Murdock: Lessons from the Aspen trees |

Murdock: Lessons from the Aspen trees

Gina Murdock
Lead With Love
Gina Murdock

Having two tiny little girls running around my house, I often find myself wanting to freeze time to savor their ridiculous, effervescent cuteness. Simultaneously, I find myself wondering how I will manage to guide their miraculous, innocent spirits to focus on gratitude and love in a world that feels dark and daunting at times.

How can I explain that we knew we were killing this precious Earth with our consumptive lifestyle, but we did it anyway? How do I let them know they are special and unique, and that they should celebrate differences when they are immersed in a culture that defines beauty and happiness in specific ways that may not fit for them? How do I teach them that the more they compare themselves to others, the more they will suffer, that they will never keep up with the Kardashians, and that that’s the last thing to aspire to to find fulfillment and joy in this one wild and precious life? 

My kids aren’t there yet, but a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report indicates a lot of exasperated and frightened parents have likely been asking these types of questions — and more, like, “How can I save my daughter?!”

I was heartbroken and shocked to read in the report that one in three teen girls “seriously considered” attempting suicide in the past year. One in three teen girls. That’s a whole lot of teen girls I personally know. That’s a whole lot of little girls like mine who grew up with parents who care deeply, tried their very best, and still end up losing their little ones. It’s a lot of girls who didn’t grow up in the best circumstances and got lost in a system that failed them. It’s girls who struggle to know if they are gay or straight or in the right body or not. It is black girls and white girls and everyone in between. This study suggests we are a sick society, and the Band-Aids we are trying to put on these gushing wounds of sadness and despair are woefully inadequate.  

This CDC report is staggering and a call to action if I ever heard one. The study went on to report some other distressing statistics: Nearly one in five (18%) teen girls interviewed experienced sexual violence in the past year — up 20% since 2017, when the CDC started monitoring this measure. More than one in 10 (14%) had ever been forced to have sex — up 27% since 2019. And nearly three in five (57%) teen girls felt persistently sad or hopeless in 2021 — double that of boys, representing a nearly 60% increase and the highest level reported over the past decade.

As a new mom playing with unicorns and rainbows all day, I wonder: How can this be? How can we as parents, women, teachers, politicians, clergy … how can we let this be the new normal? What can we do? The mental-health crisis in America feels dauntingly similar to the climate crisis. It’s so big. There is so much to be done. And if we don’t do anything, we will die. So what do we do?

One thing that has really inspired me lately — because it feels so simple and obvious — is Dr. Lisa Miller’s work proving a link between spirituality and mental health and well-being. Her research shows through fMRI studies that those with a strong spiritual life that is shared are four-fifths less likely to commit suicide. There is nothing more profoundly protective against suicide and other “diseases of despair,” she says. In this, we have one antidote to help shift these devastating statistics.

It is coming home to the knowledge that we are all divine, we are part of something miraculous, we are all an important part of a whole. We must tune out the parts of our culture that tell us we are separate, we are not enough, we are inadequate, we are ugly and alone.

We are lucky here in Aspen to have a most beautiful reminder of our shared spirituality in the Aspen trees that surround us. While all these trees look separate, they are in fact all connected under the earth in an intricate and mysterious web of interconnected roots that nourish each other. The trees, like us, are constantly changing, resilient, and breathtakingly beautiful.

Please join us for our final Awakened Society Series Zoom, Awakened Schools, with Dr. Lisa Miller, Teacher’s College, Columbia University, and  Dr. Steven Rockefeller, Dean of Middlebury College, on March 7 from 5:30-7 p.m. After this zoom talk, Lead with Love will work alongside Columbia University in offering our educators a chance to participate in the Awakened Schools Institute, a year-long course (once a month) exploring the 12 drivers of a spiritually supportive culture starting in the fall of 2023. Contact for more info.
Contact the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline if you are experiencing mental health-related distress or are worried about a loved one who may need crisis support. Call or text 988. Chat at


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