The power of small beginnings

When you want to feel better - but all you can see is all the things you think you "should" do, and it's a lot - here is some encouragement from the garden.

You know how easy it is to end up not doing anything because what you can do seems so tiny.  Your rational self knows that you really can't do it all when you're just starting.  But deep inside you is the guilty idea that you should already be doing it.  What a bind!  No matter how keen you are to get going with a new thing, if you're starting from "should have already" and guilt, it's like you're nobbled from the start.  You're likely to end up in defeat or retreat or rebellion ("whatever!"). 

And somehow the messages we get about health make this really likely - it doesn't seem worth doing 4,000 steps a day if you believe that you should be doing 10,000 plus all the rest.  So even if you do walk, it doesn't feel all that good because you're comparing it with what you "should" do.  And then the weather's bad, or you have even more things to do, or you're just too tired and ... walks fall off the schedule.  More guilt, more defeat.

So what has a kale plant gone to flower got to do with this?

Looking down on a flowering plant of cavolo nero - Tuscan kale.

Looking down on a flowering plant of cavolo nero - Tuscan kale.

This rather large (as tall as me - a woman of average height) weather-battered and over-mature plant is cavolo nero or Tuscan kale.  It's very easy to grow here in windy Wellington and it produces tasty leaves which you can cut and use as you go.  Left in the garden to flower, it now provides sustenance for bees.  And later on it will provide useful material for the compost heap.  But none of this is why I am using it as encouragement.

A tiny cavolo nero seed, shown with flowers from the plant for scale.

A tiny cavolo nero seed, shown with flowers from the plant for scale.

That very large plant started off as a tiny seed.  It needed good enough conditions to germinate and then was a tender little seeding.  Bit by bit it became this very large plant, surviving the winter and continuing to develop.  And this happens naturally - as long as it's not allowed to dry out, or get cut back too hard, or get trampled, or overcome by weeds, or pulled out, or otherwise treated badly.

Ok, it's a cliche.  But you get the picture.  The germ of an idea, an intention, does need good enough conditions to get started and then to thrive.  But, for example, the intention to get fit doesn't suddenly inflate into a full-blown exercise programme.  There are steps to make, conditions to provide.  It isn't a kindness to be unrealistic.  But it isn't a kindness not to plant the seed if what it provides will be important to us. 

So - you could try thinking about your intentions as being like seeds of hope. 

You want to feel better - less stressed, more healthy, more confident, able to do things that have meaning - but you may not have planted those seeds very effectively.  You may have felt rushed, and not had time to prepare the conditions for planting, you may be trying to get started when the "weather" of your life is too unsettled, you may be trying to plant too much all at once, and so on.  It might be worth taking time to plan and consider:

  • What are these intentions/seeds that you want to plant?
  • What conditions do your intentions need in order to flourish?
  • What unhelpful ideas and feelings are like the bugs that eat the seedling, or the wind that will batter it and stop it from developing?
  • What are the rewarding things that might develop from your intentions?
  • Is this a good time to get going and prepare for planting?

The good thing about getting effective at planting seeds is that we learn from experience and trying again.  And that is also true of pursuing our intentions.

Helen NelsonComment