The wisdom of Tu BiShvat is coming right when we need it, as we face another round of Covid restrictions, illness, financial strain, separation and concerns. Tu BiShvat (from the evening of January 16th through January 17th) is the New Year of the Trees. What started as a day for fruit-tree taxation in ancient Israel developed into a practice of focused spiritual nourishment and repair in relationship with trees.
During this time of the year, so much in the world of nature is hibernating, sparse and contracted. It can easily feel as though the world is deadened and especially at this time of the pandemic, it can feel as though another wave of isolation is separating us from the community and connection we so deeply need for our individual and collective well-being. Tu BiShvat arrives into this landscape, and calls on us to visit with trees and to learn from trees.
Here are some practices for this month of Shvat. Of course, like all Jewish practices, you can’t truly learn what these teachings are offering simply from reading about them. Your own direct experience is where the nourishment, healing and discovery lie.
In Israel, this is the time when the sap begins to rise in the trees. Even as the tree branches are still barren, life is rising within. Can you perceive the signs of hidden life out in the world of nature right now? It might require taking time and being still outside long enough to not only look for them with your eyes, but perceive them with all your senses. Can you discover the ways that outer shells and tree trunks protect the life contained within them? Can you perceive this quality in your own body – noticing the external protections of your home, your clothes, your skin? And like the sap rising within the tree, can you take time in stillness to turn your attention to feel the unfailing life energy moving through you? It is so helpful to remember that the sap rising is the hidden beginning of blossoming, on its way to becoming new fruit. It’s also helpful to remember that this is not the time to push our way into forceful resilience and flowering. It is enough to dwell with the subtle inner movements and sparks of life, and to rest into the trust that they will blossom in good time.
It is also remarkable to learn that trees communicate with each other. Even as they appear to be separate and distinct organisms above ground, they can communicate and live interconnected lives in profound ways. To learn more about this brilliant capacity, listen to this TED talk from Suzanne Simard.
Even as we are Zoom-fatigued, how can we draw upon the wisdom of tree communities to strengthen our connections with one another? What experiments will you try, what playful generosity might you send through the channels of connection, sending nourishment where there is a lack?