How to Give Space for Life and Wholeness to Grow

January 27, 2023

Frog and Toad are the best of friends in a children’s story book I loved to read with my children. In one story Toad, seeing Frog’s fine garden is inspired to plant one of his own. Frog warned Toad, “Yes, it is very nice, but it is hard work.”

Toad planted some flower seeds and then worked hard to make them grow. He told them to grow. He shouted at them. Frog told him that he just needed to leave them alone and let the sun, rain and time do their work.

But Toad couldn’t do that. In case the seeds were afraid to grow at night Toad took some candles to the garden and told them not to be afraid. He read stories to the seeds. Over the next days he sang songs and read poems and played music. After several days Toad, exhausted, fell asleep. When he awoke, he saw that the seeds had popped out of the ground.

We want our good seeds to grow, the seeds that make us feel worthy of love; we want to be perfect, to be whole, balanced, in-control, and mature.  Sometimes we can try too hard. Sometimes we focus so hard on a particular goal only to be disappointed or despaired that we seem to be further from the goal than when we started.

There is a spiritual law here that mirror’s Newton’s Third law of motion. Newton’s law states that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. In the spiritual law, our direct attacks on something we want to change in ourselves is met with equally strong resistance. I first noticed this principle when trying to diet. When I focused on not eating rich food, I would suddenly have a strong craving for a rich, fatty food. The only way to defeat a strong compulsion is to stop giving mental energy to it, in other words, to stop thinking about it.

Compulsions, or what the Buddhists call attachments are as universal and diverse as human nature. One Spring I had an anxiety attack about something. For the next three months in beautiful sunny weather, I lived in a perpetual fog; I had a compulsion to keep thinking about my mental health. When I awoke feeling well, I would turn my eyes inward, exploring every little negative feeling and symptom and soon I was taken back to a state of anxiety, disconnected from the present moment and from the loving presence of those around me. I was giving energy to this negativity and digging up the seeds of peace. I can’t remember what caused the anxiety attack in the Spring. I was anxious about being anxious. Finally, I talked with a counselor who helped me to see that I was creating the anxiety loop that I lived in. I needed to trust that the peace seeds were growing and doing their work.

When dealing with my own compulsions, any peace I have found has come from letting go of trying through my own will power, to force growth to an imagined self-perfection. Many religious traditions and the 12-step programs show us the way. Buddhists practice non-attachment through meditation. The 12-step program directs individuals to let go of worries by giving them over to your “Higher Power”. Other mystics teach redirecting of energy away from what you are trying to avoid and towards something that you desire. And when we slip up or fail, we let that go too. We don’t feed the compulsion by giving it more mental energy.

We are like Toad with the seeds of wholeness and goodness that are planted in us. Sometimes we try so hard to be “perfect”. Sometimes we even dig up the seeds to see whether they have germinated and started to grow. 

This is the winter season when so much of nature shows us the need for hibernation, dormancy and rest. Life is sleeping in the seeds in the ground and in the of roots of trees. When life in the ground meets life in the warmth of the Spring sun and is nourished by life of Spring rains, it will push to the surface and show itself in Spring growth. Sometimes we need some professional help with inner work. Sometimes we just need to provide the warmth of self-love and good self-care and time for seeds to grow. And at all times we all need to trust that Life is at work in us, as it is in all of nature.

Gratitude Prompt: Give thanks for the seeds of life, goodness and wholeness that are in me.

“Frog and Toad Together” by Arnold Lobel can be found in many book stores.