The Dignity of Cottonwood

Plant Teacher Circle 1.19.10Cottonwood BudPopulus balsamifera

The swelling of the buds of the Cottonwood signifies the coming of Spring and the beginning of the harvest season. The smell of the buds always brings a smile to my face. There is a sweetness mixed with a quality of warmth that makes me feel like everything will be all right.


During the plant meditation last night I experienced the presence of Cottonwood as an unshakeable, deeply grounded, completely firm, and noble being. I was immersed in a holy silence far removed from any thought or concern. I was aware of my body in that I felt my entire being becoming more and more solid--a heaviness that tuned me into the feeling of being a very large tree.

I could feel the presence of the others in the room as if they also were trees. Being there in a grove of my kin, sharing space with these other beings of dignity, further increased my feeling of stability. It was a different type of connection from the one I experienced with Cottonwood's frenetic cousin, Quaking Aspen Populus tremuloides. With her I felt literally connected. The lines of individuality were blurred, but with Cottonwood there is a very distinct sense of unique identity.

As we began the second round of meditation the word "security" kept coming to mind. I was back in the same state as before, but as time went on, I began to feel a pressure in my head. As the pressure increased I realized that I was thinking too much--my consciousness had emerged in thought. During the first round I was shown the possibility of the no-thought state, but now I was responsible for maintaining my presence there.

I allowed my consciousness to shift away from the thoughts that were running through my mind. I could literally feel my energetic self moving down and breaking through the static of thought as it re-inhabited my being. I felt a few cracks in my neck as things got moving and then a warmth that suffused my whole being, softening it and making space for my consciousness to settle down into my body.

As I got deeper into this state, a space opened up and I sensed the opportunity to ask a question. (Prior to this there was no hint of access to any form of communication other than this holy silence that I mentioned before.) I asked Cottonwood who he might be helpful for, and a vision unfolded...

I saw a man wildly swinging the rudder of a small boat in the midst of a raging river. His actions were of no use. He came to shore and approached a grove of trees. In the center was a huge tree with a large grotto-like opening at the bottom. Inside was a holy man sitting in meditation. He rose up and morphed into a tree, growing larger and larger. Then the tree was on a cliff at the edge of the sea. Huge waves were buffeting the shore line and eroding the cliff. The tree was unmoved as the line of erosion edged closer. When it got to where the roots of the tree were, the erosion stopped. The waves pounded the tree. The tree grew stronger. The water and the ocean received a calmness from the tree. There was a mutually beneficial interchange between the energy of the tree and the water of the ocean.

I see this vision as an invitation. One that asks me not to fight against the current of life that this culture represents. The current of life that is rushing our species towards the destruction of our planet and ourselves-the current in which I get lost in the concerns of everyday life or the distractions of my inner thoughts. Instead I must face with total awareness and firmness anything that takes me away from the present moment and my true inner being. Rather than fighting against these currents, I must work with the force of these energies to strengthen my position even as the storms of madness rage around me with increasing fury. By firming myself in the tranquility and dignity that Cottonwood embodies, I will be more able to exert an influence on the greater field and help to infuse the current with greater stability and calm. Rather than fight against that which seeks to destroy me, I can, like an Aikido master, transform these energies into beneficial forces to help us all.

The time has arrived. We must firm ourselves in our spiritual work. The epidemics of madness are spreading. We need to continue to develop our relationships with our guides-every day, every hour, every moment making our prayers and offerings to them and allowing them to infuse the deepest recesses of our beings. It is clear to me that only with the help of the divine beings of the forest can I possibly do what I'm being asked to do, and as I continue on this path towards whatever lies ahead, I am glad to have beings like Cottonwood on my side. His presence can teach us all about the ways in which we can prepare ourselves for the challenges of these times of transformation.

Viva Cottonwood! Viva the Guardians of the Forest! Viva all of the Divine Beings of the Plant Kingdom!