Last Saturday, as I was heading out to the grocery store, I noticed, out of the blue, a vague prickly feeling, accompanied by a side of shame.

Maybe I was run-down, too exhausted to sidestep my direct experience, but I sat in my car, put my hand on my chest and allowed whatever was there to be there: Something in me wanted acknowledgment, and I felt ashamed for wanting it.

The shame was like a warning: Stay back 100 feet.

Once I could accept the shame, I could accept what it was blocking: a longing for acknowledgment. The desire for recognition was just there. I hadn’t created it. It wasn’t personal. “Hello,” I said, and the dam of shame released, and there I was, holding space for this part that wanted to be seen.

I see you.

There was no judgment. No trying to achieve something worthy of acknowledgment. Just an allowing of the desire for acknowledgment to be there without believing the story that I would die if I didn’t get it. So simple really. But that simple truth brought tears.

Connecting through a tree

I drove on to the grocery store, and there in the lobby sat a potted tree, a Norfolk Island Pine, $24.99—and it was talking to me, saying, “You know you want me.”

And I did! I lifted the tree and set it in my cart. It was so big, I could barely see through its spiky branches as I made my way through the crowded store. I felt ridiculous, but not enough to put the tree back.

“My, what a pretty tree,” a woman by the bananas said.

I wasn’t sure how to respond. “Thank you?” I said.

On the next aisle, a man with two kids in his cart said, “Whoa! Get a load of that tree. It’s like two trees in one!”

“It is, isn’t it?” I asked, smiling.

Another woman in a fleece jacket came around the corner. I almost clipped her with my cart. “That tree is amazing! It’s like two, no, three trees! Wow!”

“I know!” I said, giggling. This happened at least five or six more times, people stopping to admire and acknowledge my tree. I was starting to wonder if I was dreaming.

As I was leaving the store, heading back through the lobby, a well-dressed woman stopped and pointed straight at me, her gold bracelets jingling. “I am so glad you got that tree,” she said.

“Me too!” I said. “It called to me.”

“Yes!” she said. “It’s a great tree. It’s wonderful.”

I laughed. What else could I do?

That will be the last acknowledgment of the day, I thought, as I wheeled the cart through the parking lot, but no. An older man with white hair and a large nose pointed at the tree and said, “You’ve got yourself a mighty pretty Christmas tree.”

I couldn’t really talk by this point, so I just nodded, smiled and waved.

No one will believe this story, I thought, driving home. But it didn’t really matter if anyone believed it, because the experience was for me. The universe was showing me that when I acknowledge what is happening in the moment—when I accept and welcome whatever I am experiencing, unconditionally—I can more easily recognize that I am part of the flow of life.

Allowing myself to admit my longing for recognition enabled me to see and delight in the recognition that was all around me.

The Bo tree

I don’t believe that my acknowledgment that I wanted acknowledgment created what happened in the grocery store. But I know this: In greeting my tree, those shoppers were greeting me, and I was meeting myself.

When we recognize what we need, we can more easily recognize what we are. It wasn’t just the tree that people were raving about. It was me. I was the tree, I am the tree. We are, all of us, the tree. The Bo tree. The divine tree. The tree of life that never dies.

The opposite of life, as Eckhart Tolle tells us, is not death. The opposite of death is birth. There is no opposite of life. Life is eternal. Evergreen.

The gift of our own attention is a powerful thing: It gives and gives and gives.

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