction the cedar bent? Were the branches unevenly distributed? Was the foliage denser on one side? Did it have a slight lean to begin with? Was there enough of a breeze blowing to shift the tree just that little bit off-centre at the same time the snowflakes continued their innocent accumulation? Hmm.
Getting back to that notion of emotional and spiritual “posture”, I think the insight is that the more centred and balanced we can maintain, the better we can withstand what flutters down on us and not end up having a lot of little things accumulate to bend us over in one way or the other. And remember that, like the cedar, once it is already leaning from one snowfall it is more likely to lean further with the next one. As with the body, the better the posture, the stronger and more balanced the musculature, the less likely we will hurt or damage ourselves under stress.
I spent 27 years working as a Counsellor. It was worthy work. But highly sedentary. And despite quality office chairs and my efforts to get up between every few clients and consistently take lunchtime walks, I am now—a couple years into early retirement—experiencing just how much all that sitting shifted my body off centre. My life now, thankfully, is active. There are always things to do here on a rural woodland property, yoga is a part of most days, and there is never really any need or reason to sit for extended periods. But I have found it is taking a lot longer than I would have guessed to “un-bend” and I am surprised how my back seems forever prone to minor injury even with sedentary life behind me.
And those cedars—what of them? Will they recover either more, or less? Or, once bent, will they be more prone to it happening again and thus forever weakened? Will those which were bowed right over remain like that? It will be interesting to see what happens. Cedars are extremely resilient trees, capable of surviving in harsh and sparse conditions. My hunch is that those with slight leans will return to normal upright growth but those more severely bent will continue growing but always exhibit a degree of disfigurement.
Nature has many lessons for us and perhaps one we can take from this is that good posture—whether it be our body posture or our emotional and/or spiritual posture—makes us more durable, less prone to injury and hopefully avoid any enduring deformity. So then the big question is what constitutes good emotional and spiritual posture? And the obvious answer is that it will be distinctly unique to each person. But, like body posture, figuring out good posture probably begins with self-observation in the mirror.
Semi-related read: What’s Your Tree Type From “Cedar – resilience” to “Spruce – inner strength”, determine which of 9 tree species best embody your traits.