My mother has a green thumb; her plants are lush, vibrant, and gloriously full. Her home boasts plants overflowing from their pots, and a yard full of thriving trees and flowers. Her secret is pruning.
“You have to cut the leaves back, otherwise they become long and scraggly.” She raises an eyebrow at me, “you should try it.”
“Prune my plants?”
She smiles, “your life.”
I am a recovering busy-aholic. Ask me to do something, and I will jump at the chance. More responsibility? No problem! Put more on my plate and I will call it delicious.
Many of us have full and complex lives. Our family, work and social obligations pull us constantly in different directions. Replenishing our own well is pretty much at the bottom of the list. However, like plants, when we overextend ourselves, we neglect the very roots that help us thrive. When our resources are dispersed into many projects, none of the projects flourish.
Springtime is a perfect opportunity to step back, prune mindfully and nourish our roots in preparation for the blossoming of summer. Using the eight limbs of the Yoga Sutra as our guide, here are five steps that help us prune to grow:
In yoga, self-study (svadyaya) is an essential component of our yoga practice. To help you connect to your true priorities, set aside some time to reflect and make a list of your most important values. Values could include family, finances, success, friends, relationships, health, sports, the outdoors, etc.
Take a candid look at your list and honestly rank your values in order of priority from highest to lowest. The key here is to be honest (satya) rather than list what we think seems appropriate. What is truly most important to you? As you survey this list, now consider: are you making time for your highest priorities, or are they being sacrificed for something that is less important?
2. Let go
Now that you have a sense of your priorities, determine where you want put your time and effort, and where you can elect to let go. While it is human nature to cling to the familiar, this stickiness anchors us to old habits and prevents our growth. Non-grasping (aparigraha) invites us to challenge our human desire to cling to the familiar.
Time is our most precious resource. Look at your daily schedule and evaluate whether it reflects your highest values. What tasks and projects can be mindfully set aside to make more room for you to invest in what fulfills you.
3. Spring cleaning
In the yoga sutras, cleansing (sauca) is an invitation to clear our bodies and minds of the impure. It is time to apply this principle to other areas of our life that may become choked with clutter and debris. What needs your loving pruning? Take a look at your desk, attic, refrigerator, or closet and pick one area to work on. Creating space and clarity in our physical environment nurtures the clearing that is occurring within.
4. Spend time alone
When we are used to extending our energy out into the world, pulling into ourselves can feel scary and isolating. However, taking the time to find inner silence and spaciousness allows us to move beyond our compulsive go-go rhythm. Pulling away from the distractions of the outside world (pratyahara, sense withdrawal) allows us to connect to our deeper roots. Make it a daily intention to spend time doing something just for you. Practicing yoga (asana), breathing techniques (pranayama), or meditation (dharana, dhyana, Samadhi) are all excellent ways to take needed time for self-care.
5. Embrace the intensity
Changing our habits, even when the changes are positive, isn’t easy. For those of us that are wired to pack our schedules, making space may initially feel very scary and require a bit of steely-eye discipline. Ironically, saying no and making space may feel far scarier than taking on that extra work project or burning the midnight oil.
Set firm boundaries and embrace the fiery challenge (tapas) of upholding your space. While the initial pruning back may feel like a loss, remember that saying no to something now is a way of saying a more resonant yes to your highest values. By pruning your life, you are giving yourself the opportunity to nourish yourself, set deep roots, and set a healthy foundation for your vibrant growth.
Nerd. Artist. Educator. Director of YYoga Teachers’ Development & College. Manages existential astonishment and life adventures through relentless inquiry and a devilish sense of humour.