Survival … what it takes…

The subject is survival…..

 I have always been in awe of the ability of human beings to withstand diabolical pain and suffering, to elude death and come through their challenges whole and healthy. As one who has helped many go through the process of survival to complete healing from some of the most horrendous life experiences, and who has herself faced death and refused its invitation, I am always aware of that innate strength within all of us. It is when we lose touch with that strength that we feel vulnerable; and our lives are truly threatened when we do not realize that we do have incredibly powerful inner resources. A great deal of my work involves getting people back in touch with those strengths and their other dependable resources; and teaching them how to access and employ them. It is a profound relief for them to know they have more than they ever realized within themselves to make it through, and to be able to move on, wiser and stronger too.

Life offers us many opportunities to explore, discover and use our power to win over threats to our mental and emotional well-being and/or physical survival. We have all heard stories of remarkable and even seemingly miraculous survival, and recovery, and we wonder how it is possible. Is the will to live instinctual? I have seen enough to believe it is inherent in all life forms. I know at times it is also conscious determination.  I also think, as that much as it is instinct, it is also that life is precious, and that the fear of death causes us to fight against all odds to live (perhaps another blog subject).

When we had our retreat about ten miles north of Lapeer, 120 acres amid farm bank land, it was a true respite place. We did seminars and retreat weekends there often, i.e. the three-day and night couple’s seminar, various workshops, and other special events for our clients. The house, in which we were able to provide lovely accommodations for our overnight guests/ participants, stood in the middle of the property, and was surrounded by woods and fields; we even had a pond. Everyone remarked on how the lovely peaceful and secluded environment did so much to help them slough off the city and suburban pollution and stress, and refresh themselves.  However, it was when we took people on walks on the paths Don and our son-in-law Steve had carved through the wild growth that everyone stopped and experienced a sense of wonderment; for they had come to the “Magic Tree”. Many people felt drawn back to just sit with it; or to meditate and reflect. I did at times, too.

 It was our grandson who named it the “Magic Tree” the first time he saw it, for even at the age of three, he recognized the wonder of its existence.

It had obviously been struck by lightning several times; for it was easy to see the burn marks, open wounds and the scars from nature’s attempts to destroy it…human actions too, for it had survived a fire that spread to our land when a neighbor was burning his fields. Its top had been torn away leaving it looking starkly misshapen and leafless. Many of its branches were literally lying on the forest floor, almost completely severed from its charred trunk, looking as though they were dead; yet new growth, some of different species were sprouting from them, and more new ones growing out of its battered trunk. Several other kinds grew among what remained of its own upper branches, using them for their sustenance.

I didn’t think of the tree as magic, at least not in the way little Steven did. I did think of it as a symbol of how all things in nature can exist and still grow and contribute to growth in spite of the traumas and stresses imposed on it: It can survive in spite of all threats to its life and health. Holocaust survivors are an example of this amazing human feat of endurance and survival.

 I’ve also learned from personal experience that just when we think what’s happening to us is the coup de grace…that we are about to capitulate while thinking, “This is it,  I can’t get up from this one,”  somehow to our surprise we find ourselves getting up from where we have been struck down, and getting on with life. Life indeed seems to have a force and will of its own.

This is not to say there are no wounds from those brutally painful life experiences. But wounds heal if we let and/or encourage them to, and scars do not hurt, they are not there to remind us of pain, they are good and powerful reminders that we have indeed survived and are healed.

The Magic Tree spoke to all who witnessed its survival of how life and the will to live are inherent in nature, and it offered (it seemed to me) an inspiring message: As long as there is life there is potential for healing, growth and development. The tree was reaffirming for me a fact of life: If you don’t give up, if you want to live, if you want to survive and recover, and thrive, you will find a way: therefore you can, and you will.   

Believe me; I know it isn’t always easy: However when life demands it you will be able to draw from the roots of your being those aspects of yourself from whence your life was given; that is, if you always remember that your life did not come to you from a vacuum. Even if you were not nurtured and loved enough while growing and developing, even if you were abused, suffered great trauma and stress, something within you enabled you to grow to where you are now, making it possible for you to be healed and live as fully and healthfully as is humanly possible.

You are rooted in life unless you choose otherwise.

Trees are symbols of many wonderful things about life: For example, the trunk of a tree can be a metaphor of your innate strength and fortitude; and like a tree hit by lightning, you are capable of flowering new growth. The branches of your being that have been wounded have the ability to hold onto your inner source of nourishment, heal and even nurture others. In fact that’s another fact of life… that as we nurture others we cannot help but nurture ourselves.  

It’s for your survival and ability to recover that you must believe that no matter what happens, you have the ability to draw on your inner resources. Like a tree that gets its nourishment from the earth, from sun and rain, you can draw from your own natural resources as well as the good and plentiful resources available to you in your outer environment; and like a tree you can reach higher and even deeper to find what you need to go on; you can bend and flex so that you are not uprooted when the great forces of life demand you to; and like a tree you have the awesome power to survive and thrive.

TTFN and all the best, always, from Elaine Kissel

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