A Time For Planting

"To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under Heaven," the Old Testament tells us. Seasons change as the leaves in autumn, turning yellow, red, and gold, then falling, only to be replaced with new in the spring. People go through seasons too.

Yet in our daily lives we often expect ourselves to be the same, day in and day out. Zen master Taisen Deshimaru says "Some people treat their bodies like machines and try to keep them running indefinitely; then they wear out and cannot find their balance, and then come sickness and death." We need to learn respect for our personal seasons.

Dr. Christianne Northrup, author of Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom, compares a woman's menstrual cycle to the natural seasons. There is a time of the month when a woman extends outward to those around her, expressing herself and giving to others. And there is a time when she turns inward, doing inner work and cleansing. She may not feel like being social or constantly on the go. Pushing herself to do so does not promote good health.

Seasons and cycles are how Nature progresses and we can see how well it works. We see it in the trees and flowers. Flowers start as buds, then burst into bloom and show their glory. In time they begin to wilt, and then to die. It is necessary to remove the old, dead flowers to allow the plant to put her energy into creating new blooms, which replace the old. Given the right temperature, light, and care, this cycle continues without end.

Clearly we, as part of nature, go through the same process. Have you ever noticed that some times in your life are crowded with people and activities? Maybe you have children that keep you on the run. Maybe your work pace is frenetic. Then at some point you begin to notice things slow down. Kids grow up, relationships end, jobs change, projects get completed.

Do you then feel that something is wrong because your life has slowed down? It isn't. It simply means you have completed one phase of life. That part of your life has come to fruition and been harvested. The next, seemingly dormant phase, is equally important. It is the time for planting new seeds.

This is the time for you to clean out old relationships that may have become toxic. To let go of activities that are no longer fulfilling. It is not time to rush into busy-ness; it is a time for stillness and nurturing. Use it to digest what has happened, what has served you, and what has not.

I remember times when I felt like I was in a cocoon, yet I couldn't seem to snap out of it. I spent a lot of time reading and meditating, caring for my plants and animals and spending time alone. And it was the only place I wanted to be.

Despite criticism from others, I gave myself permission to be there. When the time came to be active, I was able to step into it, fortified with the wisdom and maturity I'd gained from my quiet times. Had I not taken that time for me, I couldn't have responded as creatively as I did.

There is a plant known as the Chinese Bamboo tree. Its seed stays buried for five years, seemingly without activity. During that time it must be watered and fed or it will die in the ground. But if properly cared for, the Chinese Bamboo begins to grow. It will grow 90 feet tall in sixty days. The question is, did it grow 90 feet in sixty days, or did it take five years?

The answer is obvious. It took five years of feeding and nurturing to bring it to the level where it could reach such miraculous growth. The growth is impressive. But the seemingly dormant period beforehand was absolutely vital. And do you not think that you are capable of even more than a simple plant?

In my law practice, there are times when there is so much to do there are just not enough hours in a day to get it all done. I may work late into the night, making sure everything is taken care of. And then the cases are completed, or something else shifts, and there is quiet time.

Having learned from my past experience, I now savor and utilize these times to their fullest, instead of obsessing about not being constantly busy. Can you imagine what it would be like if the phone NEVER stopped ringing? Of course we all love to welcome new business but it is just as important to welcome the spaces in between.

Slower times are a time for planting. In order to plant you must first prepare the soil, remove the old debris, and make room. Whether you are considering a new direction in your existing career, new relationships, or a new direction altogether, it is the same. Slow times are the perfect time to express your creativity. I spend my slow times writing or updating my web sites, something I love to do and rarely have time for anymore. I use them to explore new ideas I have wanted to try, or new places I've wanted to go.

There is an ebb and flow to life, and I am a part of it. So are you. We cannot expect the waves to constantly crest; they must first subside and return to the sea. Marianne Williamson says that we are like waves on the ocean, each of us thinking that we are different from other waves and not realizing we are all part of the same ocean.

I agree. And once we realize this truth, we need to accept and allow the nature of waves. Everyone does not "crest" at the same time. We need to honor our seasons and get in touch with the power of stillness in motion. This is when the universal rhythm manifests itself; this is when we discover who we are. You can no more force yourself than you can force a flower to bloom. So don't try. Realize that you are in the right place at the right time, doing the right thing. And so it is.

(Published in the PhenomeNEWS and Res Ipsa Loquitur, journal of the Washtenaw County Bar Association)

Mindy L. Hitchcock