Chapter 12 – Generativity: Your Way Forward

Acknowledging our existing resources is important to bolster our confidence in our ability to navigate life’s challenges (improving our sense of coherence). Use the root portion of the tree below to acknowledge your inner resources – those qualities of self that ground you, providing you with a sense of confidence and joy as you move in the world. Use the foliage of the trees to acknowledge the fruits that nourish you – your outer resources. Consider the activities and relationships that remind you of who you are when you forget; that help you ground, deepen, and feel into your roots amid times of insecurity.

Figure 14: The roots represent your innate talents and inspirations. Your branches, foliage and fruits represent your material and relational resources. Use the tree to acknowledge your resources.

Sustaining our Thriving Roots – A Way of Life

Wes Taylor

In the process of this journey, we’ve extended our roots, feeling into the nurturing soil that holds us. We need our roots to gather life energy from source – to help us remember the essence of who we are. These roots hold us steady in the storms. Strong winds carry the old away, clearing space to make way for something new.

How do we keep these profound experiences of unconditional positive regard, belonging in community, deep spiritual cleansing and awakening, and inspirations we’ve embodied along the way alive? This is the question of sustainability.

To do this, we make it a Way of Life. To live the essence of who I am as best I can. To do my best to use the various practices that I have learned to nourish my BEing. It is DOing to support BEing. Don’t try to fill your pockets in this last lag of the journey. Don’t look for those tools or practices that you have not yet picked up. Rather, review who you have become along the way. What have you come to know and experience as true about you? I’m not speaking of new positive beliefs, as beliefs are mental structures to which we cling to navigate in this world of form. Necessary, yes; but deeply insufficient for a fully lived life. Moving from a negative belief system into a positive belief system keeps our orientation on mental and abstract distractions from our essence. I’m speaking of the direct experience that happens before belief – the deep peace that you have touched, the truth that you do matter, you do belong, you are inextricably part of all that is… the truth that your essence is whole, undamaged, and pure. These are not concepts – but rather felt experiences that you have tasted, passed through, or simply now recognize. Return to these experienced, felt truths in whatever ways have worked for the past eleven weeks; those now familiar ways of placing your attention on your sensations, your breath, tapping, etc.

It is good to do a deep dive with our healing and growth periodically. You have just had one. And just like going to the dentist, having a deep cleaning once every 6 months (or 12 months in my case, as I really don’t like going to the dentist) will not keep your teeth healthy if you don’t tend to them on a daily basis. It must become a way of life – effortless, unquestioned, habit. What are those effortless habits of awareness, grounding, opening your heart in self compassion, and alignment with your essence that you have already established? Keep it up. Those are your practices.

Your way of life is all about practice – Roots to Thrive has offered many. Neurons and neural networks that fire together, wire together – they get stronger and stronger. This is the neurobiology behind the value of practice. So please remember we are always practicing something – we are always strengthening some neural network or other. Choose wisely. As my friend Robert Gonzales wrote:

“Many years ago, in a book I was reading by a popular spiritual teacher, a question was posed: “What are you practicing? What are you meditating every moment?” The implication of this question is that we are always focusing on something in our life. Our life is a meditation. The question is, “What are you meditating?” We have a choice. What is the nature of what we are meditating on? What are we conscious of, every day, in each moment of time? We can choose to have a conscious deliberate intention to focus our attention on presence and authenticity, or we can put our attention on the relatively unconscious and automatic mode of thinking and feeling and acting. If we do not have a deliberate spiritual practice that we use to focus our attention, then our attention feeds an automatic, unconscious repetition of patterns.”

I certainly cannot talk about sustainability without mentioning the central role of community. You know this. You have lived and celebrated it week after week. Bottom line, we MUST have a supportive community to navigate this life with resilience. Trees do not survive on their own. Through their deep roots reaching out, intertwining, and with the support of the mycelial networks surrounding them, they pass nutrients to others when needed. They alert one another to approaching threats facilitating the enactment of protective mechanisms. They need each other. We need each other. The English poet, David Whyte spoke to the essential way we have created our community together:

“…no matter the medicinal virtues of being a true friend or sustaining a long close relationship with another, the ultimate touchstone of friendship is not improvement, neither of the other nor of the self; the ultimate touchstone is witness, the privilege of having been seen by someone and the equal privilege of being granted the sight of the essence of another, to have walked with them and to have believed in them, and sometimes just to have accompanied them for however brief a span, on a journey impossible to accomplish alone.”

So, double down with those communities or relationships where witnessing is happening. Ask yourself, what is one thing you can contribute to cultivate/deepen your community? And if you need to, find or create communities in which that quality of witness and unconditional positive regard is part of the DNA.

Now, here’s the bad news about Roots to Thrive. It is a resilience program – no cures promised. For those of you who have had curative, profoundly healing experiences, you have been touched by grace and can trust that true healing does happen. At the same time, we are all going to get smacked in the face with the struggles and challenges that are part of life. Embrace the down times and know they will pass. They are unavoidable. They are not evidence of your failure or of the permanent return of your demons. They only confirm your humanness – and they are important messengers in this way.

At first, it takes a supported growth process to be able to tolerate the anguish and despair. Bit by bit, you have been learning to sit with uncomfortable emotions, as your window of tolerance for suffering expands. As you continue healing, you can begin to even accept that these episodes happen and cease fighting when they make a visit. Then, over time, see if you can cultivate a sense of welcome – find that one bit of your essence that is undisturbed by pain, fear, shame, or despair – welcome the painful experience into your being and allow it to move through you and leave its wake. Allow yourself to be changed, reformed, reborn into each new moment. It is our clinging to calcified artifacts of identity that produces the deep suffering. As the great Sufi poet, Hafiz says:

Don’t surrender your loneliness so quickly. Let it cut more deep.
Let it ferment and season you
As few humans
Or even divine ingredients can. Something missing in my heart tonight Has made my eyes so soft,
My voice so tender,
My need for the divine Absolutely clear.

When we embrace the moment of deep challenge and find a way to use your tools, this is the most powerful type of practiceUtilize your tools when things are smooth, this is still valuable, and know if you can find your way to using these tools when you least want to, your resilience will be enriched the most. Lean into the hard times. Embrace them.

We cannot and will not stay in harmony, in perfect self-connection day in and day out. Success cannot be defined by always staying ‘strong’. Our standard needs to be: how quickly can I notice that I am struggling and can then engage practices that fuel my pilot light? Or maybe find my pilot light again? Gentleness is a key and “good enough” is an enlightened way of being. The standard needs to be about the speed of recovery and presence of self-compassion.

Do not try to do it all! Pick 1-2 practices to focus on, test them, prove their value or eliminate them. Once you have established and integrated 1-2 valuable practices and they become part of your way of life, effortless, then see about adding others. The most important and effective tools are the ones that you actually USE.

Set and setting, while a huge focus of medicine journeys, are principles to which we need to attend in daily life. Cultivate your mindset with your mantras, calling statements, self-regulation practices, and open-hearted intentions. And pay close attention to your setting! What environments are you hanging out in? Do they nourish you? Are you walking directly on the earth, spending time touching moss, and smelling the forests? Are you surrounding yourself with relationships that are nurturing and nourishing? We will mirror those that we spend time with most – our deeply social brains – our communal neural networks have such influence on our daily experience. Ensure that your relational setting is designed intentionally rather than by default.

We are awash in the reminders to engage in deliberate gratitude these days. That is a powerful teaching. I want to align with that guidance not only with celebrating – consciously attending to/appreciating that which enriches life, and dwelling in that experience for a while – but also with mourning. The painful aspects of life hold gifts within them. Be careful to not reactively push those experiences away using the new tools of tapping or 4-7-8 breathing, then call it self-connection. Feel the pain, loneliness, or grief – locate it in your body and breathe a bubble of space around it. As you hold it (yourself) with compassion and care, you can find the essence of the pain – it is something cherished, deeply valued that you have lost contact with. What a beautiful thing to hurt for. We only grieve for those qualities that are precious and held dear in our hearts. In this way, celebration and mourning are opposite sides of a single coin – a coin of incomparable value and meaning.

For me, this way of life is about living in surrender; surrendering to the flow of life. Discovering and gently removing those blocks and eddies in which I get stuck, in order to more fully re-enter the life-stream. Father Thomas Keating, Trappist Monk and teacher of Centering Prayer (the Christian version of meditation) said that we have but one action – one aspect of effort necessary for a spiritual way of life, and that is to “consent to the presence and activity of [the divine].” Just consent.

A Final Blessing

As a final blessing on your journey, Marianne Williamson (1996) so eloquently reminds us of our inherent human worth and the power of radical authenticity on the path to individual and collective liberation,

Our Deepest Fear

By Marianne Williamsom

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness
That most frightens us.

We ask ourselves
Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God.

Your playing small
Does not serve the world.
There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking
So that other people won’t feel insecure around you.

We are all meant to shine,
As children do.
We were born to make manifest The glory of God that is within us.

It’s not just in some of us; It’s in everyone.

And as we let our own light shine,
We unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we’re liberated from our own fear,
Our presence automatically liberates others.