The following story is from Thich Nhat Hanh’s book “The World We Live”
Hugging a tree seems to be a panacea for the longest time!
The City with Only One Tree
Imagine a city that has only one tree left. The people who live in this city are mentally ill because they have become so alienated from nature. Finally, a doctor who lives in the city realizes why people are getting sick, and he offers each of his patients this prescription: “You are sick because you are cut off from Mother Nature. Every morning, take a bus, go to the tree in the center of the city, and hug it for fifteen minutes. Look at the beautiful green tree and smell its fragrant bark.”
After three months of practising this, the patients feel much better. But because so many people suffer from the same malady and the doctor always gives the same prescription, after a short time, the line of people waiting their turn to embrace the tree gets to be very long, more than a mile, and people begin to get impatient. Fifteen minutes is now too long for each person to hug the tree, so the City Council legislates a five-minute maximum. Then they have to shorten in to one minute, and then only a few seconds. Finally there is no remedy for all the sickness.
If we’re not mindful, we may soon be in that situation. We have to remember that our bodies are not limited to what lies within boundaries of our skin. Our bodies are much more immense. We know that if our heart stops beating, the flow of our life will stop, but we don’t take the time to notice the many things outside of our bodies that are equally essential for our survival. If the ozone layer around the Earth were to disappear for even an instant, we would die. If the sun were to stop shining, the flow of life would stop.
Breathing in, I am aware of my heart.
Breathing out, I smile to my heart.
I may realize that the heart inside my body is not my only heart – I have many other hearts. The sun in the sky is also my heart. If my own heart failed I would die instantly. But if the other heart, the sun, explodes or stops functioning, I will also die right away. The sun is our second heart, our heart outside of our body. All of us – people, animal, plants, and minerals – “consume” the sun, directly and indirectly. We cannot begin to describe all the effects of the sun, that great heart outside our body.
When we see things in this way, we can easily transcend the duality of self and nonself. We see that we must take care of our environment because the environment is us.
All phenomena are interdependent. When we truly realize the interdependent nature of the dust, the flower, and the human being we see that unity cannot exist without diversity. Unity and diversity interpentrate each other freely. Unity is diversity, and diversity is unity. This is the principle of interbeing.
from The World We Live by Thich Nhat Hanh
Photo taken during a hike from Kibune to Kurama, Kyoto, Japan
Many beautiful trees.