“When a flower doesn't bloom, you fix the environment in which it grows,
not the flower.” ~ Alexander Den Heijer
I recently offered two programs that focused on the metaphor of planting seeds for a flourishing life. Twelve Nights of Peace is my annual winter (for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere) contemplative practice that guides people to plant twelve seeds (or values) that they wish to embody in the upcoming year. Your Flourishing Year Bundle takes you deeper into a whole process of composting and harvesting last year, rooting into the soil of your truth, and then envisioning and creating a flourishing garden of your dreams, focusing specifically on the fruit (goals, projects, and creations) that you wish to harvest.
As I’ve been sharing both of these offerings, I’ve been contemplating what it takes to blossom. We are a month into the new year and I’ve been seeing all these articles about how many people have already given up on their New Year’s intentions, resolutions, and goals. My approaches are different than traditional goal-setting strategies. I see the importance of the dance of 'being' and 'becoming,' both taking action and embodying, as well as creating the space and environment for our seeds to sprout and flourish.
Flowers, when given the proper environment, naturally do what they are here to do: blossom. A nourishing supportive environment will vary to some degree depending on the planet and what it specifically needs, but most of the time it includes the right amount of sunshine, water, healthy nutritious soil, and fresh air. What environment do you need to blossom? What environment do your dreams need to blossom?
What environment do you and your dreams need to blossom?
Here are some suggestions and contemplations to ponder. I'd love to hear what environments best support your dreams in the comments below.
“Hello, sun in my face. Hello you who made the morning and spread it over the fields...Watch, now, how I start the day in happiness, in kindness.” ~ Mary Oliver
How can you allow your physical spaces - home, office, car, bedroom, workspaces, etc - to best support you and your dreams? What lighting, music, colors, textures, and scents support you to flourish and blossom? Do you love lots of plants around you or prefer open and spacious areas? Do you like to surround yourself with artwork or photos of joyful memories? What small thing could you do today to uplift and enliven the physical environments where you spend the most time? How can you add more beauty to your life? What would it look like to infuse beauty into your surroundings, your day, or your work space?
Contemplate not just your physical environments inside of dwellings, but also the places you spend time that are outside. Do you feel the most nourished with the fresh salty ocean breeze on your face or up on a tall mountain peak overlooking the land below? Do you love the dry heat of deserts or the lush tropical rainforests? It may not be as often, but consider if there is a way for you to spend more time in environments where you flourish.
Another physical environment to consider is the wellbeing of your physical body. What foods, nutrients, and movement support you? Especially during the winter months, are you yourself getting enough sunshine and vitamin D? Plants need proper amounts of sunshine and so do we! What about sleep? Do you create proper environments for you to get the deepest, most nourishing rest? Do you drink plenty of water? The care and support of your physical body will greatly influence your ability to grow and nourish your creations, projects, and dreams.
Yet another aspect of the physical environment to consider is your exposure to toxins, mold, pesticides, pollution, and chemicals. Another article is needed to dive into this topic, but with increasing rates of toxins in the world today, this is becoming a greater and more pressing issue and is something of great importance to consider as you focus on environments that will most support your flourishing.
“Water your dreams with fear, and they will wilt; with doubt, and they will wither; with hope, and they will grow; with faith, and they will flourish.” ~ Matshona Dhliwayo
Our mental environment is not always the first thing we think about when considering environments, but it is another important consideration. What beliefs, stories and narratives support your dreams to blossom and what ones act like weeds reaching up and attempting to strangle your hopes and dreams? What would you need to believe about yourself in order to blossom? What would you need to believe about your next project and what's possible in order to support your dreams to blossom? What beliefs do not support you going for this? How will you address the weeds that pop up?
"If we are peaceful, if we are happy,
we can smile and blossom like a flower,
and everyone in our family, our entire society,
will benefit from our peace." ~ Thich Nhat Hanh
Another environment to consider is that of your emotions. Our emotional states profoundly affect how we view the world, the inspiration, insights and ideas we have access to, and how we behave. What emotional states would best support your project blossoming? What feeling specifically would you like to feel to support this blossoming? How can you create a space that will support you to feel this way?
One of the (many) reasons why I love states of wonder, awe, reverence and elevation, is that these states give us access to insights, ideas, and realms of thinking and insights we don't usually have access to in ordinary emotional states.
is attracted to people
the same way flowers
are attracted to the sun,
surround yourself only with those
who want to see you grow."
What people support your dreams to flourish? Consider friends, family members, colleagues, as well as groups that you could join like women's circles, men's circles, masterminds, support groups, and accountability buddies. People who believe in you, support you, and can give you feedback and motivation to keep going when life feels difficult, are treasures to be cherished through and through.
How can you put yourself in spaces to connect with these people more? What if you set up a weekly or monthly conference call, brunch, or tea hour with those that best support and nourish you? Or joined a support group in which you felt held, supported, and safe to open?
"Let us be grateful to people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom." ~ Marcel Proust
Other Considerations: Trust Your Timing
“Roses do not bloom hurriedly; for beauty, like any masterpiece, takes time to blossom.” ~ Matshona Dhliwayo
There is a great magic involved in seeds taking root and rising up to the skies ready to blossom, and the timing of it needs to be trusted. As Bhikshuni Thubten Chodron reminds us, “When you plant seeds in the garden, you don’t dig them up every day to see if they have sprouted yet. You simply water them and clear away the weeds; you know that the seeds will grow in time. Similarly, just do your daily practice and cultivate a kind heart. Abandon impatience and instead be content creating the causes for goodness; the results will come when they’re ready.”
No Mud, No Lotus
“Everyone knows we need to have mud for lotuses to grow. The mud doesn’t smell so good, but the lotus flower smells very good. If you don’t have mud, the lotus won’t manifest. You can’t grow lotus flowers on marble. Without mud, there can be no lotus.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh, No Mud, No Lotus: The Art of Transforming Suffering
I am continually amazed by the resilience of life and its desire to survive and adapt and thrive. While I think this contemplation of supportive environments is helpful, there are also plants that thrive in some of the harshest locations imaginable. Thich Nhat Hanh has a beautiful book that's titled, "No Mud, No Lotus," that reminds us that out of the thick muddy mucky swamps, something as magnificent as a lotus can grow. Out of your pain and hardship and struggles, the most beautiful flowers may blossom. In fact, it may be the perfect conditions for your greatest blossoms to flourish! So yes, design and curate beautiful spaces, put yourself in the best environments for you and your dreams to blossom, surround your mind, body, and community with the best, AND when you are stuck in the mud, you too, dear one, are invited to bloom.
I did not create this gif. All the other photos in this article were taken by me.