Lessons from the Garden

Change has been on my mind a lot lately. As the tree outside my window tries to push buds into the world, I notice a thawing in all areas: excited planning of outdoor adventures, summer drinks appear on menus, and Edmontonians become far friendlier as they are freed up from the stress of running into icy winds. In myself, I notice the desire to take action on things that I only have energy for in spring, when the world is starting to freshen up and I am driven to carry that turning over into my own life. In recent weeks, this has led to deep cleaning my floors and minimizing the contents of my garage and pantry with both vigorous brutality and little warning. 

This time of year sparks a mood for change and, as we emerge from hibernation and catch the fever of activity and outdoors and sunshine, we are in a perfect position to take stock of our lives and decide what areas could use refreshing.

Personally, the need for growth is revealed to me through reading and, lately, I have been enjoying several books on existentialism and meaning (light topics, I know). Between all the words of heavy philosophy I have waded through, a single truth has underlined my explorations: that growth and purpose are indispensable to the human spirit. As we enter adulthood, and set the routine of our lives, it's easy to think that by our late 20s we should be finished. We are handed a pass/fail perspective of life where the superficial elements (car, house, money, spouse) are given greater value than the functioning of our private worlds; yet, even with all these things, are we not limitless in our ability to be unsatisfied? There is the trap of stagnation, where so many of us sit back and quit growing, becoming frightfully bored or simply losing focus. Our society is full of cautionary tales about remaining static, though we rarely heed their wisdom—coining terms like "midlife crisis" and "empty nester" to describe individuals who face the trial-by-fire of an uncertain identity. These words roughly attempt to communicate the fact that there is little meaning to a life without internal purpose. 

It is important to note that when I say internal, I do not mean a selfish life that is only concerned with one's own interests. I simply mean a life that is not dictated by the superimposed structures of success that others will place on you. I mean having healthy expectations of yourself and working to live up to them because it benefits everyone to be in the presence of someone free from the insecurity of trying to "measure up". 

When we look at humans, we see that from birth we are meant to pursue life with a level of curiosity and discovery; a life as brief as ours is wasted sitting still. So, as we stand on the cusp of transformative springtime, I want to encourage you to consider areas of your life that may have fallen asleep. Learning to pursue growth and purpose is relatively straightforward—we simply follow the breadcrumbs of our interests, skills, and the encouragement of people who we trust to be in our corner.

In my own pursuit of growth, I have found the most (unintentional) wisdom in a choice I made years ago in University. A terrified first year in a Fine Arts program, I made the decision to say yes to any opportunity that I would normally avoid because of fear or insecurity. Without knowing it, this small mental adjustment paved the way for many positive changes to happen that year. Suddenly there was room for openness, curiosity, and risk at a time in my life where these were desperately needed. What have you always wanted to try but never bothered? What have you left undone for simple fear of failure? What areas of your life could use more compassion? I think wellness tends to be one of the areas that could always use a little more grace. Judging our bodies less and taking time to nourish ourselves with good, nutrient-rich, food; getting the necessary amount of sleep, not just when it's convenient; spending time with people who truly have your best interest at heart and listening to what they think of your problems; taking breaks because it's more than your legal right, it’s a necessity; and spending time blessing your physical body with activity are small changes that chip away at stagnation.

In a regular yoga practice, we are offered a supportive place for personal growth. In that physical space between rest and effort, we access a quality of focus that can be directed to any intention we choose. When you hit the mat this week, I hope that you will use that clarifying space to let go and embrace your life as something beautifully unpredictable, full of limitless possibility. As we reach into that possibility, in all areas of life, we start to remove some of the limits that we have placed on ourselves or that others have applied to us. When you leave the studio, I hope you contain fewer inner-walls than you came in with. I hope you talk to a stranger because they might have something to teach you. I hope you consider how all the small choices and you make are shaping your values. I hope you decide to undertake new challenges that you wouldn't normally try and that you end up on paths you didn’t foresee. Then, I hope you learn something new that changes you in a deep and wonderful way.

The month of May is dedicated to refreshing our bodies inside and out through dietary and other cleansing activities—a perfect time to take the newness of spring into your body and listen to what that body is telling you it needs. The wonder of spring is this: though everything must grow to survive, even the seemingly dead can come alive and flourish with a little nourishment.