Life Lessons From Muir Woods

In July, our girls were off to Europe for two weeks to visit their best friends so, Neal and I, decided to visit California. It’s been a long-time dream to visit San Fransisco and Muir Woods. After three days in San Fransisco, we headed out to Muir Woods and Napa Valley.

I knew Muir Woods was going to be a magical and sacred place to be in. What I didn’t expect was the deep silence and stillness that descended upon us as we entered the forest. I don’t think I can find the words to communicate what it feels like to walk among 1000-year-old trees that can be as tall as 350ft. Humbled doesn’t begin to describe it.

As we began our hike, we stumbled upon a small group of people listening to a park ranger explaining about the redwoods. We stopped to listen and that’s when I learned about the life secrets that have allowed redwoods to live up to 2000 years.

  • A large redwood tree needs 500 gallons of water each day. Sounds like a lot? Well, it is and the trees get their water from the rain and fog which is prevalent in the area.
  • The root system of the redwood tree is surprisingly shallow – no deeper than 6-12 feet – but the major roots can typically spread 50 to 80 feet. One of the ways the trees can remain upright is by growing close together with other redwood trees and interlocking root systems.
  • Their bark which can be 6-12 inches thick contains tannin which protects against fire, insects, fungus, and diseases. No insect can kill a redwood.
  • One of the keys to the survival of the redwood is its regenerative abilities. When redwood is damaged or injured, it develops a lumpy outgrowth at its base. Saplings may sprout from these burls.
  • Fallen redwood logs serve as nurseries for the growth of new trees.
  • Most of the height of a redwood tree is gained during the first 100 years. The mature redwoods tend to lose their lower limbs. This creates a canopy which is characteristic of the redwood forest. These canopies provide support for a variety of creatures and prevent loss of moisture.

The more I listened the more I could see timeless messages for well-being and growth emerging. It appears that what works for redwoods can definitely work for us.

  • Finding the environment that supports us and thriving in it – Every gardener knows that certain plants thrive in certain conditions. We too need to find the environment that supports our growth and development. Feeling stunted and held back? Let’s take a look around. Is our environment supporting what we’re trying to do and who we’re trying to be?
  • Developing a strong community we can lean on – We’re not meant to be alone and do it all by ourselves. Finding our tribe and learning to give and receive makes us stronger and resilient.
  • Giving back – As a member of a strong community, we need to do our part. What are our special gifts? What makes us valuable members of a community? Sharing our strengths and wisdom, becoming a mentor, and seeking opportunities to help and give back; that’s what it’s all about.
  • Hydrating – Health and well-being are priorities. A strong body will allow us to do what we want. Drink lots of water throughout the day and eat healthy, nutritional food.
  • Standing Tall – To maintain our perspective we need to stand tall and look at a situation from above. We can’t let challenges and daily irritations bring us down. Stand tall at the center of your life and take the view in. How does your world look from above?
  • Protecting ourselves; developing “thick skin” – Our heart may be in the right place but this will not always protect us. Do not fall victim to your sensitivities. Develop strong boundaries and keep saboteurs away. Being kind, generous, and open doesn’t mean that all are welcome through the doors. Use discrimination. Choose wisely.
  • Regenerating often – Things will not always work out the way they were intended. Stuff happens. We may feel weakened, hurt, demotivated. Let’s give ourselves the chance to regenerate often. Let’s use our resources, inner and outer, to heal and strengthen.

Now . . . Tell us! What rings true to you? Which one of the life secrets of the redwoods are you ready to adopt? What are your thoughts on the subject?

As a life coach and retreat leader, Yota works with women seeking clarity, inspiration, and purpose in the midst of life changes. Her approach is intuitive and deeply influenced by her cultural roots, work and life experience, and her long-term practice of mindfulness meditation.


  • Linda Samuels

    What a beautiful reflection, Yota! I love how you’ve taken your experience of “being” and connected it to living a life. I remember our conversation about your trip, the Muir woods, and the extraordinary community these trees had. I think what resonates most for me is how these old, tall trees with their shallow roots connect with one another to stay strong and steady. Alone they might topple. But together, they last. And so it is for us. The bonds we have with our “people” sustain, strengthen, and nurture us.

    • Yota Schneider

      @Linda Samuels: Thank you Linda! I love how you summed it all in one sentence . . . “The bonds we have with our “people” sustain, strengthen, and nurture us!” Indeed! It may take time for some of us to find our “tribe” but once we do, watch out! 🙂 I am grateful to call you one of my tribe!

  • Eleni

    I could not agree more! Linda is right about the way you “give back” to us . . . your experience of being and living your life. The magic feeling you felt when you entered the forest . . .one can feel it through your amazing photos .
    I like the idea of developing “thick skin ” in order to protect ourselves. As for the art of giving back, it’s a great way to live, especially during these difficult times!
    Thank you for sharing this special post!

    • Yota Schneider

      @Eleni: Thank you for stopping by Eleni:-) Always good “seeing” you:-)
      The concept of “thick skin”is a controversial one, for sure. I’ve always had mixed feelings about it myself. Yet, over the years it has become apparent that we can’t possibly go through life without growing a strong spine and a thick skin. It doesn’t mean we become insensitive; it just means we grow strong and grounded and that can be of benefit not only to us but to those who need us.

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