Nature has its many mysteries. When we look deeply there is always a gift. Not only does nature nurture us, it reminds us of the cyclical nature of life. It also reminds us how unpredictable life can be.
I look forward to the winter rains filling up the creeks. I love taking a walk in nature in the midst of rushing water on the way to a cascading waterfall. But there is always the edge of that rushing water becoming a flash flood.
I was reminded of nature’s majesty on a recent trip to Kauai. While I felt that “sense of awe” as I watched the cascading waterfalls there were the constant flash flood warnings. On the last night of my trip I was privy to one of nature’s great light shows—brilliant stabs of lightning followed by loud boisterous sounds of thunder a second behind. As I drove home from the beach the lightning seemed so close that I felt my car swerve as if a bolt of lightning had struck it. At the same instant there was an announcement on the radio that the station (a quarter of a mile away) had been struck by lightning. In the midst of the storm, which continued through the night, I felt nature’s power every time I heard the thunder roar. Because I knew that it would soon stop, I maintained a sense of clarity and perspective.
I knew that after the storm there would be a sense of calmness and beauty. It is in that moment of clarity that we realize that we have been through many storms before. We have learned a fundamental truth. No matter how dark it seems, we know that the light of spring is coming. However with many of the personal challenges that we face in life we forget this lesson and lose that sense of perspective.
More than any other season I am most excited by spring.
With its sense of optimism and hope it is a time of new beginnings. We rejoice when we notice the first buds on the fruit trees. By summer those buds have become delicious fruit. In autumn, the leaves with their vibrant colors fall wistfully from the trees to the ground. By the time winter arrives, most of the trees are barren and we are ready for the cycle to begin anew. Because we have been through these cycles before, when spring comes again, we are ready for the spring ritual
of planting our gardens. Although we don’t totally understand
the process, we know for certain there’s an intelligence in nature’s way of doing things.
We have our own ritual. We prepare the soil for planting by first pulling out the weeds. Then we turn the soil and mix in compost and fertilizer before spreading the seeds. We don’t know how many of these seeds will emerge from the darkness to the light. But we have faith that if we tend to our garden, some seeds will grow.
So let’s plant our garden. But before we do that, we first weed out the limiting beliefs that clutter our minds, and then we plant the seeds, which are thoughts, in the form of possibilities. We also know from our work together that our intentions determine what we harvest. There are two concepts that keep emerging. I have discussed the first in the last few articles.
Happiness is a choice which is not dependent on our circumstances. Happiness includes the ability to experience fully all of the positive emotions such as peace, joy and love. Many people have asked me what I have personally learned from writing Dancing on the River. It’s getting to that place in my life when I realize that I can be happy and still have a few loose ends. In fact, it’s accepting that there will always be a few loose ends. It’s also the realization that we make that choice in the moment over and over again.
The second is that our ability to experience that joy and love keeps expanding. Here’s why. We’ve been through more. We’ve faced more adversity. We’ve been stretched. We all know that there are things in the world that are horrific and tragic. Some of us have personally experienced some of these events. No one is immune from this pain—that’s part of being human. But because of this our hearts are more open and we’re able to experience more joy and to love more deeply. We’re gentler with ourselves and have learned to accept the things about ourselves that we can’t change. We’ve learned to accept the imperfections in life.
By focusing on what gives us joy, we have learned to smile in the midst of the storm. We know we’ll get through it. We’ve been there before. With each storm our capacity to experience joy is expanded. We focus on what’s right about our life. We focus on how blessed we are. We smile for no reason. We stop asking “why.” We’ve made the choice.
I was reminded of this choice recently at my uncle’s 90th birthday party. In front of many family members and friends he said that this was the happiest day of his life.
As spring unfolds it is my hope that the seeds you plant renew your sense of hope and optimism. May you be inspired by the journey. May you know what it means to be Dancing on the River.
Mark Susnow, JD, is a life coach and author of Dancing on the River:Navigating Life’s Changes. 415.453.5016