These images of trees being supported in their growth moved me. Posted by a friend who leads creative tours to Japan, the attentive gardening practices in use touched me deeply. It takes a sensitive gardener to offer the support that’s required.
It was particularly the notion of receiving support which evoked a tender feeling within me. The desire for support has been particularly insistent lately, yet the longing to find a healthy and helpful form of peer support has been present for years. Reading of enviable practices in the book, Presence, a decade or so ago, I have been involved in support groups of various kinds. They have all been helpful but somehow I still didn’t feel the kind of ‘supportedness’ I longed for.
Something was getting in the way.
When I was truly willing to ponder it, I could see that the obstacle was within me. I can’t expect to receive the kind of support I yearn for if I am steadfastly independent and always know what is right; if I can’t truly ask for help; if I hide the challenges that rattle me.
It was simple, but of course initially challenging. Crossing that threshold of vulnerability is the hardest part; once we are on the other side it’s surprisingly easy no matter the complexity of our challenges. I had to relinquish control, show my warts, be prepared for confusion, and ask for help in order to receive support.
It also needed some preparedness to examine the habit of resisting support, and the feelings that arose around this habit. I did this investigation with the help of people who had the skills to hold me in a warm place of observation and transformation. As many of us experience, it’s one thing to receive insights about a habit you want to change, and another thing to commit to transformation and avoidance of what is habitual but unwanted.
Since I have been more willing to allow this kind of questioning, experimented with control relinquishment, focused on habit changing, and embraced confusion, support has arrived. One of my current supports is through a group that meets to work with u.lab, an online/offline platform ‘that blends new tech tools, social change processes, and multi-local community building efforts’. I am taking the u.lab course for the third time as I find its practices of self-transformation to enable world transformation so helpful and deeply supportive.
I now feel supported as I take on change-making and its often chaotic elements. The more I risk entering this territory with a sense of comfort with the ‘not known’, the more support arises if I let it in. The gardeners with the precise sensitivity to support my growth arrive.
At our word pilgrim class yesterday, someone used the metaphor of midwives to describe these helpful people. Whatever our gender, we can be midwives and gardeners to the birth of each other’s true selves.
I feel deep gratitude to all those gardeners and midwives who have offered support within my own journey. Your deep listening, willingness to observe and not advise, and your helpful pictures of where I’m at and what is calling help me to move beyond past habits and respond to the world’s challenges with all my gifts at hand. (I’m also free to make mistakes and learn from them which I love as I’m pretty good at making those mistakes!)
I’d be interested in hearing about your own experiences in this realm of support as I’m planning a new project I’ve tentatively titled ‘radical reflection’. It will probably involve peer support groups to allow authentic sharing and supportive transformation and I’m investigating what’s needed in this area. Contact me if you’ve got some ideas and we can have a chat.
Images: trees in Kenrokuen garden, Kanazawa, Gillian Jones