May 16, 2016

Landscaping the Soul: 4 Steps to Flourishing.

sad, flowers, rain

As I sit on my balcony overlooking pine trees, a playground, parked cars, and a newly built retention pond with a fountain in the middle (that constantly makes me have to pee), I feel extreme gratitude.

It is just dusk, but I am still surrounded by life and feel it buzzing all around me. Not in a big city kind of way, but in a quiet, contented kind of way. My newly potted tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers and beaming with life and vibrant with shades of green, there are fragrant gerber daisies on the small table to the right of me and my kitty sits on my feet curiously taking in all he can see down below, watching the world go by. My love is in the next room quietly studying for a big work meeting tomorrow he has been anticipating for weeks.

I feel an overwhelming sense of gratefulness and purpose, yet have nothing meaningful on my “agenda” for tomorrow. I am not boasting by any means so please do not take it this way. I have not been in this place for as long as I can remember, which may actually have been never.

Two months ago I embarked on a journey that was terrifying and liberating all at once.

I quit my seemingly stable, full-time job as a Substance Abuse Counselor to do landscaping work. This was going to be a wonderful sabbatical for me to have some time to tap into my creativity, “I’ll have so much clarity and time to do whatever my heart desires,” I said.

That was not initially the case. As demands started growing, work became more difficult to keep up. I felt myself becoming burnt out only after two weeks, resenting the grass, the job, the opportunity and all that came with it. However, deep within me I knew that going back to what I came from was not an option. So with each day, and much coaching from my boyfriend and attitude adjusting on my part, I came around with a mission to “landscape my soul.” As long as I plan on being outside I am going to make the best of it. So I started praying more, cultivating an attitude of gratefulness, and became more accepting of what I was doing and where I was in life.

See, the funny thing is, life will bring you to the most interesting junctures right when you need them. It’s also hard at times, but I always remind myself that there is far more good than there will ever been bad. Coming from a past checkered with major inconsistencies, trauma, and drama, the only thing I set out for myself is consistency, something solid, stable. So while quitting my job most likely didn’t make sense in many eyes, it made sense to me. Being exhausted and feeling like a hamster on a wheel day in and out was not an option anymore.

So as a landscaper prunes the flower beds, works diligently to make the canvas that was started with more beautiful than it was found, as did I with my soul.

I became my own soul artist and started a few months ago with a fresh, white canvas, and couldn’t wait to splatter beautiful colors all over it. If you are in a similar position where you need pruning, need to color your own life, whether it be a big change or just small ones within your soul, please do it. Start today, you will greatly thank yourself. Here are some things that helped me along the way.


1.Where you are right now, cultivate a spirit of Thanksgiving.

No, not the turkey kind, even though that is equally as amazing. Even as you read, do a quick evaluation of where you are in life. Where you have come from. Think back to a time where things were not as good as they are now and feel the gratefulness flood. If you are one of the lucky ones who feel on top of the world, remember that there are those who have no address tonight, no hot meals, and haven’t felt human touch or connection in many days, weeks or years.

2.Practice mindfulness.

Yes, mindfulness is all the buzz right now and quite frankly, you are most likely sick of hearing of it. However, there is a good reason it’s so popular. There is something to be said for stopping where you are right now to smell the damn roses.

We are far too often too busy to slow down and appreciate the small things that often bring back a feeling of nostalgia. These small things are much larger than we give them credit for, such as the sound of children’s laughter when they are at play, the buzz of crickets in the night, the way the cool summer breeze passes over our shoulders or the feeling of dewy grass under our feet. Hey you adult person, you are never too old to be as wild, and free, and silly as you wish, just do it now because that is all we are promised.

3.Let go of the shoulds, coulds, and woulds.

An entire anthology could be written on this one. Far too many people in this life try to live up to what they should be doing, or what others think they should, including what society thinks of them. Society’s standards are ingrained in us as children because we feel the enormous pressure to make the big people in our lives happy, proud, and we fear disappointing others.

I have to tell you, letting that go can create pivotal results in your life. Several years ago a professor told me something that was so profound I never forgot it. He said, “Amanda, you are not in this world to live up to anyone’s expectations, not even your own.” This gave me all the permission I needed to slowly live life more selfishly for me, in the moment, and gave me the opportunity to be kinder to myself for the choices I have made.

4.Do more of what makes you happy, and less of what does not.

No, I am not saying do something radical, just reduce the bad and increase the good. As you focus more on the things that make you feel good, fulfilled, purpose driven, your passion is born and you make room for what matters. In the end, it all balances out as long as you are not fighting the tide and letting those “little barriers” block you. You are so worth all that you want out of life. Put on your brave underpants and go for it. After all, you have nothing to lose but your destiny if you don’t.

Small baby steps, that’s the stuff Mother Teresa so eloquently talked about.

“Be faithful in small things, because it is in them that your strength lies.” ~ Mother Teresa


Author: Amanda Sanders

Image: Martinak15/Flickr 

Editor: Emily Bartran

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