Planting a Tree


By Mark Van Buren

Mark Van Buren is a mindful-living trainer, yoga/meditation instructor, personal trainer, and musician who has been promoting health and wellness for over a decade.

The following is an excerpt from his book, Your Life IS Meditation.


Act without doing. Work without effort.

—Tao Te Ching


The simple act of meditation has the power to transform our lives completely.

It’s mysterious how being still for small amounts of time each day can bring about such profound changes—but this is indeed what happens. It’s as though the universe itself is working through us, nurturing our body and mind each and every time we sit. Although we may not notice any jaw-dropping instant results, over time we will see how much the practice changes our entire way of being, making us more compassionate, gentle, and wise. It’s also important not to get too attached to how quickly results will come in practice. In fact, hoping for experiences or results actually blocks our progress.

Try to think of our practice as planting a tree, starting from a tiny little seed. First we must find a good place to dig. Once the ground is ready and your hole is dug out, we then put the seed in and cover it up. From there the only thing we can really do is water it every day and protect it from animals and too much sunlight. The actual growth of the seed isn’t up to us, but instead is up to the universe, the movement of life itself.

Every day we must show up and water the seed, even though for a while it may seem as though nothing is happening. And finally, one day, there it is: a tiny little seedling poking out of the dirt. We now can see all our effort was not in vain, but this small seedling still has a long way to go. It’s very vulnerable at this stage of its growth, so we must keep a careful eye on it and continue showing up each day to water it.


"Try to think of our practice as planting a tree, starting from a tiny little seed."

As the months go by, slowly it begins getting bigger and bigger. It’s hard to notice because we see it every day, but eventually we find that our little seedling has turned into a baby tree. While it’s still not as sturdy as a full-grown tree, its roots are firmly in the ground, and it’s strong enough to hold its own, so long as no major storms come along. The speed and rate at which it grows is still not up to us. It is mostly out of our control. There’s nothing we can do about that except enjoy the mystery of our tree’s gradual growth.

As more time passes, it gets even bigger, eventually becoming a pretty solid tree. And with even more time passing, it becomes strong enough to withstand even the whirling winds of hurricanes and other strong storms.

This process is very similar to your meditation practice. We show up day in and day out, sitting quietly with ourselves and our meditation method, and after years and years of practice, we realize it has gradually been transforming our lives all along. We often don’t realize it’s happened, but it definitely has, and it’s still continuing to work its mysterious magic on us.

The most important thing to remember in our practice is to give up all hope for life-changing results. Our job is not to transform ourselves, but rather to water the seed, so to speak, every day. Transforming our lives, becoming more grounded, and having more peace and joy is a process that’s not up to us. With time the practice will naturally and gradually bring about these changes, yet all these things are up to the universe. I remember hearing about how, on retreats, Chan Master Sheng-Yen, when talking about enlightenment, would tell his students to “let the universe do it.” This is the practice.

As we continue practicing, remember our job is to joyfully show up every day and do the practice. We must unceasingly water the seed of awakening within ourselves. Life will take over and do the rest, but we have to trust it. Before we know it we’ll have gone from a seed to an unshakable tree. But don’t worry about becoming the unshakable tree; just practice. During meditation, let it all go and be fully present for each breath. Don’t be concerned with getting results.

Things will change, but at their own pace.

It’s up to the universe, not us.

Relax and enjoy the journey.

"We must unceasingly water the seed of awakening within ourselves."

This book’s message is bold and clear: Your life is meditation—every moment and every circumstance can be a place of mindfulness practice and transformation. Your entire life is a path to awakening; nothing is too mundane, nothing is left out. Mark Van Buren excels at communicating in a simple and breezy fashion the nothing-special quality of spiritual practice and how mindfulness helps us make peace with life as it actually is. He leaves the reader feeling empowered, encouraged, and up for the task of living a life of at least a little bit more freedom and peace.

“With his unique combination of clarity, humility, humor, and insight, Mark has written a perfect book with which to start a meditation practice, or if you’re a longtime meditator, a perfect book to help dissolve that imaginary boundary between ‘practice time’ and the rest of your life. You can feel Mark’s experiential wisdom coming through each page and into your own practice—or, rather, your entire life. I really love this book!”—Jaimal Yogis, author of Saltwater Buddha and All Our Waves Are Water

Through personal and funny stories Mark makes accessible the path to beginning to integrate meditation into a way of well-being in our daily life.”—Koshin Paley Ellison, author of Wholehearted: Slow Down, Help Out, Wake Up

“Friendly, simple, and wise words for those who would like to bring a little light and kindness into their daily lives.”—Ben Connelly, Soto Zen priest, secular mindfulness teacher, and author of Mindfulness and Intimacy



Between now and the end of October 2020 get 20% off Mark Van Buren’s first book, A Fool’s Guide to Actual Happiness, when you purchase Your Life IS Meditation. Just add Your Life IS Meditation to your shopping cart and use the code 20LIFE at checkout. A Fool’s Guide to Actual Happiness will be added to your cart at the discounted price.


There are no products in your cart.