Bend, Don’t Break: A Simple Message from the Forest


Winter Forest in Prince Township. © Tara Marcinkowski 2012

Winter Forest in Prince Township. © Tara Marcinkowski 2012

“A tree uses what comes its way to nurture itself. By sinking its roots deeply into the earth, by accepting the rain that flows towards it, by reaching out to the sun, the tree perfects its character and becomes great. … Absorb, absorb, absorb. That is the secret of the tree.” – Deng Ming-Dao, Everyday Tao, 1996

I recently spent time in the forest silently lying in the snow under the trees while taking a rest from walking. In an instant I understood a message from nature through an observation that I want to share with you.

I watched the trees swaying in the wind. Sometimes it was a gentle breeze, at times an abrupt gust. The trees were flexible in the wind, bending without breaking.

The simplicity of the message was beautiful:

To build strength and resilience,  we must bend with external influences to avoid breaking.

There are examples of this message in our everyday language:

  • Be flexible
  • Accept change
  • Flow freely
  • Don’t sweat the small stuff
  • Roll with the punches
  • Take it in stride
  • Easy does it

By being flexible, the tree grows stronger (read more about the science of tree structure and adaptation here). The tree doesn’t lose its identity and become something else under these pressures and it doesn’t become weaker in surrendering to the wind. It remains a tree and gains strength because of it. Even in cases where branches may snap, the tree repairs itself and never ceases to be a tree despite a setback. Be like a tree when the winds are low and steady and when the winds are high and stormy.

We can learn so much from observing nature.


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