Is it really two steps forward, one step back?Apr 20, 2023
Trees conserve their energy, and can even look lifeless, during the winter months. Then they bloom in the Spring once it’s safe to do so. It lets go of its flowers earlier, and then its leaves when it starts to get cold. Imagine if the tree said to itself, all that, for what? Just to lose my leaves yet again? How many times does this have to happen??
In fact, the trees that grow and drop their leaves (the deciduous trees) provide shelter, shade, color, and form to our landscape as well as to wildlife, and inspire us to hop into our vehicles and travel distances to admire their changes of color. They’re interesting. They drop their leaves. On purpose. They don’t passively fall. They grow a layer (called the abscission layer) between the branch and leaf stem to cut off the nourishment to the leaf and seal in the moisture so that it can survive the harsh winter months! Even the ones that don’t “drop”, like evergreens, will drop to make room for new growth.
We should only be so ‘deciduous’ and ‘cut the cord’ when we need to…
We celebrate the trees’ age and the magnificence that comes with it. The older the tree, the better; it has seen a lot. When you look at the trunk of a tree, you can see how unique it is from the next one. Some trees come with 'ugly' knots and protrusions that add even more to its character. It inspires curiosity and awe when parts of the trunk shoot out in unusual directions. They lose their parts to storms, dogs pee on them, kids crawl all over them, and they are still wildly strong and beautiful. Even as a stump, they’re amazing. We mourn the loss of those trees, and we ponder their mystery as we study their rings. With all the weathering and having to start over again with each season, they become more magnificent in their existence.
And so do we.
There’s no such thing as one step back.
At least not in the sense of failure.
It’s a ‘step back’ - like with one foot - to take a better look at the large picture in front of us.
It’s a pause, a siesta, a rest note, a breather, an ‘inventory day’ (week, month, or year), to make sure we yield, debrief, process, integrate, recalibrate, and pick up the lessons that will help us thrive in the next season in our life. It asks us to check our desires, priorities, and values, drop what we need to drop, and pick up what we need to pick up, before we move forward with too many open wounds. It gives us a chance to dust off and sharpen the appropriate tools that we already have inside us, or picked up along the way.
As my meditation group just reached their halfway point in their 40 days, I reminded them that their minds may be tempted to think that today’s practice should be stronger, easier, and better than yesterday. And it might be... like summer today. We have big seasons, and we have micro ones. Today might also feel like a struggle. That struggle isn't one step back. It’s not a mistake that we made the day before. Struggle gives us an opportunity to see what works to make life better for us, what’s worth it and what’s not, and to reach into our inner resources or reach out for support.
Like a tree, what we can get better at adopting, instead of the defeating notion of one step back, is the power of Grace. Through Grace, we get to choose if it’s right for us to push a little further beyond our edge today, or take a child’s pose. We get to pay attention to our needs and what will ultimately be good for our nervous system and our spirit.
Just as the waves ebb and flow, so do we. Ebbing and flowing is life force. We weren’t meant to just ebb or just flow.
There’s a book we’re reading together as a Community: A Man Called Ove by Frederik Backman. This passage below speaks to the dance, and to the attention we offer to what we love. After all, to dance is to live. To pay attention is to love. And to know that there is no step back but only forward in our personal journey is to play.
To love someone is like moving into a house. At first you fall in love with all the new things, amazed every morning that all this belongs to you, as if fearing that someone would suddenly come rushing in through the door to explain that a terrible mistake had been made, you weren't actually supposed to live in a wonderful place like this. Then over the years the walls become weathered, the wood splinters here and there, and you start to love that house not so much because of all its perfection, but rather for its imperfections. You get to know all the nooks and crannies. How to avoid getting the key caught in the lock when it's cold outside. Which of the floorboards flex slightly when one steps on them or exactly how to open the wardrobe doors without them creaking. These are the little secrets that make it your home.
Things don’t simply fall apart. They ask you to take a moment and decide what next for you. They ask you to come home. To your authentic self.
Pay attention, dance, allow, and find the magnificence of the ebbs and flows and the beauty and power in the ugly knots, twists, and turns. Live, love, and play.
P.S. - it’s not too late to join us for this conversation with A Man Called Ove as our guide. Join us here to get the link to our one hour zoom conversation tomorrow at noon cst. Just sign in.