Madison is as wide eyed as any child has ever been watching her seedling push its way up out of the Styrofoam cup. Like many kindergarten kids in America, her class has planted apple seeds and is waiting for them to grow. The children tend the plants lined up on the windowsill, learning that they require water, sunlight, and tender loving care. The students are taught about photosynthesis, and the making of chlorophyll. Mostly, they learn about patience – that growing things take their own time no matter how much we might like to rush them.
When the experiment is over, Madison takes the cup home and her dad offers to plant the tiny treasure. Outside the classroom environment, the little tree is fragile and helpless, sitting beside the driveway near a clump of bushes. It could easily be run over by the lawnmower, or dogs, or somebody clumsily getting out of a car. The new-born little shoot needs protection, so Madison’s dad puts a wire cage around it, the kind he uses for tomatoes. Once the plants are sturdy, he will remove the support and they will stand on their own.
People who are in intense periods of personal growth often need similar protection.
When someone has had success clearing out a major piece of old baggage, or is in shock at encountering unexpected trauma, s/he is raw, and a new way of seeing, of being, is growing in them. This newness is a good thing, but the sprout is vulnerable, untested, and in need of shielding to ensure its continued growth.
Because in this culture we are expected to be always happy and chipper, we lack the understanding that at certain times of life, it is okay and even preferable to retreat for awhile behind a wall of safety. This might mean staying in instead of going out, only hanging out with gentle, nurturing people instead of people who won’t understand, special self-care such as getting massages, eating comfort foods, listening to chill music, or being in silence. We learn to appreciate that personal growth is a process that will take its own time no matter how much we might like to rush it, and that in the beginning it is fragile and needs to be protected against the outside. Madison’s sweet little apple tree needs protection while it is growing, and precious human beings do too.
© 2014 Catherine Auman This article is an excerpt from Catherine’s book Shortcuts to Mindfulness: 100 Ways to Personal and Spiritual Growth