Better Yourself

Trees
Nature inspires me.  It is Life in action.  It is always striving, growing, and reaching, trying to do more.

There is a stand of mature white oaks and red oaks near my home, all growing tall and straight.  They grow like that because they are competing with each other for the sunlight, reaching to get through the shade of the other trees.  It is an obstacle they must overcome, or they won’t survive.  Some don’t.  But, interestingly, the very same acorn that produces that tall and straight tree, if it had taken root alone in an open field with no other trees around it, would not grow tall and straight.  It would grow shorter and rounder, spreading out to gather as much sun as it can.  It adapts to its environment and makes itself better.

When growing close together, the trees are in competition for the sunlight, and they must push and reach to get to the light.  Somehow they have that capacity to strive and try.  Somehow, they are able to change themselves, physically, to adapt to their obstacle.  However it happens, they are able to strive and make themselves better, and Nature, as a whole, is better off because of it.  It’s happening outside our doors and windows all the time, and we are a part of it, too.  All of Nature is striving and reaching right now, bettering itself.  Trees reaching for sunlight, vines reaching for a stronghold, animals pushing through adversity, grass creeping into the flower beds, callouses forming to protect against the struggle.  Life, facing constant obstacles and opportunities, grows, and betters itself through its struggles.  That’s pretty powerful, pretty creative, pretty miraculous.

What can I learn from that?  If Nature betters itself, and if I am a part of Nature, then it makes sense that I should strive to better myself, too.  I should reach for more than I think I can.  I should stretch just a little further than I did before.  I should strive to improve myself.  I should embrace the struggle of any obstacle, knowing that I grow better and stronger because of it.

Season 7 of American Ninja Warrior is coming up next summer, and I’ve just finished submitting my application.  I love what it represents:  Competition, relationships, fitness, the “bettering” of ourselves.   I could’ve given up, sat on the couch and resigned myself to being too old anymore, and no one would’ve blamed me.  Or I could try to do something more.  I could reach, strive, push, and better myself.
2014 Ropes_sm
Whatever your obstacle, do what Nature does.  The solution is to push, to strive, to reach and to try, to dig deep, to hang on just a little bit more, even though it’s a struggle, and know that you will grow stronger from that struggle.  Find something about yourself you can improve, and work toward it.  Grow, learn, teach yourself something new.  Better yourself!

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Tomato Plants

Hey everybody, it’s time to get your garden going. If you haven’t started one yet you’re a little behind, but it’s certainly not too late for this year.  One of the main things I bring back from my trips to Cuba is a renewed energy for growing food. It is a very spiritual thing.

It’s about a direct relationship with the Earth, from which every living thing comes.  It’s about getting your hands dirty with Nature, experiencing real life instead of buying it from a shelf.  It’s about growing new life among the compost of death, from the same creative energy in you and me. It’s about becoming more self-sufficient, less reliant on someone else to feed you.

It’s about sitting down to a meal and appreciating better where it came from and what it took to make it possible. It is experiencing the “table before us.”

John Shelby Spong says, “if God is the God of Life, and I believe God is, then God is in every living thing.” I think so, too. And the closer we can get to it, and the more involved we can become with it, the better.

There is a beautiful garden outside our comfortable walls.  It’s good to get back to it.  Go out, get some good dirt, a tomato plant, cucumber, okra, squash, or whatever you like and plant it, water it, care for it, and watch it provide good food and fulfillment in return. Good luck!!