May 5, 2015 Union Yoga

Flourish: Examining Both the Beauty and the Garbage

Flourish, VERB
(of a person, animal, or other living organism) grow or develop in a healthy or vigorous way, especially as the result of a particularly favorable environment.

One could argue that this is rather obvious. When I see “favorable environment,” I think of loving, kind, supportive environments where I feel elevated, free and abundant. I think of people, places and activities that light me up, give me fuel and encourage me to constantly do my best.

What exactly, then, is “unfavorable”? Hostile, harsh and negative surroundings that do not nurture or support.  We’ve all known people who fit this description. We’ve all had jobs that restricted us. We have even lived in places that felt confining and less than ideal. These unfavorable conditions are those that are external. When we think of the more esoteric environments, I think it is worth exploring our resistance.

I’ve been doing a lot of work recently in one of the workshops offered at Union Yoga. Yoga teacher and art therapist Jeanne Bissmeyer [] offered a three-day workshop around Powerful Goal Setting, Finding the Inner Compass and Dharma. Over the course of three weeks, I had the opportunity to explore what might be getting in the way of my “favorable environment.” In thinking about my “favorable environment” as an internal space that I nurture myself, it was an incredible opportunity to discover the most important components to my own flourishing. We can look at the self-journey as though it is a garden

Garbage can smell terrible, especially rotting organic matter. But it can also become rich compost for fertilizing the garden. The fragrant rose and the stinking garbage are two sides of the same existence. Without one, the other cannot be. Everything is in transformation. The rose that wilts after six days will become a part of the garbage. After six months the garbage is transformed into a rose. When we speak of impermanence, we understand that everything is in transformation. This becomes that, and that becomes this. -Thich Nhat Hanh from Present Moment Wonderful Moment

When I read this text, I am forced to think about my own garbage. My own garbage is everything like my lack of discipline, my feelings of scarcity, my resistance, my fear, my perfectionism, my jealousy and my insecurities. These are all the things that I would normally think keep me from growing. But through this workshop, my perspective has changed. My garbage is not all the things that keep me from being who I truly am. My garbage is not all the things that keep me from who I want to be. My garbage is part of the process.

“You have to have the garbage. You have to see how the garbage helps,” Bissmeyer explained. “I know when I open and accept my struggle, I can soften to it. When I soften in my struggle, I learn from it. I can find ways to be grateful for it and there I find beauty. So in my darkest moments, when I stop resisting and accept it for what it is, then and only then can I let go. And when I fully accept something without an impulse to change it, I see only beauty.” I wonder if the flower could speak, if it would say the same thing. I don’t imagine the flower resists the process. I imagine the flower just goes with the flow, accepts things for what they are and lets nature run its course.

But here is the beautiful thing—when I examine the nature of a flower, a vegetable or a piece of fruit, rarely do I ever see the presence of the compost or the presence of the garbage. The flower is beautiful and fragrant, the fruit is delicious and the vegetable is nutritious and vibrant in color. And if we leave it alone, the flower will wilt. The vegetable or the fruit will eventually rot and turn into garbage. Compost. The process begins again.

Thich Nhat Hanh says this: “If you are an organic gardener, you know how to handle the garbage. You know the techniques of transforming the garbage back into compost and into flowers. You don’t have to throw away anything at all. So, the energy of fear, of anger should be considered to be the garbage. Let it be produced, because it can become the art of mindful living.

So, now we should learn how to handle the garbage in us, namely: craving, anger, fear and despair. We should not be afraid of the garbage in us if we know how to transform it back into joy, into peace.”

I’ve dug deep in my garbage—fears, anxieties, jealousy, negative talk—to discover the beauty of my goals and purpose. That’s the flower. The fruit. The produce.

For this month of May, as we focus on the Union Yoga theme of flourish, I want to offer an invitation to really examine both your beauty and your garbage—and the beauty in the garbage. Just get your hands dirty. Dig deep in the dirt and find your transformation.

Nkechi Njaka