Potential of a Potted Plant

So never lose an opportunity of urging a practical beginning, however small,
for it is wonderful how often in such matters
the mustard-seed germinates and roots itself.
Florence Nightingale

All of us are lonely. All of us feel inadequate. We yearn for more–“meaning”, “sense of purpose”, fulfillment, “to make a difference”, but perhaps more than anything to grow untethered from our own resistance and the great imposition of expectations. To truly see our inner potential realized. What are we capable of? If we let ourselves go and we did what we loved? 

Like a seedling in the wild letting the nourishment of the sun and the earth spread our roots and branches as far as they can go.

Reminded of the amazing story of a particular strand of Chinese bamboo which only develops its roots for 5 years and then in the 6th year it breaks the ground and grows 75 feet high! That just the roots grow for the beginning 60 months of its life. Then it pops through the ground and grows almost three a day in that 6th year. The roots give it strength and the ability to push out and up. The freedom, the power of the roots to do its thing. 

I have met and witnessed human bamboo like this. Who work on themselves and develop their inner strengths and their network of support and then “suddenly” burst out into the open. But it is the exception. Most of us need a great deal of help to allow our innate infrastructure, our uniqueness to take root and to do the work before the groundbreaking and the light we all want. 

We get stuck and our energy, ambitions, and potential get root bound in a mindset that no longer nurtures us. The love for what we do has been crushed by the compaction.

We resign ourselves to wait it out for a time ahead where the pastures are greener, brighter and better. We hope someone/something will rescue us from this stagnation. Or until the pot breaks.

I meet a lot of potted plants. 😊

People who have carefully constructed the most elaborate and indestructible pots.

I was paired up with a woman on the golf course the other day. She was chatty so I listened intently and then we got to real life stuff. She said she wished she had pursued jobs like mine—“trying to do good for others”.

 “But I have to work for 10 more years before I can do what I want,”, she declared. Usually the preamble for the book of self-pottery, but I listened.  

First of all, who owns the crystal ball that will tell us what is going to happen in a decade. (just think about the last 3 years) Whether you will be healthy. Whether your employer or industry will even exist. What other priorities will overtake your little plan? In the current time warp, 10 years is impossible to visualize. Yet we defer our dreams.

Back at the course…..
Then our conversation went into a unexpected black hole of ambiguity, self-deception, and comic relief. 
I said, “What is it you want to do?” 

You would have thought I asked her about Astro Physics, the origin of life or her husband’s relationship with his mother.

After momentary shock, she started making up stuff. Words flew out of her face. She talked about her kids, the possibility of grandkids, “traveling”, “volunteering”, the word “painting” was uttered, was not sure if it was a verb or noun. She was rummaging through her attic…….Then, looking as if she found a golden ticket, she blurted out “gardening!” A smile flashed across her face. 

I smiled too. I said, “It seems like you love gardening.”

“I do!” she replied with relief.

“Tell me about this gardening you dream to do. Flowers, vegetables, herbs, succulents, bonsai………” 

She heard the words and realized she was in an intellectual cul de sac and she turned around in a hurry. Her inner GPS had a blackout. And all of the roses from her award winning garden instantly withered. 

“I only think I would garden an hour or so a week.” (People say the craziest things to themselves and to strangers:)

“Oh!” I said. “Why couldn’t you do that now?”, I queried with a smile. 

She defended her potted plant status with gusto and told me how “busy” she was and implying how important she is–violating every Kobara rule! 

How quickly our true self retreats to the safe darkness of silence. Back into the warm confines of the pot.

Her words scared her. The emptiness of her thoughts sent her directly to the pottery wall construction project.

We returned to golf and small talk, far away from the fertile light of authenticity, vulnerability, possibility and curiosity.  

When we parted, I said something dumb like, “Good luck with your garden.!”

Does she really love gardening? Does she know what she loves?

I suspect many of my encounters are with artificial potted plants. 🙁

If she loved gardening, there is no way she would do it for just an hour. Being outside in nature, the soil, the seeds, the time to contemplate life—the meditation that gardening would transport her. She would start connecting to other gardeners and plants she never heard of. Her network and outlook would be transformed and energized. 

She would shatter her pot with her bamboo instincts. 

Took me so long to learn this. Never too late to do what you love. To do it while you “work”. To do it to energize everything else you do. 

Doing what you love now, even in small dosages–is the way to break out of that restrictive pot. Talking about what you love connects your heart to the world. And you begin to plant seeds, nurture a little garden driven by your interests, ideas, and passions.  

Why wait 10 years to break the pot open and get your hands dirty, till the soil and see what mustard seeds germinate?

Thanks for reading. John

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