There are many images that come to mind when we think of Asia, from dragons to beautiful beaches, spanning varied cultures. One of my favorite views is that of the banyan tree, for it must be strongly grounded in the earth, which also allows its larger branches and leaves to provide overreaching shade.
It was under a banyan tree where the Buddha felt his calling to a new level of enlightenment. Under these same trees, Gujarati businessmen hold their meetings. It is even used as a place for political meetings: Recently in Malaysia, the state assembly met underneath the welcome atmosphere of the banyan tree. So for much of Asia, spirituality, entrepreneurship, politics are taking place right outdoors.
The banyan tree represents solidity, rootedness, and strength. At the same time, it also represents comfort, shade and welcome. It is a source of power, balanced with peace. It represents firmness, as well as welcome.
Is America’s Banyan Tree the Conference Room?
It is interesting how in America, and in many places across the world, most of our meetings take place in walled, sterile conference rooms. Chairs are uniformly around the table. The walls are usually plastered with notices about the company’s achievements. Pens and pads are available so we can write and record and get our business done. Gosh darn it, I can hear the executives say, in this room we’re going to get to the solution, get down to business and ‘make it happen.’
Yet what if we looked at doing all of our business, or even holding all of our meetings, under a banyan tree? This return to nature might help conversations flow more easily.
Perhaps this atmosphere would allow us to be more authentic. If we are surrounded by nature’s occasional stirring winds, visionary clouds floating across the sky, and brilliant beckoning sun, would we not also settle into a more authentic course of conversation? Could it lead to more natural, comfortable (and no less impactful, but rather moreso) solutions? Within this reframing context of nature, we can discuss our goals and hopes and plans and perhaps achieve even greater goals.
Here’s a thought… We can replace the pen, paper and busy scribbling of notes, with more eye contact. We supplant the flurried white board scrawls with more thoughtful listening. What a profound impact this has to have on any business relationship, business decision, and especially, with any personal matter.
Until we can “Unconference Room” the meeting space, perhaps we can imagine all of our conversations thoughtfully taking place under a Banyan tree. A place where comfort, understanding, and right relationships result under its strong, rooted and peaceful presence.
The banyan tree originally received its name from the merchants who gathered beneath it to do business; in the Gujarati language, “banya” means “merchant/grocer.” Western visitors to India observed the merchants meeting beneath the tree, and the name evolved to refer to the tree itself. The banyan trees are given great symbolism in both Hinduism and Buddhism. Banyan trees can grow to cover hundreds of feet, and live for over a thousand years.