I’ve always really liked and been drawn to symbols. I think this is at least partially why I am extremely fond of tattoos. I don’t think this is very different because I think as whole, humanity is very fond of symbols. Yeah, you may not be rushing out the door to get them inked permanently on your body, which is understandable, but they are a integral part of our daily life. Most of our culture, and every day life is filled to the brim with various symbols from business logos, to emojis, to even the alphabet. Yeah even the alphabet is just a list of symbols for various sounds that we use to form languages. Symbols have been around since humanity has been around. Sometimes we just need something else to better describe and envision a subject, concept or idea rather than just words. I believe the idea of “a picture is worth a thousand words” definitely applies to the realm of symbols as well.
As with the rest of the world, yoga is full of deep and meaningful symbols that help embrace, and conceptualize the practice and teachings. One in particular that immediately stuck out to me when Amy and I first started diving into our practice was the Tree of Life. Now, I know the symbol for the Tree of Life has been around throughout history and has widely been used outside of yoga in various religions such as christianity, buddhism, hinduism and so on and so forth. So it is definitely not unique to yoga, but many of the teachings and practices of yoga aren’t necessarily unique to the practice. Yoga has just mapped out a path for embracing certain aspects of life that have always been a part of human nature such as love, peace, and unity with people and the world around you. I think this is why yoga fits in with any religion. While it in and of itself is not a religion or religious, it does embrace and overlap with many teachings and goals that religions have. But that is all a conversation for another day.
But back to the Tree of Life. There have always been many meanings associated with the Tree of Life which is common with many symbols and pictures. They leave some meaning open to interpretation. But over time the Tree of Life has been a symbol that carries many meanings from wisdom, protection, strength, to bounty, beauty, and redemption. It is also a symbol of connection, connecting the ground and the physical realm of existence to the skies, heavens and the eternal realm. I don’t know what else to say besides that I deeply believe in and love this concept. i’m not sure how many people reading this know about my background, but i was grown-up and raised in christianity. so religious teachings are nothing new to me. i even briefly majored in theology for a year in college before i ended up eventually switching majors and transferring. i’m gonna try and stay away from as much religious talk as possible, but one aspect of christianity(and it applies with many religions from what i know) is the concept of: even though we are currently living and connected to this physical world, there is an eternal realm of existence as well. a differing point in religions and even denominations within, is whether or not the eternal life can be a part of our existence now or if it just something that happens after death. i believe it can be part of the now. i believe even in our everyday life by our actions and they way we live we can and are connected to eternity. i think this is at the core of the meaning of the Tree of Life for it is a symbol for life itself. it connects the physical to the spiritual and eternal. the roots ground us in the physical realm while the branches stretch and connect us to the heavens. While our bodies are limited and rooted in the physical world, our actions, emotions and lifestyle can stretch upward connecting us to the eternal. and as a tree grows, so too do we grow through life producing fruit to nourish and benefit those around us. while our bodies are constrained to the physical dimensions and its limitations, our souls can already begin to tap into eternity by exhibiting eternal qualities such as love. every time we love ourselves, every time we love someone around us, every time we practice gratitude and forgiveness, every time we form authentic relationships and connections, we are connecting ourselves to eternity.
we are a people scared of death, and i am in this category as well. death seems like such an end, such an unknown to the life we know. i think the depth behind the Tree is that if we believe we can connect to the eternal now, in our limited physical dimension, then death is nothing more than an inevitable, yet only physical change. when our actions are rooted in love then we are already living in this eternity that we long for. this is the meaning of the tree of life: a call to embrace the connection between your everyday physical life and self to eternity, and not some ethereal death insurance policy eternity, but an eternity that you can connect with in the here and now. so while you are rooted in the physical world today, spread your branches upwards and connect yourself to eternity by practicing gratitude, peace and love.