By Deb Avery
Pain is an inevitable part of life.
Struggling too, has its place but suffering, that’s a whole different thing altogether. For I have found that our suffering is in direct relationship to our ability to accept, adapt and keep our hearts and minds open.
When life gets difficult and I find myself struggling, I turn to nature for enlightenment. There is always something there waiting to teach me how to just be, just breathe, and let go. No matter what the situation, nature offers many and varied lessons to those who are willing to sit, pay attention and learn.
The small, modest garden behind my house is completely natural. As with all green or organic gardeners, no sprays or dusts of insecticides have ever been used. And over time the balance of predator insects have evolved to keep the pest down to a minimum. However, for those who have never had a completely “natural” garden, it means that your plants will not be picture-perfect like those in magazines. The flowers, fruits and vegetables in my backyard come with all kinds of little (and sometimes big) imperfections. There will be conditions you will have no control over; the weather, certain infestations or disease.
Sometimes a certain plant will thrive in other parts of the area, but will not do well in your specific little corner of the world. And we will have to accept that these types of plants are just not happy and will not be an option for us.
Isn’t it the same for us and the people and situations in our lives? Not everything is going to be as we envisioned.
There are many imperfections in life. There will be many situations where we have no control—at all, and there will people that we may love and want near us that simply cannot thrive in our environment, or us in theirs. We will get sick. We will lose a loved one. We will have times when we struggle to hold onto things when it’s way past the point to let them go. And the longer we hold on, the more we struggle. The more we struggle, the more we suffer.
When I found out several years ago that I had a chronic disease, it was difficult for me to accept. There would be things I would be limited in doing and gradually there became things that I could no longer do. It was difficult knowing that a lot of things that brought me joy would no longer be an option in my life.
I had two choices. I could accept my limitations and enjoy and be grateful for all the things I could still do. Or, I could struggle, suffer even more, and become a bitter and resentful person.
Thankfully I chose to sit with the situation in the garden and learn to accept and let go, like the multicolored blossoms and leaves that surrounded me. Then, less than two years after the first diagnosis, I was hit with another. Then another about a year after that. It seemed my first disease had friends who wanted to keep company with it, and me.
It was a difficult growing season. No matter my food choices, my lifestyle, or time spent meditating, they were determined to stay by my side and keep me company. Like mosquitoes in the rainy season, they multiplied and—for awhile it seemed—prevailed.
On the really worst of days I was in bed. But I moved my bed so that a view of the yard, trees and nature was always in view. On the not too bad days I spent time outside, when weather permitted, either walking the perimeter of the backyard or sitting quietly on the porch watching, listening and just BEing. Gradually, a transformation began. I found myself struggling less and spent more time simply being grateful for the green grass, the variety of blooms and petals on the plants and flowers, the trees and the wind blowing gently through the leaves.
This became a kind of practice for me.
The gentle deer that roamed the yard reminded me that life is beautiful and there is grace to to be found in any situation. The bees and birds reminded me to enjoy each moment and to let all the good things in life fill up my heart. The ravens reminded me to see the beauty and mystery hidden in life’s shadows. Nature became my temple. Birdsong became my choir. The sun, wind and rain brought the precepts of gratitude and acceptance to my heart.
Yes, there is still pain and discomfort. And like everyone else in life, I do struggle at times. But for now, and with much gratitude, I no longer suffer.
With all of nature to guide me, like the seed planted in the cold, dark soil in the springtime, I take root and grow.
Editor: Dana Gornall