Look around and everyday you can find ordinary examples of the extraordinary power of Nature: tsunamis and typhoons, blizzards and wildfires, earthquakes and eruptions. But Mother Nature’s power is not just relegated to these temporary disasters. She also plays the long game by exuding a soft power:
The precise balance of sun, rain, gravity, gasses in the air, nutrients in the soil, etc. creates the environment that sustains the immense variety of life on our planet.
The seamless interplay of oxygen-releasing plants and oxygen-inhaling beings in the animal kingdom. How serendipitous that the carbon dioxide we release gets recycled through plants to yet again provide both the oxygen and the carbohydrates (leaves, grains, fruits, nuts and seeds) that power our bodies and our brains.
The Power of ‘Cultivation’
Nature is a model of power that can teach us a great deal about the power of cultivation. Just think about the amazing process from seed to fruit:
We plant a cherry seed
Nurture it with the right amount of sunlight, water, fertilizer
The seed germinates and sprouts
A stem and leaves appear
Then branches and more leaves
Then a flower bud which blooms when the conditions are just right
And finally the beginnings of a fruit which will grow and ripen into the cherry we devour
Now what if we could harness this power of cultivation to grow the body, breath, and mind we want? Well, we can and we actually do this all of the time.
Athletes, professional and amateur alike, train their bodies. Scientists, educators, artists, mathematicians, mechanics, bakers, butchers and bartenders train their bodies and minds to get better at what they do.
In fact, you are training right now! The way you sit, the position of your head, the tightness in your jaw, the length (or lack of) in your spine and the depth (or shallowness) of your breath while reading this article are all patterns you are actively albeit unconsciously promoting.
This process of cultivating is happening around us and within us all of the time. However for most of us, a large chunk of this process is taking place under the radar.
We unconsciously, and hence unknowingly,
create and cultivate physical and mental patterns
that are often the antithesis of the qualities we hope to display
The good news is that we can take control of this process right here and now!
Cultivating ‘Conscious Cultivation’
The act of cultivating requires a:
‘Stress’ or Challenge - the energy or fire to break & change current habits/patterns
Natural Progression - a bud only open when it is the right time to bloom. Similarly, we need to restrain from pushing or stressing too hard.
Routine - regular practice to instill the new direction or pattern. Increase time spent in the new pattern while decreasing time spent in the old one
And to consciously cultivate we need to add Awareness.
Awareness is the key ingredient that ensures we are actively choosing to do the above:
Challenging just enough in the right direction and with consistency
to make the pattern we select take hold smoothly and efficiently.
So cultivating Awareness is a great strategy to ultimately cultivate the body, breath and mind you want.
The bad news is that Inertia is a powerful force to reckon with. So there is a mental and physical effort required to change your habits. But we all know that and feel that.
The good news, however, is plentiful:
You CAN change
You can change at any time and at any age – incredible research in the field of neuroplasticity has confirmed that we retain the ability to change our brain structurally and functionally at any age. It is never too late!
The physical results can be felt immediately - just take a very deep breath now and notice the change you feel. Clasp your hands together, lift them up in the air, point the palms to the ceiling and reach as high as you can for just a few seconds. You can feel the lightness and release in your shoulders.
Even deeper, mental changes can be experienced quickly - Harvard researchers using functional MRI technology were astonished to find that people who meditated for just 8 weeks demonstrated beneficial gray matter changes in the hippocampus and amygdala regions of the brain associated with memory, sense of self, empathy and stress. (full article)
The power is in your hands - you don’t need to wait for others to start cultivating changes in your body, breath and mind
So what do you want to change? What patterns do you want to promote and train in yourself?
Before you look to polish up your skills, or learn a language or musical instrument, create a solid foundation.
Here are just a few ideas to get you started:
Practice deep breathing - let’s get more oxygen to those cells, muscles, and organs!
Keep better posture - sitting is hard enough on the body so let’s not make it worse by sitting in a posture that shoots the pelvis into a posterior tilt, rounding our backs, caving in the chest and shoulders and ultimately causing neck pain and constricted breathing.
Take a moment each morning to greet the Sun - starting the day with an appreciation for the fact that you’ve been given another day to explore and experience the world helps puts things in perspective
Take time for yourself - we spend an inordinate amount of time out there doing things external, looking at screens, focusing on other people. By taking time for yourself, you will be better able to see the habits you have unconsciously created and you will give yourself a chance to decide which new patterns you want to actively train
Cultivate Silence and learn to appreciate it - if you want peace of mind, you need to cut through the noise. Silence is space. Silence is calm. Yet most of us are not comfortable with silence. In fact, we even use the expression ‘awkward silence’. Train yourself to love Silence and you will be able to find peace wherever you go and whatever the circumstance.
If you play the long game like Mother Nature, you will find that cultivating with awareness will not only change your body, breath and mind, it will make you an expert at cultivating. Cultivating will become second nature and so future cultivating requires progressively less effort.
You can master inertia. You can transform. And through this process, you may come to realize that you are the architect of your life.
The Power to Cultivate is in your hands. Now, it's up to you.