In a recent teambuilding session we were celebrating spring and I asked them the following question:
If you were a flower, what would you be and why?
Here were some of the responses:
- Sunflower – because it is warm and bright and when I see one it make me feel light and happy
- Red Petunia – because even when you pinch off the blossoms they come back with more flowers … and they attract hummingbirds which are amazing to watch
- Calla Lilly – because it represents interesting variety (there is even a black one) and it is a reminder of love (was his wedding day flower)
- Camellia – because it just keeps coming back and it has so many beautiful roses on it
- Geranium – because it reminds me of family and sitting on my porch looking out over the lake
What would be your answer?
As we continued with the conversation – about self-care and renewal – we discovered the flowers were representative of qualities or characteristics that each person had within themselves that they could draw upon to help bolster their courage, strength and wisdom especially in challenging times.
We used a metaphor of thought-weeds and thought-seeds.
The mind is fertile ground just like potting soil. Whatever you plant with grow very quickly. Do you want to cultivate thoughts of negativity and judgment which clutter up your mind (the weeds) … or do you want to focus on thoughts of positivity, optimism and kindness that fill your mind and heart with color and beauty and ease (the seeds)?
Through our conversation we uncovered that when we face challenges the thought-weeds can multiply very quickly. So we identified seven ways to weed the garden of the mind and heart and replace with blooms of forgiveness, kindness and strength.
- Face the challenge directly … (but don’t dwell on it)
- If you avoid dealing with something it drains your energy and precious mind-space even if you think you aren’t thinking about it. So as quickly as possible, identify the situation – try and figure out what you need … and then let go of any negative thoughts that begin to creep back in (you can tell which ones they are because you will usually feel worry, anxiety, anger, fear or judgment.)
- Identify and claim your strengths
- Think back to a time in your life when you may have gone through a similar situation. Really sit back and explore how you got through it. What did you have to think, believe, do or be to make it through to the other side? Then apply those same strengths to your current situation.
- Stop comparing your challenge to others (and minimizing it)
- Sometimes we try and make ourselves feel better by finding someone “worse off” than us. For example, you are going through a divorce and to keep yourself going you say to yourself “Well there are people dying every day who wish they could keep living, so my problems are nothing compared to theirs.” While it may help to shift your perspective, this kind of thinking also minimizes your feelings and situation. Be kind to yourself and honor what’s happening for you as being just as important as anyone else.
- Get support from someone who can relate and offer empathy … (but not necessarily advice).
- Were you in a car accident? Are your kids acting up? Are you going back to school for the first time in 25 years? Ask someone who has been through a similar situation if they would be willing to sit with you and LISTEN. It’s not so much about them giving your advice (although they might have wisdom to share), it’s more about you receiving empathy and compassion for what you are experiencing. Sometimes listening to yourself talk out loud can help you figure out a solution or at least get more insight into what you need to do.
5. Do something caring for someone else.
- When we are being of service to others, we take the focus off ourselves for awhile. This gives your mind, body and heart a break from your ruminations as well as helping you refill with feelings of caring, kindness and compassion.
- Get out in nature to recharge.
- Natural beauty is deeply healing for your soul. Take a walk down a forest path. Stop and smell a flower. Listen to birds singing. Appreciate the sun on your face. Just breathe!
- Take small steps every day.
- Sometimes a small step might just be getting out of bed. Maybe it’s making a decision you’ve been putting off. Perhaps you set aside time to call the credit card company. Or maybe you make an appointment with a coach or therapist. Taking action is what will keep you moving forward each precious day.
The human mind and spirit is resilient beyond comprehension. Trust that no matter what is happening your life, you have the capacity to get out of the weeds and grow in strength, courage, faith and love.