Lessons in listening: Deciduous decisions

If I were a tree, I would most certainly be a deciduous tree. Firstly, because I find deciduous such a delightful word, with its combination of both hard and soft sounds. It has a quality of being both solid and ephemeral simultaneously. It begins with a firmly rooted “d” and ends with the luscious and echoing “s.” If I could work deciduous into my conversation regularly, I would consider my life linguistically and botanically fulfilled.
On an embodied level, I would be a deciduous tree because of its necessary season of dormancy. Metabolism, energy consumption and growth slow down as these sun and water loving beings move into a state of repose in order to survive the extreme cold of our Vermont winters. This inner retreat is not unlike the winter cycle that many of us are drawn to at this time of the year. The stark and barren landscape of our slumbering trees give comfort as it reflects the quiet and inner work of connection to self and soul. The bitter cold that almost takes our breath away, forces us to realize that we are indeed breathing and are alive in every cell of our body.
This knowledge of our inner landscape is essential in the work of health and wellbeing. It provides the foundation for which our life choices and actions are built. Honoring the quiet spaces of ourselves and each other through stillness and contemplation provide the opportunity to listen deep and truly hear what we need to move forward towards our best state of health.
In my writing last month, I invited you to explore your inner wisdom with kindness and patience by focusing on who you want to be, not on what you want to do. If you accepted this invitation, what did you learn? When do you feel most alive? What supports you in actualizing this most alive self? What additional supports do you need?
When I asked these questions to my clients the overwhelming anthem was this: they want a more peaceful existence. They want more spaciousness in their lives, their homes, their relationships. They want a balance of being and doing. Their paths toward this balance are varied and energized. One client is exploring Yin yoga. Another client is bringing playfulness to her piano practice. Yet, another is beginning a meditation practice as a means to bring more pause and intention into her relationship with her teenage son. What shift in your path might bring you closer to your optimal self?
One final reason I would be a deciduous tree, is that they undergo a cyclic process of shedding their unneeded parts, such as leaves. This is known as abscission. (Another juicy work, eh?) Letting go has hands down been a theme for my clients, and myself, this January. This may be letting go of objects, letting go of expectations, or possibly letting go of relationships. For many clients the recent bitter temperatures have provided a forced opportunity to reexamine their physical space and determine if these spaces serve them well.
When you look around your home or work environment — does it enhance your health and wellbeing? If yes, then settle in. If not, what might serve you better? Just as a tree cannot grow new leaves if it holds unto its old dried up leaves, we need space mentally and physically and make room in our lives. For new life to flourish, we must prune and cull the accumulated overgrowth.
For me, this process has culminated in numerous trips to recycling, HOPE, and early morning outside burns as I yell to my perplexed daughter that she will thank me for this clean out when I die. Out goes the old industrial carpet; in comes the wood to acclimate to our space. Out go the papers and extra things that I may need “someday,” and in come the paint swatches. Out goes the clutter of the life I have already lived, and in comes the space to fully live the life in front of me now.
How about you? What would it look like to live fully in your life — the only life you truly have, btw — the one right here and now? With that, I am off to check on my first coat of fresh paint. See you in the present.
Laura Wilkinson is a Nurse Practitioner and Integrative Health Coach at Middlebury College. Learn more about her and her coaching at middlebury.edu/middleburyintegratedhealthcoach.

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