Having spent many years working in the landscaping business I have done a fair amount of thinking about the lessons I can learn from nature. Guidance is ever present just waiting for me to take notice, thank goodness she is patient with me. Most times I am moving at lightning speed not stopping long enough to pay close attention. And when I do, damn, I have to vow to myself to do it more often. This weekend I put aside everything but my garden. I spent both days playing in the dirt and enjoying spring in our tiny oasis. Treasures were everywhere, just waiting for my attention. Spring is an amazing time, reminding me of what is also awakening in my body after the long winter.

I came across a thought that I wanted to share. With my new book coming, “Lessons of a Wayward Yogini,” (I know, I have to plug it) I seem to be hyper sensitive to lessons these days.

In the first few months of moving to Cool four and a half years ago, one of my landscaping clients had a red maple tree in her yard that was not thriving. I had put it in a few years earlier, and no matter how much I coaxed that tree or how many fertilizers I applied, it just was not happy. I told my client I would swap it out and put another tree in its place. When we dug the tree out, I brought it to my new home. It was worth trying to save.

This weekend as I stood beneath the same tree only a few years later, I admired its beauty and marveled at the growth. It is at least twice the size, if not three times. The tiny maple blossoms fluttered as the wind rustled through the tender spring leaves, putting on an incredible show. I took time to watch and study her dance.

I spent the remainder of the day thinking about the basic premise of this tree living in an environment that was not nourishing it, for whatever reasons. The tree simply was failing to survive, a slow progression, but one that in the end would have ended in the tree’s demise. These few years later in an environment that was providing what it needed, it had become a strong tree. And if she was a woman, I would just have to say she knows the power of her beauty and she flaunts it every time the breeze blows.

Across the garden a bit later in the day, I was still wondering, how different are we humans, really? If we spend too much time in an environment that isn’t nourishing our soul, we too begin to fade.

This maple tree serves as a reminder that with the proper nutrients and sunlight, enough water, and some tender loving care, it is possible to change and reverse a negative course.

I believe humans are no different.  It’s hard though to make major changes in our lives if we find we are not happy in a relationship or in our careers.  And with that said, it’s important to note that the tree went into major shock. You can’t dig up a plant and shove the root ball into a garbage bag, without the tree looking pretty grim for some time. Same could be said of humans. Any major life altering changes definitely put our systems into shock. But we too have the same recuperative powers as nature, maybe even more so. After the transplant, so to speak, our mind and body become strong again, and if we have moved on to a life that has the requirements we need, we then have the power to one day sway in the breeze as beautifully as my little maple tree.

Some might say the hardest part is knowing what will make you happy in life. I disagree. I think the hardest part is facing what isn’t making you happy and moving away from it, and accepting that for a while we will feel like we have dug up our roots and shoved them into a garbage bag. Life is nothing if not about our choices.


Yesterday I got a call from a sweet man who does some work at our place every year.  He’s about 70, nice guy.  The first thing he said to me is “boy, you sure do sound good.”  I’ve only met this man about three times in three years.  His response surprised me.  I answered him honestly, saying, that yes, I was feeling good.  It made me step back and become the observer, of me, and he was right, I sound different.  And it’s not that I wasn’t happy one year ago or two, I was.  But there is another aspect of me that has pulled into my parking space and she is having quite a time of it, in a good way.
So that comment tied into something I read this morning after my meditation, in one of our books, The Yamas & Niyamas, by Deborah Adele.  In her chapter Reviewing the Niyamas, she writes something that resonated with me. I will quote, “Several years ago I made a major change in my life.  Events came together in such a way that I asked myself the question, ‘Just how good can I feel?’  I began to wonder if every year I could feel better and have more vitality and clarity.  At the time, this question felt radical to me as I looked around at the American expectations of aging.  But I decided it was worth the experiment and that I would make choices in diet, activity, and thinking that would support this exploration.”
I think this is, as my British peeps would say, brilliant.  Challenging yourself to see just how happy you can be?  When do we hear that?  We hear people talking about being as successful and rich as they can be, but how many times do we hear them talk about working to become as happy as they can be?  I don’t know about you, but I really love that concept.
And then a page later in her chapter Moving On, she makes an analogy about what I would define as manifesting, making a choice to be different, to go where you might be a little uncomfortable to go, in the pursuit of what will truly fulfill you.  Again, I will quote, her words are so perfect.
“As a child, I loved pretending I was a horse.  Not just any horse, but a beautiful, black, fast horse, freely galloping over open countryside and taking giant leaps over anything in my way.
“Although my relationship with horses has remained in my imagination, I still love them.  They are beautiful animals and I brim with the thrill of watching them race with strength and grace on an open field or take those beautiful leaps in equestrian competition.  The theologian Peter Marty, in speaking about equestrian competition, had some interesting observations.  He stated, ‘Those of us whose only contact with the world of equestrian competition is via the television set find the elegance and ease of those leaping beasts to be almost surreal.  We marvel at the calmness of the riders.  We admire the cool focus as they vault their way over the hurdles (and wonder if those riders have) some extra instinct that the rest of us lack.’
“Marty further went on to talk about equestrian training.  He noted that one of the most common obstacles all riders face is their own perception.  Much time in training is devoted to the skill of the rider’s own perception.  It is known in the equestrian world, that unless a rider can approach these upcoming barriers with a kind of ‘anticipatory confidence,’ they will never be able to make these great leaps with their horses.  Peter noted that one trainer put it this way:  You have to ‘take your heart and throw it over the fence.  Then jump after it.’”
I absolutely love this, and isn’t this what we all should be doing every day?  Throw our hearts over the fence, just a different way to say follow your heart, but these words give me such a visual for the act.
My dear friends at work and I have been sharing with each other the stress of our upcoming changes, one in particular that is fearful of what lies ahead, and knows where she wants to be, but also not at a place where she can quite yet make that happen.  Another friend who knows exactly where his heart would take him if he threw it over the fence, but the risk feels enormous.  We are lucky, we have become like family, so we share our fears and sorrows with each other.
For my coworker who needs to wait a few years, she just needs to keep her eye on her dream, know that it’s waiting for her. Know that keeping that dream alive is an important step toward making it happen.  When we went sailing a few weeks back, Scott, our skipper, gave us important safety instructions as we were leaving dock.  He told us, among other things, that if anyone went overboard, that it was each and every person’s job to keep our eye on the person in the water.  His words exactly were, “DO NOT, under any circumstances, take your eyes off the person in the water.”  At one point during the day, someone’s hat flew off, and we used it as a drill, so to speak.  Scott tried to maneuver the boat all the while shouting, “Keep your eye on the hat.  Under no circumstances lose sight of that hat.” It was done in fun, but it was a sobering and educational exercise, because in the currents and movement of the boat, it is so easy to lose sight.  I think only one person was able to keep the hat in view.
This morning as I’m writing this, I keep thinking of that hat bobbing in the water and what a great analogy it is with respect to keeping your dreams in sight.  Life is like that boat with the currents and wind and sails and waves, and it’s no wonder we can lose sight of our dreams.  It takes a vigilant effort.  Keeping sight of a person in the water can save their life.  The same might be said of keeping your dreams in sight.
Stay vigilant.  Make happiness your priority.  Take a deep yogi breath, and throw your heart over the fence.  Life is short.  Make it count.
Back one more time tomorrow.  So much to share this week.