How Yoga Helped Me Become a Better Tree Planter

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Tree planting, rated one of the hardest jobs on the planet.

 

Oh tree planting…

  

If you don’t know anything about tree planting let me catch you up to speed.

In a nutshell, tree planting is a job mostly done by 20-27 year olds who’s job is to plant seedlings for a reforestation company, (generally contracted by a logging company), so that they can one day grow tall and be cut down again for toilet paper.  Every planter is paid per tree, and your work is done out of remote camps, sometimes only accessible by helicopter, others in remote towns.  Depending on the planter and your land, you generally plant upwards of 1500-2500 trees per day.  Home is where you set up your tent, and running water is generally only available for drinking and hand washing.   No beds, no showers, no toilets.
 

Your work day consists of waking up super early, getting a lift to your land on some type of ATV, (that would surely break down), and leave you to hike to your job site.  You are generally left alone on your piece of land, for near 10 hours a day getting eating alive by black flies, scorched by the sun, all while busting your ass off, rain or shine, to gain a decent paycheck. 

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I’ve been stung by wasps, stalked by grizzlies, eating alive by mosquitos, and don’t get me started on the black flies.  I’ve fainted from dehydration, I’ve had tendinitis from repetitive shovel slamming, and had hands so raw, that the only thing left to do was to cover them entirely with duck tape.

Looking back, tree planting was really an inevitable part of my journey.   Living in my tent all summer, helicopter fly-ins, no showers for weeks, living in the bush, planting TREES!…. This was right up my ally.

Anyway, how does this relate to yoga?

Well, in tree planting, if you don’t have the right frame of mind, you likely won’t make it.  The bush and the solitude is no easy place, if you are ill prepared either physically or mentally.  It takes great physical stamina but more importantly requires a good head on your shoulders.  

ENTER YOGA

When I was faced with hiking back to camp after a 10 hour day of rain, I could remember to come back to my breath.  "This too shall pass".  When my body ached after a day on the block, I could remembered to come back to yoga to work it out.   "This too shall pass". Time planting trees was a lot like a day in meditation and after weeks and months of repetitive mindless work alone, the mind has ample opportunity to take you where it wants, bringing up raw emotions, thoughts and worries.  Working through our days on the block was a lot like working out things on the mat, except with much more discomfort, a lot of pain, and a lot more curse words.  Tree planting can be downright brutal, on the body and the mind and emotions that are often buried deep down, eventually come to surface.   If you really want to see how humans in their primitive and instinctual forms behave, throw them into isolated camps into the bush for while.

Although sometimes brutal, I’ll never underestimate how much healing came from my years of tree planting.  Sometimes pushing ourselves to the edge of our physical and mental capabilities is exactly what we need, to see exactly what we are made of.   To test ourselves, and to experience the real and the raw versions of ourselves.  To come out of our comfort zones, to struggle and then to see ourselves come out of it.  To be put under anything but ideal circumstances, and be forced to meet it with equanimity. There’s something amazing that comes from looking back on something incredible you’ve accomplish and know that you persevered.

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And this is what kept me coming back

 

And this is how it reminds me of my yoga practise….

 

Through yoga, I've learned to accept what is and to make the best of a situation.  It taught me to learn to stop to heal, and when frustrated to stop first to breathe.  Yoga taught how to take myself to arduous places and to lean into discomfort.

 

Yoga helped me through my tree planting years, and when I returned to my mat after each season I was always blown away at how much tree planting had taught me.  My mind and body was always stronger, and I developed a better habit of being less reactionary on and off the mat.

 

“If I can do that, I can damn well try a hand stand”