Together with the rest of our group, we came up with lots of similarities. We first created a list of necessities for plants. We pictured a seed and what we'd want to give it in order to help create the living thing it was destined to become. We started with soil, then fertilizer, then all the other factors we're all so familiar with when it comes to horticulture or gardening or whatever natural science we're familiar with in the realm of fostering life.
It all starts with the soil, our environment. All seed need nurturing soil, suited at least partially to their basic needs. Jesus of Nazareth is said to have given this parable: "A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell along the path and was trampled underfoot, and the birds of the air devoured it." The lesson goes on to say, "Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times." We can't ignore our environment. Several of our members are contemplating, and working toward changing where they work, where they live, where they play, just to nurture their inner nature.
Some of us noticed that our history is holding us back. That all-important seed that we started with, the self we were born as, has sustained so much damage in the early years, those dark historical times we'd rather not remember, that we feel stunted; stopped before we start. But we are not our histories. We can choose to leave the past in the past, and create our own future. It's a choice. Not an easy one, but ours to make.
Then we looked at our internal fertilizer. How do we reflect on ourselves? That is, what does our self-esteem have to do with how we choose to grow up and become thriving adults? We can engage in negative self-talk and continue the job our damaged caregivers started, or we can build ourselves up. We can repeat the positive affirmations we get from those around us who can see the good in us. We can choose to see ourselves as we truly are: priceless gifts to the world.
We talked about our purpose next; our calling, our raison d'être, as the French existentialists called it, our "reason for being." Without recognizing and embracing our purpose in life and feeling the motivation that comes with our natural desire to aspire, it's like starving our inner plants for water. We'll wither without a cause.
And the care we would give to a young plant, or a puppy, or a baby bird, how can we withhold this care from ourselves? Aren't we as important as these "lower, innocent" life forms? Or is it that we see ourselves as lower still? Is guilt or shame a factor that inhibits our self-care? We must not stop asking these important question, every day, if our seedling is to succeed. And the "correct" answers will point to proper diet, adequate physical exercise, appropriate medical attention, and attuned psychological/spiritual practice. We meditate not just to feel better right now, but to nurture that nebulous inner light we call a soul. Does it endure after death? Was it here before we were born? These questions are unanswerable. But the benefit we get form attention to this aspect of our selves is immediate; and the here and now is really all we have. Our long-term well-being is nothing but a trillion here-and-nows strung together.
We all agreed that patience is a difficult element to maintain. The time it takes an acorn to become a towering oak is indeed long. The process cannot be rushed. It can seem like progress is too slow, or even nonexistent. But where would any of us be without patience? Growing a human is not easy, even when all conditions are ideal. And it's downright hard for us average folks. Do oaks have it any easier? Let's compare: How to grow an oak tree.
I have to be honest. As a group, we did not come up with air as a necessary element in growing our seedling. But as I drove home, I realized I needed to breath as I digested all we covered in our hour and a half of "being" together. Paying attention to our breath has been honored in the east for millennia. The west is finally catching up. There must be something to it, right? Here's a test: Stop reading and take three slow deep breaths. In through your nose, and out through your mouth. With eyes closed. Feel your belly as you do it. Feel your muscles. Do it now. <insert 3 deep, slow, life-giving, growth-enhancing breaths here>
The last element that I think is essential to our progress, our fulfillment, and our happiness, is the light we let into our lives: the illumination our support system shines on us. There are only two motivators in life: fear and love. If we aren't moving toward what and whom we love, the things and ideas we are passionate about, what we want that's deeply good, then we're moving away from something else: fear. Our support system is our light. Our friends, our families, our coworkers, our acquaintances, the people on the street, everyone, all around us, everywhere; we are bathed in light from the energy we get from these other beings. Is the light at the right wavelength? If it's not, or something is filtering it out, we've got a problem. We're in the dark.
I now offer my sincere thanks to my anonymous friend from group, who pointed out this new way to look at self-change. By considering all the necessities a fragile, young plant needs to get beyond surviving, and reach toward thriving, we receive new insights into our own growth. You've given me much to think about, sir! (And think about...and do.) I thank you.