What Nature's Crown Shyness Can Teach Us About Social Distancing
COVID-19 has highlighted many subtle realities about our current world, one being just how interconnected we are on a global level. The first known case of COVID-19 occurred in mid-November 2019 and within a few months most countries had shut their borders, banned all non-essential travel, and advised their citizens to stay at home in effort to curb the spread of the virus.
Most of the world has been practicing social distancing for at least a month and some have been indoors for more than two months. Many are beginning to get antsy, worried about how they’ll pay bills, job security, or just plain sick of being told what to do. Recently, in the United States, some people began protesting against stay-at-home orders, equating it to an undeserved prison sentence and believing that it’s not their responsibility if others get sick.
But we do have a responsibility to each other. This world exists only because we are occupying it together and this pandemic has shown us how much we rely on each other. Before this, many of us were taught to value individualism and only look out for ourselves. COVID-19 has forced us to recognize how porous we actually are.
Our porosity is a quality that we share with nature. You could also say that our porosity is a quality that reveals that we are nature. Like nature, we have no choice but to absorb the stimuli around us, whether it’s helpful (like sunlight and fresh air) or harmful (like infectious disease and smog). We can also look to nature for clues as to how we can protect our porosity and create boundaries.
There is a phenomenon that occurs with trees in forests that is called “crown shyness.” This happens when the branches that grow at the top of trees avoid touching the branches of other trees, creating these really lovely patterns with cracks of blue sky shining through.
It is not confirmed exactly why trees do this, but a couple theories have been proposed:
“Some believe it occurs to reduce the spread of harmful insects. Others believe that trees are attempting to protect one another’s branches from getting cracked and broken in the wind, and it’s also been suggested that “crown shyness” happens so that trees can optimize light exposure in order to maximize the process of photosynthesis”
Whatever the reason may be, it’s fascinating that trees are so porous and reactive to their environments that they have to set these “boundaries” to protect themselves from harmful environmental factors and encourage optimal health. While their first priority is to protect themselves, they also do this to protect the other trees around them.
As energetic and porous beings, crown shyness demonstrates why it is important to set our own boundaries. It underlines why it is crucial to practice social distancing as we seek to cure this pandemic.
It might help to picture yourself as a tree in a forest. When all of the trees let their branches grow in every which way, no sunlight is able to come through. However, when each tree is mindful of its branches, the forest is able to flourish and all of the trees can grow.
You might take it one step further by assessing the role of boundaries in your life. If you find yourself wanting to disobey stay-at-home orders, could it be because you’re absorbing something that is not yours? Perhaps it’s negative energy from someone you’re living with or bad advice from politicians. Take this as an opportunity to create boundaries from a place of strength and decisiveness. How can you build on the current guidance to create protections that are specific to your needs?
Now more than ever, it is necessary to protect ourselves from pain and negativity that is not our own. By protecting our own energy, this is actually how we can be the most helpful to those around us. By being fully ourselves in our truth, and not taking on anything that isn’t ours, we can inspire others to find their own light.