A spring storm looms to the south. Along my path, patches of green begin to heal the brown scar left by winter. The rain marches in like cavalry, coming to the aid of the parched, stark earth....
The earth is coming alive again, as it does every spring. The maple tree out back started losing its red flower buds today. Next will come the whirlybirds, then the leaves. The fruit trees have already started to flower. Daffodils are in full bloom. And everywhere you look, green is creeping back in. It's as if all the energy stored up over winter is exploding in a rainbow palette. Between the spring storms and longer days, nature gathers all the fuel it takes to support that kind of growth.
We tend to think of the passing storms in our lives as bad patches that come to dredge up the pains that we've managed to render dormant within us. But like the spring rains that turn winter's browns to reds, yellows and greens, they actually come to heal us. It's two sides of the same coin, but an important distinction.
Somewhere along the line, we learn to push our fears, worries and other pains down. Then when they burst forth in some sort of crisis—whether it's an argument between friends or the loss of a job—we just want the storm to pass so we can feel better again. We may ask "what did I do to deserve this?" or "why is this happening to me?", but we rarely ask, "what healing energy is at work within me right now?" or "what gift has this come to give me?"
It's hard when you're in the midst of something upsetting to stop and analyze it as a gift or a healing lesson. And the bigger the stakes, the more complex the issue—certainly when you lose someone you love, there's more going on than fears and lessons, though all of that is there, too. But the point is that these things can come to torture us periodically until we find a way to tuck them safely away again. Or they can come, as they do in nature, to work alongside our brightest days in fueling the full flowering of ourselves.
What I realized as I walked down that wooded path, quickening my pace to avoid the storm, is how the cycles of spring sun and rain serve to feed the growing canopy overhead. Right now, it's just a bunch of branches which won't shield me from the storm. But in a couple of months, the lighter rains won't touch me at all.
We're the same way. Each time we use the resources offered by crisis as an opportunity to grow, we strengthen our canopy. The big storms will always touch us, but most of life's slings and arrows will be little more than humidity along our path. But if, instead, we only allow the sunlight to feed us and avoid getting our roots wet in the rains, our vitality will suffer.
So if there's something you're challenged with now or if something pops up soon, ask yourself the following questions and write your answers down in a journal or on a computer. The reason I say this is because the act of writing these things downs opens up our subconscious minds all that much more and details begin occurring to us as we write. So here's what to explore:
- What's at the root of the problem? Strip away the circumstances, move past the hurt and what is really going on inside? Chances are it's fear—fear of abandonment, loss, separation, failure, intimacy, rejection, death. What fear is at the root of your pain?
- When have I felt this before? This probably isn't the first time you've experience fear of abandonment, for example. The circumstances might have been totally different, but there have probably been many examples, stretching back to childhood. Choose the earliest experience you can remember and sit with it for a moment. How does it feel? And what happened afterward? This exploration very well may point to the origin of the fear, helping you understand it better. In fact, this could be the moment you're re-living over and over again and just sending love and healing to that child with your imagination can go far in healing the adult.
- Is this fear real? Now these questions aren't going to help if you're determined to feel sorry for yourself, but if you're game, turn your fear into a statement, such as "I'll always be alone" or "nobody understands me" or "I guess I'm just unlovable." Is that statement really true? What has believing it's true cost you in the past? How has believing it's true paid off for you in the past? What qualities or relationships in your life prove it's not true? And if you still believe it's true, are the consequences of continuing to believe it something you can accept? And if not, what can you do to change it? Are you ready to lay this belief down and move forward with your life?
In that last group of questions, two of the key ones are "what is the payoff?" and "can I accept the consequences of continuing to believe this?" It's important to realize we don't do anything that doesn't serve us, even if only in some sick, twisted way...haha. The payoff usually serves as a way to avoid some other inevitability or as some sort of duct-tape version of protection—far more vulnerable than the strong canopy we'd rather create.
And it's also important to realize that allowing pain to live inside us has consequences. It acts as a toxin to our relationships, our bodies, our self esteem, etc. So if we're going to continue on this way, we have to accept personal responsibility for those consequences. The consequences are not something that happens to us or punishment by a harsh God, they're things we knowingly let happen to ourselves.
When we shed light on our fears, we usually end up seeing they're smaller and less powerful than we thought. In fact, these tapes we play in our heads about who we are and what we lack and why we're not good enough are almost always false. But we never take the time to question them. We just let them dance in our heads unchecked.
Of course, there are times in our lives when we need more help than we can give ourselves. I've struggled with depression off and on in my life. And I've had a crisis or two that I couldn't navigate on my own. The funny thing is, the things I've needed help with were small-time compared to some of the things I was able to manage on my own. So you never know what's going to hobble you. But if you're there, there's no shame in seeking help. Sometimes just having someone to tell it to releases a lot of your anxiety and stress. Besides, talking to a professional is far better than the consequences of not healing.
Whether you're hearing a far off rumbling or are currently in the midst of a raging storm, give yourself the gift of letting it wash all the way down to your roots where it can do the most good. Life, like nature, heals and strengthens in cycles. Let that energy do its work and deliver everything you need to reach your full potential.