Friday, October 05, 2007

Learning to be "In Process"

I've always been a very achievement oriented person. I like to set goals and achieve them. I am a master list maker and usually have more lists going than most people could keep track of in a lifetime! I love the feeling I get when I cross something off my list. I've been known to do something that wasn't on my list and add it to the list after the fact, just for the joy of being able to cross it off! :)

This pattern of behavior has served me quite well in my life. I'm pretty persistent and productive when it comes to tackling what I want to do.

There is a way, however, in which this pattern has been problematic for me. Some things in life cannot be 'crossed off' one's to do list. They are perpetual tasks that must be done on an ongoing basis. I once heard inspirational speaker, Les Brown talk about this. He said something like, "You can't just take one shower and have that be good for your whole life! No, no, no! You can't just pull the weeds in your garden one time and expect that to suffice!"

What I have found, is that my need to have things 'done' has often made it very difficult for me to be in the 'flow' of life. Nowhere has this been more apparent to me than in my endeavors as a gardener.

I have a pretty large yard that I take care of. I'm committed to a chemical free, organic approach to taking care of my property. I only use chemicals when I absolutely have to. This makes for a LOT of work. I hand weed everything. No herbicides or preemergents for me! Between all the weeding, pruning and other work that goes along with tending the land, my work is literally never done. There is always more to do. By the time I make a 'weeding pass' through the yard, it is time to start again. This is not the way my brain likes things. I like to be DONE. I actually have had trouble feeling relaxed when I have things that are unfinished on my to do list.

One day, when I was out diligently pulling weeds along a stepping stone path, I had a lightening bolt realization. The thought process went something like this: "You are NEVER going to be done. EVER. Weeds come back. Plants grow and need to be pruned. Plants die and need to be replaced. That is LIFE. As long as you are fighting this truth, you are fighting against life itself!" Wow. Somehow, this made sense to me in a way that had previously eluded my understanding. I suddenly GOT IT!

I realized that I had to embrace being 'in process' with the garden and get satisfaction out of that process, rather than in 'getting it done.' I started to redefine what success means to me. I came to feel satisfaction in the effort itself, rather than in an ultimate, permanent result.

This transformation has been profound and it has rippled through to all the areas of my life. I have a much easier time with long term, complex projects. I get more joy out of tasks, like washing dishes, that never end. I try to be very focused in the present moment, and just be grateful for the opportunity to experience whatever it is that I'm doing. I look for the pleasantness in whatever I'm involved in.

The garden has taught me many things. I used to feel like I was in a 'battle' with the weeds, never able to keep up, never able to win. Now, I realize that it is more like a dance. I am part of the process and cycles that occur in my garden. I'm part of it, not separate from it. There is peace and satisfaction in that.

Realizing that life is a process can free us from an endless struggle of trying to get somewhere... to arrive. It's that old saying, "It's the journey, not the destination." So, so true.

Embrace the process and enjoy the journey!

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