We’ve all encountered some “rathers” as we live this present reality that we call life. There are many bumper stickers that reveal the desire to be somewhere else or be doing something else other than what is true in the present moment. “I’d rather be on the beach,” “I’d rather be flying,” or “I’d rather be anywhere else but here!,” are just a few. The real issue is what’s missing in our present life situations and why that is our experience. What has gone wrong? Why is this happening to me? Who am I? What is the purpose of all this?

What are the reasons for feeling dissatisfied? Don’t we all face this at times? Are not most of us seeking a “better place;” more happiness (whatever that might mean), more security (however defined), or less difficulties than are on my plate today. “Who are you? Who? Who?” are the words of a song we all know. Then we all change those words at times to “Why am I? Why? Why?”

When we dream of a “rather,” we are feeling some kind of dissatisfaction, pain, frustration, anxiety, or discomfort. What is it that we really seek? When the time comes that we then experience the beach, flying, vacation, eating out, or pursuing any favorite activity; who are we then, in that moment? Where ever we go, whatever we do, one issue is our constant reality; we always have to take ourselves along. That means, while I’m in the midst of my favorite activity, I am still me with all my needs–both met and unmet at the same time. This is the nature of life.

The key to all of life is getting our needs met! That is what every action is about and why we make the choices that we do. How we go about meeting our needs is the test of who we are. We can get our needs met by exerting a selfish ego that may look like: violence, denial, dishonest, blame, anger, projection, control of others, and many more–all of which are destructive. We can also choose to get our needs met in loving, connected ways like: compassion, empathy, honest communication, service to others, honoring myself, honoring others, actions compatible with community values, meaningful work or play, and many other ways. All of these positive and productive ways of meeting our needs are necessary in a world where everyone wins.  (See my book, Liberating Jesus From Christianity, for more on this)

There is however, another ingredient in getting our needs met that will 1) help us overcome the negative energies of the ego, 2) assist us in a practice of positive and affirmative acts and choices, and 3) provide the energy within to be fully who I’ve come here to be and to become; and also love you and encourage you to be and become all you’ve come here to be. That ingredient is the choice to continuously “birth a new self” within (deal with my shadows) and purposely develop deeper qualities of being. We must learn to do these processes with and for each other. All of us as humans are here to do this work. When we can get our needs met in positive and constructive ways, in that process we develop deeper qualities of being, of loving service, and of empathic support for one another. We are more alike than we are different. This birthing process is the call of the Aramaic Jesus–the non-Christian spiritual teacher who has been left out of the English Bible and the doctrines of the church. What he actually taught was far from religious nonsense. He taught the beauty of being spiritual midwives with and for each other, working together to become all we can be.

We can believe in compassion, in honesty, in love, in harmony, in wholeness, or in whatever qualities we want to be, without yet being the fullest expressions of any of them. What is the difference between believing in the qualities of woodworking, and actually being an accomplished woodworker? What is the difference between believing in the qualities of love, and actually being known as a loving person? The difference is practice. I can only be___________ by a conscious and purposeful practice of that value, that energy, or that quality. So what does all this have to do with trees? I must be and become that kind of person right where I am now in this moment, and in this moment, and in the next. I must bloom where I’ve been planted; just like a tree does each and every day. A tree can’t decide to move to a different place in my yard nor in the forest. (The trees in Lord of the Rings come to mind for me)The quality of a tree is that it is planted! Spiritually, we too, are planted; in this body, in this family, in these relationships. Yet even as we move about or move away, we take our self along for the journey. The choice remains–do I hold on to what has been or do I become new; learn to choose more wisely, relate more deeply, love more fully, and become more of who I came here to be. The choice is mine, always.

A tree is planted. That is the one quality of a tree that is constant. It has put its roots down into the soil–into the Earth Mother. It is rooted in its “life source.” It is constantly partaking of the nature of its Source of life. Only in that “connection” does a tree bring forth leaves in the spring, fruit in its own season, shade in the time that shade is needed, shed its leaves for a time of rest and renewal, provide sap for syrup, flowers for bees, branches for birds’ nests, and one day–in death, will provide someone with wood to build a house or furniture, a fire to warm a winter’s night, or will decompose to provide life energy for other plants and trees to follow in their own life cycle.

Some trees find themselves growing in the woods. Others sprout in the desert or in someone’s back yard. The most productive trees are usually those that have been “planted” by a stream of life- enhancing water. There it is most likely to prosper as a tree is designed to do. The more “life source” a tree takes in, the more it will fully be what it is designed to be. The same is true with us. The more we partake of our Source of Life, the more fruit we will bear. If we fail to participate in the spiritual practices that keep us experiencing Divine connection deep within, we will not bear ripe fruit. Those practices have nothing to do with religion. Meditation, inner reflection, loving service, helping others get needs met, and much more, are all spiritual practices. Religious activities like traditional prayer, church attendance, “worship,” false piety, and many more do not make me more loving. If we fail to continually seek to be the best person we can be, activate compassion, and bring forth empathic service to others in “community,” we can expect our leaves to wither and fruit being conspicuous by its absence. What do you choose? One can warm a pew or warm a heart!

To believe in flying doesn’t make you a pilot. To believe in love doesn’t make you loving. It requires far more than reading the owner’s manual in your car for you to become a good driver. Practice, practice, practice, is the old expression that never wears out. I must go beyond beliefs in every area of life and actually practice what I value until I become that which I desire to be.

We can choose to just exist where we are “planted,” or we can choose to be and become far more than we’ve yet experienced. Even here and now in times of discouragement, pain, or struggle, we can choose to become more. In times of delight, celebration, and loving connections, we can choose to become more. We can learn from each moment, each experience, each lesson, and each person in our world. The keys to it all is to live in Divine Connection and practice what we know to be the highest good even if (especially if) it is not easy to do. It is in doing and being my best and highest self in the times of difficulty that reveal who I truly am.

Or would you rather be a tree?

–Jim Stacey–all rights reserved