A bout two weeks ago I was in Middleburg, VA, a historic town established in 1787. Only 45 miles or so from Washington, DC it is known as the “Nation’s Horse and Hunt Capital.” Historic buildings line the main road through town that are home to restaurants, inns and specialty boutiques.
As I walked along a path that winds through a gorgeous piece of property on the outskirts of town, I came upon an enormous old oak tree standing guard over the Salamander Inn. From its immense size, gnarled branches and scars of time I imagined it to be well over a hundred years old. Its height is difficult to estimate, although you can determine for yourself from the image below showing me standing beneath its outstretched arms.
Looking up into the wide expanse of branches I began thinking about all that the tree has witnessed. Was it here during the civil war, and if so, what took place beneath or within its branches? What traveler might have stopped to gain refuge from the hot sun within its shade? What young lovers might have met and picnicked beneath its canopy? What animals and birds sought its shelter throughout its years? What storms has it endured through the many seasons of its life? Did it come close to breaking or did it always yield just enough to withstand whatever came its way?
As I stood in awe of its majesty I realized that despite all that has been witnessed and endured it is still the same tree that stands before me. It doesn’t matter what was witnessed or how it survived. What matters is that it is stands tall, proud and majestic as the tree that it is and has always been.
The tree is not its history. The tree was the tree throughout the events of its life, it was not the events themselves. And so it is with us. We are not the events of our lives. We are not the history of our lives. We are the who and what that experiences each of life’s events. What each of us has endured does not define us. However, each event does offer the opportunity to experience the Truth of who we are.
I believe the purpose of life is the progressive realization of the Truth of who we are. The events of life are the means for this realization. We do not become something other than that which we are, we come to realize who and what we have been all along. Like the tree we weather the events of our seasons. However, it is not because we are never given anything we can’t handle, it is because there is nothing we can’t handle.
As you look upon another, see them not as they stand before you in physical form but as they stand before you in their Truth. Honor them for their courage as you would like to be honored for yours. Be mindful not to judge based on what you see. You don’t and can’t know why their specific life’s path was chosen, other than it provides exactly what they need for Self realization.
Just as I stood before this magnificent tree and wondered what it has witnessed, stand before one another and instead of judging, wonder what they have witnessed? What have they endured? What have they experienced? What can they show us? And acknowledge that despite it all, here they stand proud, courageous and majestic, not as who they appear to be by outward appearance brought on by the events of life and passage of time, but as the Truth of who they are.
Life is our teacher and we forever its students. Through awareness and willingness we can always find the wisdom required to move gracefully along our respective path of Self-realization.