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Sway freely and dance along to nature’s drum

It’s that in-between feeling.


One door has slammed shut and the next hasn’t opened yet.


I am stuck in the hallway, and I have NO idea what is on the other side of the wall. I want to race up and down, bang on each door, peek through keyholes, and try to figure out what is coming next. I want to know exactly how things will turn out. And I want to know now. Senseless and unreasonable, but to some degree we all share this innate desire. It is a survival mechanism, a way to protect ourselves. We want all of the data so that we can make the best choice to stay safe, chasing a false illusion of guaranteed security.


In limbo, my emotions go haywire. I feel like a branch ready to snap at any moment because I can’t keep up with the tugs of the breeze. I try to micromanage my branches (that is, control my feelings) and force them in directions that go against nature, against the wind, even though my limbs will flail about either way.

How silly to think we can stop our human emotions, our energy, from floating at will, though we try. Oh, how we try. We hold our breath until we are blue in the face. Fighting tooth and nail for a certain result. We swim upstream, resisting the flow of life, which will continue rolling right along, with or without our participation or acceptance.


There is a way to sway freely and dance along to nature’s drum, if we focus our attention on something more solid.


Our roots.


No matter how frenzied, I can always go back to my roots, my anchors to the earth that ground me. Our roots keep us tethered to reality, in a good way, a necessary way. “Stay where your feet are.” Look down at your roots and remind yourself you are here, you are connected to the earth, you are okay. This offers a much stronger and self-efficacious outlook than trying to change our circumstances from the standpoint of a fickle branch.


When the root is deep, there is no reason to fear the wind.

-African Proverb


What is the point of dreading what may or may not come—when, where, why, how—we can only prepare as best we can. Sure, we can forecast and use tools for navigating life, observing trends and patterns just as meteorologists predict the weather. It is helpful to stay tuned in and operating from a place of awareness. But even still the storms will come.


Our job is to adapt to these fluctuations. Everything is transient, and change is the only constant, so why not have fun on the ride? If my roots are strong, my branches and leaves then have the liberty to move with the tides and give into motion, from the gentle swings to the fierce whippings. When grounded and planted, the unknown becomes a faithful companion, rather than an uninvited visitor darkening my door.


We have a choice of what we look at and what we see. We could spend the sunny days regretting how we handled a rainstorm and how damaged it left us or worrying about what may happen this summer. Will there be a drought? Will I be uncomfortable? Flora and fauna don’t resist these necessary shifts and rhythms of nature.


Presence. Animals and plants and every other living creature know this intuitively, we are the ones who have gotten lost. Trees sense changes in the weather, the temperature, the light, and shed their leaves just in time for autumn. We humans aren’t so skilled at letting things fall away at their natural time and pace. We grip and cling and claw at things, people, feelings that we refuse to let go.


How to ease this sufferable state of pressure and resistance?


Nourish our roots at the base. This work often goes unnoticed because the transformation happens underground and within. I can adorn my branches with expensive ornaments and flashing lights and shiny things, seeking instant gratification and attention to distract myself from the underground work that needs to be done, but it won't stop the wind.


If anything, the material decorations put stress on the tree, and its branches become weighed down by materials and manmade constructs that have no place in nature; they only interfere with and complicate the process of organic growth and movement and change. But we want the easier route because it meets our culture’s priorities of efficiency and productivity and self-image. We find ways to massage our pride so that people will stop and say, “Oh! Look at that pretty tree!”


But nature cannot be fooled. We must turn to our deep root system of the underworld for power, our mysterious soul life. It is in this unshaken foundation of existence that the meaningful work is done.


Individual Tasks


We shall have to be content with patient improvement.

-AAWS


Much like trees, we need the basic elements to sustain life: sunlight, water, oxygen, shade, nutrients, biodiversity.


Then, there are the necessities that distinguish us humans from the rest of the natural kingdom. These acts of nourishment and nurturance vary and there is no one-size-fits-all instruction manual. Meditating, journaling, praying, moving, and creating are a few of the tasks that, in my day-to-day, have become just as imperative as breathing.


I have learned I must keep a steady routine, a personalized watering schedule. I can’t shower myself with 10 gallons of water on the first day of the month and then push off the inner work for two weeks until I happen to hit a yoga class, hoping this will provide enough sustenance to make up for the deterioration in the days lost. There needs to be consistency in dosing. These moments build up and our tree learns how to soak in even more nutrients and life. It becomes habit. Second nature. Then we have the water stores necessary to survive the inevitable droughts.


The word soil is derived from the Latin solium (seat), by association with solum (ground). It is only one letter off the word solum, meaning only, single, alone. Loneliness is a sense of isolation that persists even when other people are present. Solitude, in contrast, is the choice to be alone and to use that time for reflection. This intentional daily practice of returning and re-returning to our soil, our soul, allows us to be near home, keeping that open channel of access to call upon for the moments we need it in the topside world. The moments we need it in our branches.


We do not see the value of this underground feeding and cultivation right away. We have to continue to return and re-return and trust and re-return and re-return. We must take our self-discipline seriously. Self-study. Practice. I am not an athlete, but I imagine most sports players enjoy the game days more than the practices. Just as in all aspects of life, we spend way more time in training mode than the few shining moments reaping the benefits of our effort. Repetition is the mother of skill (Tony Robbins); consistency and preparation are everything.


Quality of the soil


If you are trying to expand in dirty soil—perhaps a negative life circumstance, a location that brings you down, a draining person with whom you spend a majority of your time, a toxic group of people, a job—it is very hard to grow. You can pour as many nutrients onto yourself as you want but the counterproductivity and the fighting and the dissonance, whether or not there is any semblance of progress, will not make for a smooth transitional process and assuredly not a transformational one.


We cannot control where on earth we were “planted.” It is not our fault if our childhood looked a particular way, certainly not, but now we are adults, and it is our responsibility to improve our conditions, that is if we want to enhance our wellbeing and contribute something to this world while we are here.


After watering a tree, you don’t instantly see a full branch adorned with leaves of all colors. Finding the right personalized concoctions take time. Be patient. It is constant trial and error. We can’t control what sprouts up next to us, the squirrel that runs up our trunk, or the bird that pecks at our bark. But growing this silent power in the roots, discerning between that which enriches or damages your soil, ultimately determines how you grow, sustain, and maintain the strength through the storm.


Nature shows us that if we are not growing, we are dying. Stagnation is not possible. If water cannot flow, it becomes a breeding ground for mosquitos and bacteria and a host of other complications. In my darker days there were moments of goodness flowing to me, and the sun never stopped rising, but I couldn’t accept it. I resisted and continued to poison myself. This is the rotting that happens from the inside through inner conflict and lack of self-compassion. But it doesn’t have to be this way. When it rains, don’t block the water that is helping you. Don’t battle the love and miracles that naturally come your way. Open up. Take chances. Let yourself be wild.


Connection


Certain aspects of growth are strictly an inside job, but there are also important factors that involve those around us. Friends, family, and all social connections make up the composition of our soil. No man is an island. We are only one element amidst an entire ecosystem. This competition, bumping heads, forcing elbows, and stepping on each other’s feet will only stunt our own progress and that of the life surrounding. We need to help each other by flourishing together and in peace. There is power in solidarity.


A single twig breaks, but the bundle of twigs is strong.

-Tecumseh


Years ago, as an ex-boyfriend so eloquently put it, “A whole team of psychiatrists wouldn’t even be able to fix you!” He continued, “You are a bad person down to your core.” I understand his frustration. My structure had begun to rot. I was drowning my soul, my soil, my inner wonder with chemicals and shame. I had to practice a lot of independent work and then eventually realized that he was right. I do need a team, which over time I have assembled—healers, teachers, mentors, confidants, a therapist, a recovery sponsor, a shaman, a psychiatrist, a mercenary. Each of these miraculous souls assume different roles in enriching my soil and helping me stay grounded so that I can move freely and live my truth. We are connected to all of life—each other, the birds, the squirrels, the sun, the rain, a blade of grass—and we must be humble and servile in this knowing.


But real quick, back the other thing the ex-boyfriend said. On being a bad person down to my core, there he was wrong. Yes, the drugs and alcohol and cigarettes were killing me, and yes the negative thoughts and internal wounds were poisoning my systems, organs, and livelihood. But no matter how far down you go, if there is even just a little life in you, if you are still standing, the tree can be rejuvenated. Your truth and beautiful authentic self can reemerge. This is what we call hope.


Seasons


Last week I felt blocked, a complete loss of focus. I wanted to fix it and rush about and construct little plans and designs to correct it right away. But being a part of nature, it makes sense that there are dry seasons every now and then. Why would I be exempt from these ebbs and flows in our everchanging atmosphere? When did the expectation for humans become an automaton existence? There are times for sitting and letting things incubate and integrate, we don’t need to fight it.


During barren and fallow times, the healthy tree doesn’t die. We don’t die. Because in the times of growth and proliferation, we have been getting stronger. My duties of purpose and gratitude serve as insurance for the difficult periods that will inevitably come. The deep internal work braces us so that when my depression strikes, the reservoir has adequate water stores.


We learn to take advantage of the seasons and all they offer, instead of fighting them—the wet times, the dry, the cold, the unbearably scorching, the deepest dark, and the maniacally elated. Trees not only lean in with the flows of the wind, they stand strong at the same time.


We come to appreciate our natural cycles and rhythms—seasons of hibernation, autumns of simply being, times to go wild, and times to hunker down. Times for innocence and grace, times to be the savages that we are. Spring is coming and we can let ourselves enjoy bursts of abundance, resurgence, blossoming, propagation, but keep in mind that these too shall pass.


No matter what is going on around us, we have the power to be at home in all experiences, in all things, as they are in this moment. True growth is slow and steady and strong. Return to your roots.


When there is a storm, and you stand in front of a tree, if you look at its branches, you swear it will fall. But if you watch the trunk, you will see its stability.

-Ranjan Boruah


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