REAL Education: Learning from The Tree of Life


Written by Dr. Nancy Ash, Co-founder and Chancellor of the NewEarth University

Editor’s Note: Meet Dr. Ash at the 2019 NewEarth Festival in Bali, Indonesia

(Photo of the author hiking at 10,600 ft. by JA from his private collection.)


Love is the root of learning.

Without it we are lost.

In a dismal sea of marginality, education needs a complete reset of its unhealthy default button: lack of love.

The old-paradigm system of learning is comprised of many great teachers (I know a few) that want change, and are now moving away from dysfunctional ways of teaching.  They are not alone.  As more and more folks are consciously awakening, the need for a major shift in education (at all levels) is happening.  Hallelujah.

My opening statement bears repeating, as it’s that vital: Love is the root of learning.

Generally, the roots of modern education (the last 50 years or so) have been starved for nourishment – the soil is parched.  But there are new pathways starting to flourish, new roots growing in love, sprouting centers for planetary unification.  These online and on-site learning spaces are stewarded by devoted change-makers teaching and researching new ways of being for the benefit of all.

So, there is light at the end of this tunnel where the trees grow to magnificent heights.

But let’s get real… and “talk turkey” as the present situation is stale.  The old educational stance was grounded in a lack of love. Without it we ARE lost. And it’s time for a transcultural exchange of the heart.  It’s time for the educational system to be torn down and rebuilt from the shear love of learning (and teaching) and from the roots of Self-love, love for planet and all beings.

As educators, how can we truly teach anything of value if the system has been rooted in self-loathing, self-pity and false light?  Let’s face it… as awakening Souls to the Pure-Truth, we’ve realized that most of what we learned in school is a lie and the overall framework of education was to dumb-us-down into a subservient lifestyle following a farcical plan that the government said (and still says) is good for us.  That has produced sub-par education during the past decades and it’s getting worse in the United States, in fact it is becoming downright dangerous – and, deadly.

A mentor (my cherished ministerial teacher) shared years ago that THE main problem in our world is that most people do not love themselves… or even like themselves.

Wow, there’s truth in that, huh?

Learning to love ourSelves is a most important teaching, a pith instruction for emanating love, kindness and compassion to all sentient beings.  Patterned in Divine Love, we naturally rest in our true nature, which is vast as the sky, bright as light and open as space, itself.

At the NewEarth University (NEU) we have been diligently working towards implementing fresh education models to “unlearn” while being exemplars of love as a critical bridge, evolving here and now. (1)  At NEU we share without discrimination – dynamically bypassing old-paradigm polluted academia and media-manipulated disinformation that has defiled the beauty of reallearning.  Besides organically developing curricula, through complimentary toolkit content materials from each of NEU’s six schools, one discovers practical treasures to inform full-spectrum change — in life, for one’s community, and our planetary condition.  The NEU vision for students, faculty, fellows, staff, affiliates and all participants is:



a world where the interconnectedness of all life is honored and respected,

where each take responsibility for learning,

healing, and leadership in pursuit of noble expression,

and where the capacity to love – and be loved –

is the highest note in our symphony of evolved expression.


Maybe you’ve heard this proverbial question, “How can you love others if you don’t even love yourself!?”

Consider a simple example of how imperative it is to take care of oneSelf: When flying, the attendant proactively cautions passengers (in the event of an emergency) to put an orange oxygen cup on the face – first – before helping a child with theirs.  Being selfish (concerned with self, the egoic small self) is not to be misconstrued here as the suggestion.  We’re discerning the conscious act of loving ourSelves as paramount to being better educators, instructors or teachers (of any subject) because this creates better human beings.  Real education will blossom as we learn from the great Tree of Life.  Love is the root system.

When very wobbly (stressed-outta-our-gizzards), one may practically look at nature to help provide harmony and balance.

In the Tree of Life, (our Tree) i.e., within our own sphere of living … we can make choices for effective transformational change.  First, we can choose to be brutally honest with ourSelves if feeling unworthy, unloved, and miserable while bottom-feeding on discontent.  This is a good first step in acknowledging that there’s been an unpleasant disconnect with Source, i.e., not loving Self, which is a radiant Divine Being patterned from All There Is.  And to seek help is wise as a second step.

John Lennon stated in his popular song, Strawberry Fields Forever: “No one I think is in my tree. I mean it must be high or low.” (2)  It IS our own Tree of Life that we must sit under to learn all that we can about ourSelves.  (My use of the capital “S” is intentional in the word, ourSelves, rather than a small “s” of the yokel-local egoic self.)

  • When was the last time you sat under a beautiful tree just to “learn”?

You don’t need books to read unless it’s your preference (or your mobile phone, ah, leave that at home please).  A tree teaches so much if we open our heart to this grand educator rooted to mother earth.

  • When was the last time you sat under a picturesque tree to BE in nature?

Let’s survey an ancient yoga teaching that uses the tree as metaphor. (3)  A tree of life with eight “limbs” was codified two thousand years ago by the mystical sage Patanjali.  In Yoga Sutras, there are 195 verses of which Ashtanga comprises 31 of these aphorisms.  Sanskrit’s word Ashtanga translates as ‘eight limb’ – from Ashtau (meaning ‘eight’) and anga(meaning ‘limb’).

Here’s a rudimentary description of the eight:

  1. Yamas are Roots – observances towards others (restraints like: ahimsa (non-violence or non-harming), satya (speaking the truth), asteya (non-stealing), bramacharya (sexual restraint), and aparigraha (non-possessiveness).

  1. Niyamas denote the Trunk – morals and ethics of living a good life, self- imposed disciplines, i.e., “do the right thing” personal behavior including saucha (purity), santosha(contentment), tapas (discipline or austerity), svadhyaya (spiritual studies), and Ishvara Pranidhana(devotion to God).

  1. Asanas are Branches – many physical poses to master the body (to sit still for meditation).

  1. Pranayama is symbolized by Leaves – mindful yoga breathing techniques designed to control prana or vital life force.

  1. Pratyahara is the Bark – implying withdrawal of the senses (turning inward).

  1. Dharana is the Sap – concentration (sap is to trees as blood is to animals).

  1. Dhyana is implied by the Flowers as meditative practice and absorption.

  1. Samadhi is the Fruit of The Tree (resulting from the other seven) as Ultimate Realization: Merging with the Divine / Oneness with All.

Even if you’re not into yoga, it’s still an interesting teaching.  So, dear reader, how’s it going in your tree of life?  Hopefully, well.  We may cultivate loving ourSelves intelligently (innately) by simply taking time to sit under a tree… whether metaphorically or figuratively.  And just BEING—joyfully sitting or lying consciously in the grass under the umbrella of its wisdom, listening to the lecture it has for the Soul—this is creative curriculum in my book!

Our imaginations may then run wild…. good:

We set sail—voyaging to wherever we wish and with whomever we yearn to feast with.

Imagine the table set: White cloth under full-plates of fig and tartlets, tea and crumpets with butter and cream.

Words fly like sparks in all directions as Madame Curie, Jung, Campbell, Plato, Hypatia, Yeshe Tsogyal, Tesla, Anne Finch and others commiserate in the finest of conversations.

Love for the work, love for the ideas, love for the essence of an equation – whether numerical or of myth or love – fuels the heart in driving the Soul.


It IS inherent that love is the root of who and what we are, and therefore it must be the root of real learning.  With love, creativity flourishes.  But how do we realistically teach about life and spirit if we don’t love or even like ourselves?  That is a critical issue to be considered.

As educators, we must love ourSelf or the Learning Tree limbs we stand on shall crack and plummet from lack of nourishment and nutrients.  Then the low-spirited fruit falls to the ground inedible from a number of ills.  Sadly, this has been the trend in old-paradigm school scenarios.  Teachers are underpaid, overworked and blamed for so much.  It’s not fair.  But even if you are not a teacher, we are all educators of some type.  You don’t have to be in a traditional career role as a schoolteacher or faculty or professor to be complicit in the broken educational system that surrounds and threatens our civilization (if we even still have civility these days, which at times is looking more and more dubious).  Wearing different hats we teach in some way with our own children, families, friends, colleagues, clients, etc.

The educational system is in dire straits; it’s a hot mess.

Could it be that individually—and collectively—we, as humanity have lost our way?  As a fractal of the whole enchilada (considering a Whole-Systems Model) education is just one piece of the pie that’s in chaos.

But maybe there IS order out of chaos as mathematical physicist Prigogine (and co-author Stengers) proposed in their work on dissipative structures in human ecosystems? (4)  Though I am generally optimistic about life and humanity’s trajectory to a new earth, this is a serious condition because our old-paradigm educational models affect everyone in the greater Tree of Life.  If the roots die – we die.  And, I’m not speaking metaphorically like the yoga tree; figuratively we will bury more and more children if we don’t re-calibrate and elevate learning to the status that it deserves to be: paramount.  New and inspired pedagogy in education has learning and teaching inextricably bound.  And LOVE – as simple as it might sound – IS the key, the magnanimous root to a better world, now, and for future generations.

As more and more teachers (and those that set policy) love themselves from depths of the heart, they will begin to serve more consciously, knowing that to educate is to love.  This is: Love for self, love for others, love for service, love for teaching, love for conscious learning about the Self, and pure love for the art of New Ways of Being.  This is not hubris.  It’s not being negatively self-absorbed… it’s a balance of sacred beingness, residing in the Zero-Point of the Heart.  That’s what is needed.  If we’re not balanced or grounded then we must take time to learn from our own Tree of Life, for that is where the treasure is.

Teachers – of any station, type, level of profession, etc. – must learn to take care of themselves, to love themselves wholly, recognizing (re-membering) themSelves as Divine Beings in direct communion with Source (whatever or however that is realized in one’s sovereign way).

Yes, we can learn (and unlearn) under the Tree of Life.

And we can have fun climbing our tree, and while sitting up high on its strong flexible branches for a 360-View, educate ourselves as to the joy of living, the pure-truth of life on earth and the glory of sharing what we’ve learned.

That’s real education.

Gratitude in Grace,

Dr. Nancy Ash



(1) NewEarth University portal:

(2) Strawberry Fields Forever, Beatles’ 1967 Magical Mystery Tour album.

(3) Doing a 360 by Reverend Dr. Nancy Ash

(4) Order Out of Chaos: Man’s New Dialogue with Nature by Ilya Prigogine and Isabelle Stengers.




A seasoned Raja Yoga teacher and practitioner of Dzogchen, Reverend Dr. Nancy Ash is known as a vajra-yogini and pioneering midwife to the new paradigm since the 1970s. Her heart-centered voice is heard worldwide as a passionate new-thought-leader, author/poet, web TV host of Kaleidoscope, and former radio co-host championing peace for all women, men and children on this planet. Dr. Ash is the Co-founder and Chancellor of the NewEarth University, a planetary hub for wisdom-keeping of the greater NewEarth movement and the NewEarth Horizon (NewEarth Project 2.0). She has served as a Board member and President of New Earth Theological University (online), wearing hats also as a professor/postgrad advisor; and, subsequently as dean of its School of Interspiritual Studies. Nancy resides in the enchanted mountains of New Mexico, and has authored two books: Garland of Grace: Sitting with the Dying Sun, and, Doing a 360: Turning Your Life Around to Follow Soul’s Purpose.


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