In this series of blog posts, Life lessons from a Trappist Monk, I share the wisdom of my late friend Brother Rene, who was a monk at the Abbey of Gethsemani for over fifty years. For many years we corresponded by letter, and here I share excerpts from his letters.

In our surrender, we still carry on life every day as usual. One must not lose his/her ego self as we direct our steps each day. –Brother Rene, from letter, July 1, 2003

It happens to be mild weather here in San Francisco, so yesterday after work, I decided to take a leisurely walk through the botanical garden in Golden Gate park. February is the time of year when the magnolias are in full bloom, and right now they are in their glory.

These days, with a full and busy schedule, I have made it a priority to find more ways to consciously rest in God—to sink into the presence of creation and surrender—and nature often provides the perfect environment. I meandered through the various sections of the large garden, taking in the beauty around me, and as I passed a magnolia tree in bloom I caught a sweet scent. Ahh, the fragrance of God, I thought.

I walked up to one of the large flowers, which was hanging low on the tree, and slowly inhaled the scent of the white blossom. “You are so sweet,” I said. And I took another deep inhale. In fact, I stood there for a while, holding the flower gently in my hand and enjoying its petals and smell. What a way to relax!

Before I walked on, I looked up into the tree and saw it was full of magnificent white flowers. In that moment, I could see my life as one bloom on that tree: just one bloom. My eyes continued to move across the treetop, into the blue sky, and over to another large magnolia tree with pink blooms. I could sense I was connected to these flowers, and thought, we are all here together. I am in creation. I felt the invitation of the moment, and I joined the communion of life.

Yes, my life, my desires, my voice, and all that I am composed of is to be cared for, valued, and shared. Yet, I am also part of the great body of life. Can I hold in my heart and in my awareness both my the flower and the tree full of blooms?

Brother Rene’s call to action to not lose one’s ego, as we live a life of surrender, is asking us to recognize and care for our flower without losing site of all the flowers. What a wonderful understanding to awaken to!

Can you look at nature and see yourself as part of it? Can you see how you are a wave in the ocean, a flower in a field of flowers, or a snowflake in the snow?