Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Difference Between Plum Trees and Children

The keys to pruning are patience and timing. Good pruning can be the difference between a healthy, happy tree that produces abundant fruit and a tree that struggles to survive. I’ve read lots of articles and books on the subject in an effort to coax fruit from our little orchard of 13 trees. Alas, because I am more of a lackadaisical orchardist, than a rule-following orchardist, we have yet to have any significant yield from our little grove. Each year, about this time, I prune all of our now-not-so-little-anymore trees with the greatest of hopes. It takes me longer every year. I’m not sure if it’s because the trees have grown so much, or because I debate longer with myself about each cut.

This past Sunday as I tromped through the snow to take care of the annual pruning, I once again resolved to be better at caring for these trees. That pretty much involves fertilizing them and nagging my husband to spray them. And pruning them well.

I set to work pruning the dead and unnecessary branches. It’s not always easy to tell which ones should go. You want to train your trees to grow in a way that they can optimize the sunlight. So you remove branches that crowd or cover others. When a branch begins to grow upward instead of outward, you study the branch and seek out a “notch” (where a new branch will most likely grow) that is headed in the direction you would like to see the tree grow. You cut the branch just above the notch so that the tree will send the branch out in the right direction. Then you clear out all the “suckers” which are branches that grow strait up the center of the tree. They are useless freeloaders that only sap the trees resources. It can take hours to make so many important decisions. Some years I’m cautious and others I think just cut where it feels right and hope for the best.

As I worked, I began to think about how parenting is very much like pruning. When the trees are little you have to work hard to start them out right so that they will grow straight and strong. Sunlight, water, and fertilizer are a much bigger deal than pruning, but the little pruning you do is critical.

Monday, February 3, 2014

My Drishti is Grace

I’m trying to find a drishti for my life this year. I’d like more balance. Most of the time I feel like my life is very much skewed towards the being-the-mom part of my life. So I’ve been pondering the idea of choosing a drishti to focus on this year.

If you’ve never taken yoga (or even if you have since I’d hadn’t encountered this term in my very limited yoga experience), drishti is a point of focus where your gaze rests during meditation and during yoga poses. You look with “soft” eyes (not straining) at a particular spot. Not only does it keep your mind from being distracted by other visual stimuli, it helps you balance. I remember staring intently at an electrical socket in the aerobics room at the Y during my early morning yoga there. I suppose my gaze was a too intent because my tree pose almost always swayed and eventually fell over.

My memories of yoga are fuzzy. It was seven years ago and my youngest son was newly diagnosed with a rare autoimmune condition. Those yoga sessions brought all the emotions I had tried to keep on a leash raging to the surface. As soon as the lights went down and the instructor began her soothing instructions, my tears would flow. The quiet and the peace overwhelmed me. I don’t remember the term drishti, but I do remember trying to balance my heart and my body.

My life feels askew. My body is changing in mid-life, surprising me with its unpredictability and its complaints. My children ask less of my time, but more of my soul these days. My writing is more contemplative, less certain. My garden fascinates me and my animals have become my most receptive audience. Even my husband looks different to me.

Here is an explanation of drishti I found on the web that captivated me:

Drishti is a technique for looking for the Divine everywhere—and thus for seeing correctly the world around us. Used in this way, drishti becomes a technique for removing the ignorance that obscures this true vision, a technique that allows us to see God in everything.

I think my drishti this year is grace. I want to find grace in my interactions with others. I want to seek it in the world, find the tiny pockets that you don’t see unless you’re looking for them. I want to live looking through a lens of grace – accepting more, silencing my constant need to improve everything, understand behaviors, explain the mysteries. I want to let the life around me just be. I want to focus on grace as I speak to my children, my friends, even my animals. I want more grace in my life and less judgment.

 In Sanskrit, drishti can mean a vision, a point of view, intelligence, or wisdom. With grace as my drishti, perhaps I will find the soft edges in my world.  If I can sift through my reactions from the point of view of grace, will I find more kindness, more forgiveness inside me? Mostly I hope that by claiming grace as my drishti, I will witness more good in the world and in my life.