The Filter and the Sponge

When I was seventeen, my very wise uncle imparted words of wisdom that I have carried with me since. Being the young, slightly naive girl that I was, I believed that at such an age, everything was meant to be absorbed, that the world was met to fill every ounce of my body. I believed I had to be drunk off of my life in order to experience in properly. Seeing how ‘well’ that was working for me, he told me that the best way to live life is to be a filter, not a sponge. I knew what he meant, though probably not to the extent that I understand it now, three years out of high school with more crazy experiences than I could have ever imagined for myself at such an age. Those words became more eminent when I set out to release my novel. Instead of soaking in everything bit of life, both the good and bad, I have learned to be a bit more picky about what I allow to flow in my blood stream. You may not be able to control the things that happen to you, but you most certainly can control your reactions to them, and how much of it you allow to effect you. Be a filter, not a sponge.

Yesterday was Tu B’Shevat, (the 15th day of the Jewish month of Shevat), the New Year for the trees. There are various New Years that take place during the Jewish year, though this particular one was always the one I understood the least about, because it didn’t get as much attention as the other holidays. Tu B’Shevat is a day where we celebrate the sprouting of new trees in Israel. It takes four months from the first rain (which usually occurs around Sukkot, in September-October) for trees to sprout. Some traditions of this holiday include eating various exotic fruits. (You should have seen the look on my student’s faces when I pulled a star fruit and a guava out of my purse this morning!)

But, what does this have to do with us? Why is there such an emphasis drawn on trees and the day surrounding their birth? Trees, with their strong roots and intricate growth process mirror the life of a human. The Torah states ‘For man is the tree of the field.’ Like the roots of a tree, so too, man must be well rooted into his foundation in order to grow strong and achieve greatness in this world. With proper nourishment, water and healthy soil, a tree will grow strong and stable. Without it, the tree will suffer in the long run. So too with a young child. A child, who absorbs everything, like a young sapling, cannot control what enters his body through his foundation, what nutrients or lack thereof reaches his fragile existence. It is most important that during the early years of a child’s life, that they receive the proper nourishment and stability that will help them grow beyond their sheltered world later on.

Having become a ‘yogi’ in the past two months, I have learned quite a lot about rooting myself into the earth like a tree. The hardest pose for me, by far, has been the ‘tree pose.’ I have learned the hard way that flying off with the wind like a leaf every time the going gets tough is quite simply, not a healthy way to live. In order to not only survive, but thrive, you must deeply root yourself in the earth, into a strong, healthy foundation. The change of seasons cannot cause a person to melt or wilt, you must be stronger than that. What kind of tree do you want to be? A strong, well rooted tree that can overcome harsh wind, rain and snow? Or, would you rather be a weak sapling, whose lack of nourishment harms him deeply in the long run? By rooting yourself to your foundation, by feeding your soil correctly, you are by extension helping your odds for later on in life.

Today, while teaching this lesson to my very bubbly, hyper ten year olds, I asked them all to rise out of their seats and try the ‘tree pose.’ I figured that, like me, the most they would last in such a position would be thirty seconds, a minute tops. What I found was shocking. Though many of them fell to the ground within a mere matter of moments, some of them lasted past a minute. Then, five minutes. Then, fifteen minutes. At the half hour mark, there were four students left, and none of them were showing signs of surrender. I was shocked. I had not anticipated for it to last that long, so much so that I allowed them to continue holding their poses while I went on with the lesson. The last student standing lasted exactly forty-five minutes. They truly took the ‘man is the tree of the field’ concept to heart, and rooted themselves in the earth. I had several of my other students run around the classroom, pretending to be various elements (wind, fire, snow, rain), to try and distract them. Some fell forward, while others stood tall and graceful in their poses. Though they eventually grew tired and let their feet down, I was astonished at how seriously they took the lesson.

They say that a teacher, in the long run, learns more from their students than the students learn from the teacher. I did not realize how true that statement was until today. Surely, such a lesson shoud have been integrated in my own life by now. Stand strong, firm and rooted like a solid tree. Though distractions may cause you to waver, remain balanced and calm. Otherwise, you will surely snap in half and fall to the ground at the slightest hint of difficulty. Be a filter, not a sponge. Learn to remove unnecessary junk from your life before it becomes a part of who you are. Stand tall, stand proud, keep your eyes and your body focused. Otherwise, you will blow away with the slightest gust of wind.