So, now what? We have discussed the concept of this garden of self and how while each of us is a unique creature and worthy of our efforts, we are not perfect. In our planting of a better self, we are going to encounter weeds but we are worth the weeding. We are not only worthy of loving others, we must first love ourselves. We have explored ourselves, learning and increasing our self-knowledge after digging around in our self-worth. We have seen the early buds of self-respect bloom. So not how do we keep our garden thriving, blooming in our daily living?
Life is not for the faint of heart. “This life we live is not for the faint of heart, each move we make affects the next and backtracking isn’t allowed. So with each step we plant it must be firm and confident even with the uncertainties that lie ahead.” This anonymous quote bears witness to what we have been exploring this Lenten season. There is a bit of a dilemma with it, though. “Backtracking isn’t allowed”. Hmmm… well, we all know that is the difficult part, eh?
Most of us do backtrack or backslide. Life is not smooth sailing, no matter who you are. The key is to take those moments, days, or periods of moving backwards and turn them into opportunities for success. Turn that frown into a smile; let your tears be a baptism into a new direction.
So how do we do this? Psychologist Dr. Sandra Lee Dennis offers some warnings in searching for the answers externally. “We live in a culture that is blind to betrayal and intolerant of emotional pain. In New Age …attitude is considered the sole determinant of the impact an event has on you. In these New Thought circles, no matter what happens to you, it is assumed that you have created your own reality. Not only have you chosen the event, no matter how horrible, for your personal growth. You also chose how you interpret what happened—as if there are no interpersonal facts, only interpretations. The upshot of this perspective is that your suffering would vanish if only you adopted a more evolved perspective and stopped feeling aggrieved. I was often kindly reminded (and believed it myself), “there are no victims.” How can you be a victim when you are responsible for your circumstances? When you most need validation and support to get through the worst pain of your life, to be confronted with the well-meaning, but quasi-religious fervor of these insidious half-truths can be deeply demoralizing. This kind of advice feeds guilt and shame, inhibits grieving, encourages grandiosity and can drive you to be alone to shield your vulnerability.”
Living is going to hurt. Let it. Imagine our garden of self for a moment. There are going to be days where it rains. Some of that rain will be gentle showers but there will be those periods of intense storms. Our garden full of young and tender leaves, much like our attempts to pick ourselves up, will be pummeled by the very rain that also gives it life. Our garden needs the rain and even the storms will prove helpful if we have provided the right soil and proper drainage. Our lives are very much like that.
Some of you have a strong sense of religious beliefs that are your foundational soil. Others of you are rooted in centuries-old spiritual beliefs. Some prefer to take life on without either. However you have decided to live, however you are defining that which gives your life meaning will be the soil upon which you grow your being. The importance of it being solid and able to be foundational is important. From there we can then grow our better selves.
Not every plant in a garden develops at the same time. Some will come to harvest six seeks after being planted. Others take much longer. Each, though, is worthy of our time and efforts because blooms its own unique offering and idea of sustenance. If our beliefs are the soil in which we grow, what becomes the very necessary light or sunshine? Is it love?
Jeff Brown has said: “You don’t measure love in time. You measure love in transformation. …The heart doesn’t wear a watch….What the heart cares about is resonance. Resonance that opens it; resonance that enlivens it; resonance that calls it home. And when it finds it, the transformation begins.” What Jeff Brown calls transformation; we are calling growth and living.
In other words, we need to live forward. That is the answer to the opening question “So, now what?” We live forward. London writer S.C. Lourie has eleven ways to do just that. First, make some time for yourself each and every day, advises Lourie. Then, make time to catch lunch with a friend and listen to some music. As we go through our hurried lives, Lourie advises taking time to walk slowly every so often. Echoing recent research on how to be physically and mentally healthy, Lourie advocates getting enough sleep.
Lourie agrees with our earlier discussions about being your own cheerleader. “Be on your side. Go gentle on your own back.” That is one of my personal favorite quotes – “Go gentle on your own back.” Lourie also echoes prior admonitions to believe in yourself. “Listen to your body” is followed by another great statement: “You are not a doing machine.” IN that vein of thought, Lourie reminds us all to stop and sit for a bit; in other words, take a breather. Watching a sunrise or sunset is a great way to begin and unwind the day. Such moments remind us to not take ourselves too seriously.
Finally, Lourie concludes with advising one and all to “Keep your eyes open and look for all the silver linings.” Life takes courage and it will not be a smooth as glass road. Glass has sharp edges and like, glass, life will cut us from time to time.
Next week we will jump into the unpopular subject of discipline. Even a garden takes discipline. Ours will be the positive kind, not the punishing sort we dread. Self-restraint is different from living in constraints, I promise. The important way to overcome the storms and cuts, punishing elements of life is to live forward, feeding our dreams and souls. The garden we are growing will flourish is we live it forward.