Originally published in Huffington Post, July 13, 2011.
Sunday afternoon, with an hour to spare, I wander to the garden to thin some baby carrots – those wee beginnings of carrots, just tufts of green really – so as to create more space for the few I leave to fully grow and flourish. The sun is warm on my back as I get busy with this task that takes focused attention: one pull too many and a whole potential carrot is gone!
As I make my way down the rows slowly and carefully, I notice the challenge I face every time I perform this gardening task: To enable a few to thrive I need to pull out a lot of others and the thicker I originally sowed, the more I have to yank out. I don’t like yanking out baby carrots, even if my logical mind tells me they’re just tiny carrots and my gardening experience knows that if I don’t do this, none of them will do well. As I go about the task, I wish I hadn’t planted quite as thickly to begin with. I also try to figure out which ones look strong and healthy (those ones I leave) and I pay attention to spacing them evenly, so that each one left has enough soil and light to grow in.
During my carrot-thinning hour this Sunday, as I curiously follow my inner resistance to the task at hand, I have to chuckle… what a perfect reflection of my struggle with letting go of any of the “too many projects on the go!” I feel such gratitude for the delicious fullness of life, the many varied and richly textured projects I get to initiate, co-create and be involved in … and sometimes it just feels like “too much”, like I’m juggling ten balls at once and any of them could drop at any moment. Or worse still, I actually forget one of them for a bit and slack on my integrity with others (projects or people). Do you ever feel that way? Excited and engaged in many meaningful, fun and interesting projects that encourage you to grow, stretch, be challenged and offer your gifts, yet with a nagging underlying sense that you may be compromising depth for too much width in your life?
That you might serve more if you focused on less? Overwhelm doesn’t reap the best results.
Back to the garden … the more I sow the more I eventually have to thin. The more I am unsure how many seeds will germinate, the more likely I am to over-sow to make sure that at least some will make it. And the feedback loop is clear: If I don’t thin, I end up with crooked, wonky, small carrots.
So what is your sweet spot, where you seed just the right amount, saying yes to what you can manage well and thrive rather than survive? That place of not too much and not too little? And is there anything in your life you need to thin? Anything that is taking too much time and focus away from what you are really here to do? The more capable and multi-passionate you are, the more urgent this question becomes, for you could do so much. Question is: What truly makes your heart sing? What fills the cells of your being with inspiration? What are you responsible for? When do you feel most alive and in service to life itself?
The answers to these questions may change over time. As you continue to grow and evolve, the ways in which you serve and show up will likely take on different forms. This is an invitation for ongoing discernment, for a daily practice of touching in with what moves you, what you are committed to, clearing the clutter and engaging in a regular practice of spring-cleaning. What perspectives and beliefs are serving you and which ones are holding you back? Are you giving enough time and attention to the things that ultimately matter most to you and those entrusted to you? Are you in touch with your authentic purpose, or do you first need to get rid of some clutter to feel into this question? What motivates you — is it fear, love, shadow, egoic drive or an authentic impulse to serve?
And once we get clear on what to keep and what to let go of, we still don’t need to make it all happen ourselves. Same as the garden requires ample sun, water, minerals and further weeding to grow strong and healthy, we too can complement our initial discernment on how much to sow (what we say “yes” to) and our ongoing discernment on what to thin (what to let go of and what to stick with):
We can ask for support and help.
We can delegate, collaborate and syngerize with others.
We can communicate when we need to make adjustments to what we have committed ourselves to.
We can be attentive to timing — perhaps “not now, but later”, or find a rhythm that allows for more balance, extending the time frames in which projects get completed.
And in all these and other ways of dealing with the thinning, lies the core spiritual practice of discernment: To grow in awareness of who we truly are and to make choices that align us with our essential authentic self. In this way, we can grow our true gifts and offerings like strong healthy carrots. We can make good use of this precious life we are given, contributing with depth and sincerity to the great unfolding Whole, without burning out, being overwhelmed and compromising integrity.
Blessings to you as you clear the clutter, follow your true joy and come together with others to bring all of you into ever-greater alignment with your authentic nature and service – with enough space, time and energy to breath deeply and live healthily!
I invite and welcome your thoughts and comments and am interested in hearing your experiences of engaging in this and other practices of discernment. Thanks for reading!