This has been a month of extremes here in Austin. We’ve experienced a few tastes of autumn’s cool mornings followed by record breaking high temperatures in the afternoon. Our drought or deluge precipitation pattern is impossible to predict, with no rain for weeks followed by twelve inches in two hours. We’ve had to all, from floods to fires, even a sprinkling of tornados thrown into the wild weather mix. It’s been a tough month for me personally, having had to say goodbye to my spiritual mentor, a respected colleague, and my beloved pet. I have lost a great deal but I am painfully aware that there are those who have lost much more. Sometimes it seems like a perfect storm of tragic events wells up in our lives and floods our hearts with emotions.
But adversity does not build character; adversity reveals our true nature. Challenging times expose our core beliefs. They expose the foundation our personality is built upon. Tough times reveal the fundamental beliefs that define our way of being in the world. Many rely on their faith in times of hardship, but what is faith? If faith is a belief in the unseen, then what do you stand on when your whole world seems to be crumbling around you? You must stand upon what you know. Knowing is entirely different than faith. You do not believe the sun will rise tomorrow, you know that it will. You do not have faith that the seasons will change; you know that they will. Perhaps the only secure place to stand upon when your life is in complete disarray is firmly planted upon your Mother Earth.
Most of us are just flying along through our lives passing from one experience to another, until something big stops us right in our tracks. We might use phrases like, “It knocked my legs right out from under me.” or, “I was brought to my knees.” All of a sudden, everything seems to have changed. You may be experiencing one of those times right now. The difficulties you are facing might seem insurmountable. When we are challenged we must reconnect with what is our own personal truth. Facing that truth can be heartbreaking, but it can also be the opening to allow our highest nature to express itself. It’s been said that when an egg cracks on the outside it is broken, but when it cracks from the inside something new is being born. Perhaps this is the purpose of heartbreak. When our heart is broken it creates an entry point for compassion to begin to pour forth and through us. It then becomes our work to allow this compassion to flow out into the world and contribute to our collective healing.
Natural disasters like floods and fires can destroy what we have become accustomed to, but also bring about the birth of something completely new. There are seeds that will not germinate without exposure to great extremes. The giant redwoods and giant sequoia are majestic symbols of strength and beauty, towering hundreds of feet tall. They can grow up to fifty feet in diameter and live for hundreds of years, but they cannot reproduce without a forest fire. Their seeds sleep silently inside mature cones until the extreme heat awakens them and the seeds are released. These magnificent trees rely on episodic fires for their very survival. The burnt remains and ash on the forest floor provide the optimal planting bed for the seeds to germinate and begin their journey to towering new heights. The forest fire has cleared space and increased the amount of sunlight available to permit a new tree to grow.
Sometimes we have to walk through the fire and navigate the flood to find our own new growth.
“Become totally empty. Let your heart be at peace, amidst the rush of worldly comings and going, observe how endings become beginnings. Things flourish, each by each, only to return to the source. To return to the root is to find peace.” Lao Tzu
from my new book, The Seventh Season: Wisdom from the Garden of Life
remember, goodness grows,