lessons learned: tickling the roots

Ok, Holy Spirit, once again you amaze me.

I’m not sure if I’ve shared on this blog that I’ve resumed my yoga practice.  This time, it has been less about perfecting my form and more about getting into the corners of my body and releasing some darkness.  I am learning that breath, body and prayer together can be a powerful source of healing and enlightenment.

What started as a practice to alleviate lower back tension has slowly evolved into an intentional morning and evening ritual.  I have been listening to podcasts and reading books, and everyone seems to say the same thing–our bodies hold memories, both challenging and joyful.  Even at a cellular level, yoga and mindfulness can release some of that pain or struggle and help to lighten the load that we experience physically and emotionally.

Yesterday as I met with my spiritual director (SD), I shared with her the “root bound” metaphor my counselor had offered a few weeks before.  My SD continued to expand the theme by noting the physical appearance of a root bound plant–the tight, curved, and knotted body, tense and unable to let go of the dirt.

I shared with her a memory I had about a father who assisted me in landscaping a flower garden for my first preschool classroom many years ago.  He brought with him donated plants and of course, when we took them out of the pots, you could barely see any of soil.  I myself felt hopeless, but he squatted down with the kids and taught them to tickle the roots.

Yep, that’s what I said–tickle the roots.

He taught my students that the plants wouldn’t be able to grow if we didn’t help them release their roots.  Helping the roots let go would allow them to dig deeply into the soil.  So 15 preschoolers gathered round and tickled roots.

That year our garden flourished with enough flowers to send home with mothers for Mother’s Day.

As I reflected on this story, my SD smiled.  She looked at me and noted, “It’s kind of like your root bound spirit and body.  Your yoga is tickling the roots.”

And she was right. [Can you feel the Holy Spirit moving here?!]

Yoga and stretching are tickling places inside of me that are allowing me to flourish spiritually.  Releasing the darkness in my past and present have opened me to up feeling more compassionate and peaceful.

And most importantly, it’s freed me to up become more deeply rooted in my faith.


lessons learned: caring for the root bound

“You are root bound,” she said.  “Your prayer needs to be, ‘God, give me a bigger pot.'”

That’s what my counselor said to me Tuesday, and it has resonated with my spirit ever since.  Given how I love to blog about creation and spirituality, I have fallen in love with this metaphor and its connection to my life.  I had contacted her several weeks ago because I was feeling a sense of something I couldn’t quite name.  For someone who loves language, I could not label this mixed bag of feelings, and I wanted help.

“You are root bound,” she said.  “Your prayer needs to be, ‘God, give me a bigger pot.'”

She was right.  The Creator has gifted each of us with the inherent desire to grow, but sometimes, circumstances limit that potential.  When we are trapped and have little room for growth, we become like the plant in a pot that is too small–frustrated, weary, and spiritually or emotionally malnourished.

If you’ve never seen a potted plant that is root bound, it looks like a web of roots has enveloped the dirt around it.  The roots continue growing but are so confined to the smallness of the container, that they weave around each other creating a dense mass that can be hard to separate.  Two critical issues then impact the plant:

  • it doesn’t get enough nutrition–there’s not enough soil or it has already lived off of what was available
  • it will eventually stop reaching out to look for more dirt and simply wind its way back on itself

As a result, the plant that is seemingly healthy at the surface will slowly wither, perhaps give up,  and possibly die.

“You are root bound,” she said.  “Your prayer needs to be, ‘God, give me a bigger pot.'”

So how do we take care of ourselves when life’s situations create a “root bound effect?”  I’ve been meditating on that as well as some of the suggestions my counselor shared.

  • Pray for a bigger pot.
  • Grow in ways you can.
  • Nurture the life and body you do have.
  • Breathe.
  • Focus less on the darkness that the roots are experiencing and continue to seek the light and nutrients available above the surface or outside of the pot.
  • Stop struggling against what is trapping you.  Perhaps it’s time to “just be” until more favorable growing conditions come along.
  • Hope, have faith.  Even the most root bound plant will eventually thrive when offered the space to grow.

And remember, that this is only one season in the journey of life.