Yoga with Melissa 379 Heart Stabilization Series: Turning Poison into Medicine

by Melissa West on

Tree Medicine

Difficulties can be the source of our deepest wisdom, patience, balance and compassion. My teacher’s teacher, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche says the spiritual progress from the ego’s point of view is one insult after another.

Normally when challenges, mistakes, difficulties arise in our life we feel blame, frustration or a sense of failure, we try to get over our feelings and get rid of them as soon as possible to get back to life as usual, our more pleasant experience.

Usually in our lives when difficulties arise, we project our frustration onto them, as if it is something outside of ourselves, our relationships, our living circumstances, our work, the world outside of us that is the source of our discomfort. We think that if we can change our circumstances then we will be happy. But it is not in changing our circumstances that we will be happy, but in our relationship to them.

Instead we can take our difficulties and turn them into our medicine. We take our struggles and they become the remedy of patience and compassion towards greater and greater freedom as we come to know our True Self. Our greatest elixir for growth is often what will bring us face to face with our strongest limitations and difficulties.

We all face difficulty in our lives. Challenges in relationships, problems at work, pain illness and injury, loss of those we love, sometimes it is our own depression, anxiety, fear and addictions.

Today I am going to share Jack Kornfield’s story of a poisoned tree. On first discovering a poisoned tree which is a metaphor for the difficulties in our lives, some people only see its danger. Their immediate response is to cut it down and get rid of it before anybody is hurt. This is not any different from the normal response to aggression, compulsion, greed and fear that arises within us when we are faced with anxiety, depression, loss, conflict or sadness in ourselves and others. Our initial response is to get rid of the problem.

Perhaps your response upon discovering the poisoned tree is not aversion, but compassion. Your response may not be to cut it down, but instead of judging it you decide to build a fence around it so that others are not poisoned and the tree may also still have its life. This is a shift from judgment and fear to compassion.

Jack Kornfield suggests there is a third kind of response to the poisonous tree. This person sees the poisonous tree as exactly what they were looking for and picks the fruit. They investigate the properties of the poisonous fruit, mix it with other ingredients and use the poison as a medicine to heal the sick and transform the suffering of the world. This person sees value in the most difficult circumstances.

Jack Kornfield asks, what spirit of freedom, compassion or understanding is yet to be found in the midst of the difficulties of your life? With respectful attention what can you willingly learn from the difficulty that is present in your life?

Resource: Jack Kornfield, A Path with Heart

Yoga Postures or Asanas: Reclined Bound Angle Pose or Supta Baddha Konasana, Reclined Side Bend or Supta Ardha Chandrasana, Side Plank or Vasisthasana, Plank or Kumbhakasana, Downward Facing Dog or Adho Mukha Svanasana, Tree Pose or Vrksasana, Warrior Three or Virabhadrasana Three, Uttanasana or Standing Forward Fold, Janu Sirsasana or Head beyond knee pose, savasana or corpse pose, anahata chakra mudra

Props Needed: 2 blocks, bolster, meditation cushion

Thank you so much for your donations: Cornelia, Donna, Hilary, Sonja, Diane, Zaneta, Donna, Sharon F, Sean, Anne-Marie, hanna, Peige, Hannah – these are one time and monthly donations to YWM

Also I want to thank each and every one of you who donated to the go fund me campaign I put together so I could continue my studies with my teacher Neil McKinlay and attend a 7-day meditation retreat and course in June on Salt Spring Island. Thanks to your support and generosity I will be attending this retreat. Also I will be putting the surplus of funds, towards part two of the online Sutryana Study intensive and practice I am taking right now which will take place in the autumn. I am humbled by your belief in me and your joy in seeing me pursue further study. Thank you.

At the beginning I told you I would tell you where you could go to receive the rest of the teachings on being with difficulty. I will be offering those in our Monday Live classes in our membership community this coming week.

I offer live classes every Monday at 9:30 am PT and 5:30 PT in our membership community where I give teachings, time for you to talk about your practice and ask questions and we also do a guided meditation each week.

Members Link

Membership Sign-Up

We’d love for you to join our Membership Community where we have

  • value added content
  • community of like-minded people coming together from all around the world
  • receive ongoing support in deepening your yoga practice from myself, our leadership team, and our community through an online forum, weekly live classes on Mondays and monthly meetups and retreats.

Weekly Yoga with Melissa #379 Photos of Yoga Poses


Previous post:

Next post: