Growing where you’re planted

Growing where you’re planted means just that.  You use the situation you find yourself in as the growing matter for your own unfolding.  The Buddhist image of the Lotus is so powerful because it bespeaks a flower who’s roots are in the mud but that rises through the water and blooms in the light of consciousness.  This is a great way to think about our own lives and our own journeys.

The truth of karma is that there are no mistakes and that wherever you are is exactly where you need to be.  Things are happening because they’re supposed to be happening. / This includes everything as significant as what family you’re in: the wife or husband and kids you have, the job you have (or don’t have), the state of your health, your home, and even the thoughts that careen through your mind moment by moment.

Oftentimes, when the awakening process takes off in us, and we see our life in a more expanded context, we may find ourselves singing David Byrn’s song, “This is not my beautiful house, this is not my beautiful wife!”, but the fact is that they are. Part of waking up is recognizing how you came into relationship with those people and things and what their meaning is in your life.

Coming into a place of greater insight and mindfulness is ultimately a good thing for you and everyone, but in the earlier stages of this new life, you may find yourself experiencing the tension between wanting to swim in this freedom you’ve discovered and being involved in relationships that were formed during a time of less expansive consciousness.  You may experience your current agreements with partners, children and jobs as a drag on your system and feel that they slow you down, or worse yet, plunge you back into the old patterns that you feel so ready to move on from.  What do you do in these circumstances?  Is it appropriate to leave these poor, unenlightened beings behind as you follow your bliss?  If you have experienced a modicum of genuine awakening and you were to think twice about this question, most of the time your response would be “no”.  Does that then mean you must simply suffer in silence and be a “good wife” and a “good parent” and get your meditations in where you can?

I don’t think that’s the answer either.

These are circumstances where a deeper understanding of the wisdom of “growing where you’re planted” can really come in handy.

Part of the benefit of even a bit of waking up in your life is that you are provided with the ability to slow down and step back from the reactive involvement with it that you have had up until now.  When you first have the experience that you are more than your ego, and you find some of the freedom that comes with that,  your life may feel to you a bit like an old, outgrown set of clothes.  They don’t fit, and the style really isn’t you anymore.  If you were fully enlightened you might laugh at this situation, but at this point, some of the old reactive behaviors are still  operative  in your life and  it’s easy to fall into judgment and discouragement.  That’s why slowing down and taking a deeper look at yourself is really important at this time.

One of the fundamental human tendencies that the Buddha pointed to was the mental habit of craving and pursuing pleasurable experiences and pushing away those that are difficult and unpleasurable.  This is so hard-wired into our nervous system that most of the time it happens below the level of consciousness and we’re not even aware of it. The Buddha stated that it was the unconscious acting out of these tendencies of attraction and aversion that was the basic cause of suffering in our lives.  If we are going to expand on this awakening we’ve had, we need to take this basic truth to heart and explore how it’s working in our own lives

When you’re sitting with the emotional responses of finding yourself in a marriage that is unfulfilling, or a job that seems meaningless, or children that don’t understand you or seem to care very little about what you want, it’s easy to see the negative, painful feelings that come up around this.  As you sit a little longer, you may find that, in addition to the anger, sadness and frustration that you feel, there is guilt, remorse or regret directed at yourself for “getting yourself into these situations”.  There may be a sense of discouragement or even panic as you allow yourself to feel the truth of your situation after months or years or even decades of distracting yourself from it.  It can be hard to sit in this fire.  You’re hardwired to move away from it. But as you persist in your efforts to stay with it, and not shrink from this truth, gradually you start to experience more spaciousness and you start to see that the situation is, in fact, workable.

As the heart breaks and opens in this confrontation with the actions that  have brought you to this point, there will arise compassion for your self. This compassion can be a balm that allows you to stay and continue in this process of deepening inquiry into the truth of your life, and ultimately into the truth of your being. If you’re looking at the dynamics of a primary relationship, this generosity towards yourself and this enhanced spaciousness is also going to allow you to view your partner differently. It will help you to unhook yourself from the well-worn roles and reactive patterns that you have carved out for yourself over the years.  Adyashanti, a highly renown spiritual teacher, says that “you need to return the favor”. What he means by that is that just as you are realizing that you are much more than who or what you had taken yourself to be, it is also true for everyone else.  The karmic conditioning that has created the character and the life that you are now coming to see with clearer eyes, is also operative on everyone else.  That conditioning, or patterning process, has created the roles and the relationship dynamics that you are now finding so untenable for yourself.  It’s quite likely that your partner is finding those patterns just as unsatisfactory as you are. She would also love to find a way to move into a place of greater harmony with you. The question now is, how do you go about doing that?

Initially, the answer is “by doing nothing”.  Again, the impulse to quickly fix or change the relationship will arise and this is the old reactive pattern coming up again.  There is more clear seeing about what is going on, but the patterns of attachment and aversion, clinging and pushing away, run very deep in all of us. As you continue to sit with the feelings and come to understand your situation more fully, you may come to see how infused those feelings are with blame and judgment.  You can start to take this off yourself.  There really is no blame here.  You have been doing the best you could all along, most likely doing relationship the way you learned how from your parents, and this is just where you’ve gotten to with it.  Take the blame off yourself, and replace it with compassion and forgiveness.  As you do this with yourself, you’re going to be able to do it with your partner as well.  Just stop the blame.  If it’s not your fault, it doesn’t have to be hers either.  This internal shift is going to be communicated even if you don’t speak words about it. She will feel this change of heart on your part and it’s going to allow her to start putting down some of her defenses.  This will allow you to have a conversation that will get more to the truth of who you are today, and that will, in and of itself, allow the energy to get moving in your relationship again.

There is much more to say about what can happen in the communication between you and your partner once you have started to stabilize this shift in the relationship with yourself, but I will leave that for another article.  At this point, it will be enough for you to continue to practice mindfulness and non-reactivity as you attend to the ongoing unfolding of your own being.  If you really take this on as a practice, you will find that the opportunities for opening are endless.  You will come to appreciate more and more the wisdom of “growing where you’re planted”.  This process will not guarantee that every couple will move into a new, harmonious relationship with each other. You may find, however, that as you bring your new understanding into a conversation about who you are and how you experience the relationship, that if changes are made, they can be made in ways that don’t cast you back into the realm of blame, judgment, guilt and recrimination.  It is possible to free yourself, and it is possible to support your partner in freeing herself.  As that is happening, deciding whether to separate or stay together in some new enhanced version of yourselves, becomes a journey that you take together.


This entry was posted on Monday, May 21st, 2012 at 9:30 pm and is filed under Articles. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


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