The only journey is the one within

Things about keeping plants and growing things that I’ve said before, but I am going to say again:

  1. Five years ago, when I first gave growing anything a shot, it was already a process that gave me so much more than just produce. I was growing methi, pudina, palak, garlic chives and cucumbers at one point. It was a lot of good stuff to put in my food. I don’t remember a lot of the little details — like the cucumber plant — but the memories that remain are of the process. The wonder, the expectation, the excitement, the magic, the patience, the satisfaction. The wonder. The wonder.I don’t think I’ll ever forget the giant metaphor for life that tending for and growing things has taught me. I summed it up as patience, but really there was so much more. Lessons in nurturance, tenderness, beauty in rawness and imperfection, in taking time. And this is what has stayed for years on.
  2. Over a year and a half ago, the bug to garden came back. With a vengeance this time. And it has remained, steadfastly, since. And yet again, I found resonance in the what was happening in my garden, with what was happening within me.I wrote:
    It feels like my own experience of coming to (new)life, unfurling, stepping into a new seasongrowingflowering seems is reflected in my plants too.My plants have been life-giving and inspirational all through. A great way to get back to my roots, literally, and find observe and revel in life at the source.
  3. When VC moved back from Goa last year, the only thing we shipped back home were my plants. And it is a decision I rethink and feel extreme gratitude for almost every week.The number of pots we now have has significantly increased, and encroached multiple balconies, and indoor spaces. We now have enough plants to rotate and shuffle them around the place. And not all the plants that have been added on were bought. I have not just figured out how to multiply and propagate many of my plants but also figured out I can do it myself, contrary to prior belief about having a black thumb.My plants are the single biggest gifts that keep giving. I have received unending joy through them in these months gone by. Not just the green value they add to my home, but in the process of tending to them, nurturing and bonding with them. It is totally a trip to watch them grow, as closely obsessively as I do. Like they’re my literal babies.I now call my balcony full of pots a “garden” and it amuses Niyu and VC no end. But, it is what it is. Full and lush and happy making.
  4. I ended last year with the clear realisation that I was certainly feeling drawn back to the Earth, to roots, to more natural ways of living, in more ways than one. It’s a theme that has shown me many a parallel between the external reality and the internal landscape of my emotions and personal growth.
  5. And then this year, again and again, through observing nature abloom around me, as well as growth spurts within me — big and small — I have re-learned some old lessons about growth in a new way.These words I wrote here ring so true:
    Being in tune — whether it has been in taking to plants and dabbling in a bit of gardening, watching the moon and observing my mind and body through the cycle, running when I feel like it and lazing when I don’t — has affirmed in many a way again and again, that growth has it’s own pace. It’s own milestones. It cannot be rushed by an externally kept schedule.To ready yourself to bloom often requires long periods of inaction — whether you think of it as germination, autumnal period of your life, hibernation for self-care or whatever you will — it signals the necessary time of pause. Of stillness that is needed to first drop below. To peel. To shed. To let go and leave behind. In order to heal, nourish, nurture what lies beneath. And eventually to move on and about. To reach out. To evolve. To thrive. To bloom.

The other day, in a marathon session spent with my plants, I potted some spider plants that I had left to drop roots in bottles of water. If they were babies then, they had turned into literal toddlers by the time I got to potting them.

The bottles still had their labels on which meant that while I was topping up the water (often quite disinterestedly) every so often, I didn’t really have a view into what was going on within. Truth be told, there wasn’t much growth to show for on the outside either, which is actually why I hadn’t moved to do anything with them sooner. I was waiting to see some obvious signs of growth.

Externally.

Until that day, when I pulled the pesky little babies out the water.

It’s literally the most obvious things. Plants sprout shoots. We know this. And yet I couldn’t believe my eyes. Upon unentangling and loosening up the roots, I couldn’t get over how long and how lush it was.

All this beneath the surface, hidden from view, with nothing to show for it above the surface — I felt impossibly moved at the thought of how much action and activity happens in the quiet, hidden recesses of the internal world. With no real signs, no fan fare on the outside.

It felt resonant to my own therapeutic process, my journey the last so many years. Intensely private, quiet, only for me to see and know what I am chipping away at ever so subtly. Weeks and months go by with no visible change. And even when change comes, mostly I am the only one to know it, and hold it within me.

It reminded me of the personal, quiet, often lonesome and non-performative nature of true growth.

Not the first time I have cried over my plants, but the sight brought me to tears to see parts of my own life these past four months reflected in the plant. Being physically isolated, restricted, cut off has definitely cut away another layer of distractions for me, taking me deep within in a way that has been deeper and quieter than before.

I have shared little with friends and have mostly felt a lack of words to explain the nuances of my emotional state. It has seemed calm on the outside, but within, I have been through some extreme emotions, ups and downs and emerged from it all much more solid than before. I’ve witnessed the tiny roots and shoots nudging forward within me, forcing their way through my ribs and lungs, making my heart expand ever so slightly, a little bit more every day.

My therapeutic process too has been different lately. Few, almost no, words. More body work. Dream work. Art, movement, physical and other forms of expression. And through it all I have steadily noted how my movement has been inward. Going deeper within, even as I stretch out.

The lack of specificity, tangibility, the unseeness of the process I am currently in has been challenging. It has required of me a curiosity, patience and tenderness that I didn’t think I could ever extend to myself. It has been like falling in love with myself all over again.

It feels special, this privateness. I know it speaks of my capacity to hold my growth, and hold myself through it. Perhaps a day will come, when quite like a baby emerging out of a birth canal, or the spider plant being pulled out of the bottle, something will happen that will stun and astonish me at how much has changed, out of view.

How much growth happens beneath the surface. How much the roots matter. How much going within, is the key to growing tall. How much this silence and inwardness has made me feel rooted and centred.

How much growing outward requires the deep, difficult, yet essential journey within.

Right on cue, I found Rainer Maria Rilke put succinctly in simple words what I have stuttered along for too long here.

The only journey is the one within.

Everything else is noise.

Two years ago: Lost and found and turned around
Four years ago: Down and out

5 thoughts on “The only journey is the one within

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