In our backyard, we have this large tree that has a clearing at the bottom where I sometimes sit and meditate, to clear my mind and experience the wordless beauty of nature. When I first saw the tree, it made me think of the legendary Bodhi Tree, where The Buddha gained enlightenment.
The Buddha was a prince who became disillusioned with his privileged lifestyle and went off to seek spiritual realization. After pursuing all sorts of disciplines and practices, including intense self-denial and asceticism, he was exhausted and sat beneath a tree. Here, he "awakened" and came to the understanding of reality that he formulated as the 4 Noble Truths, regarding the unsatisfactory nature of human existence. To address this state of suffering we all face, he then prescribed the Eightfold Path, defined by the "Middle Way" or living in a balanced state between indulgence and self-denial.
Siddhartha Gautama, who would be called The Buddha (simply meaning "awake"), was not a god or supernatural being, despite later religious iconography & legends. He was a man who achieved mental discipline, moral clarity, and spiritual refinement through the act of paying attention and living in a conscious manner.
The tree under which Siddhartha gained enlightenment has many layers of symbolism. The tree is an example of both stability and growth - rooted firmly in the ground, but expanding upwards and outwards in all directions. In ancient cultures, "The World Tree" was an archetypal feature of mythology- in which the underworld, earth, and the heavens were all connected. Shamans and visionaries would travel throughout the levels of reality via The World Tree.
Plant life and trees are also sources of life force and sustenance, as in the mythical Tree of Life. The tree contains a connection to our primitive past when we were connected more deeply to the forests and wilderness.
In an abstract way, the tree also has visual similarities to the fractal pattern of the spine and nervous system, where the energies of our consciousness and perception flow. This is a more subtle link to the idea of the Buddha's back being up against the tree, as the energy of enlightenment propagates throughout his neural fibers.
Anyway, all these things come to my mind when I look at & sit under this tree in my yard. This picture is of myself at the base of this majestic tree, embodying the peace of mind and connection to natural rhythms that The Buddha taught about. There is no time when I feel more at peace and more connected than when I am quiet and relaxed, immersed in nature...
Bodhi Tree - Paul Micarelli