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Parable of the Tomato Plant

We can learn so much from observing nature. Today’s observation is the parable of the tomato plant.

My friend, Cynthia, was born with a green thumb. With the love of a mother she carefully nurtures the tender seedling starts in her greenhouse. The greenhouse offers controlled temperature and protection from the elements which would seemingly create a perfect environment for optimum growth. Yet interestingly, the plants won’t develop the RESILIENCE to thrive unless she positions a fan to blow across the fragile sprouts, providing stress in order to strengthen the plants.

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How can stress strengthen us? Stress creates a physical and emotional toll on our lives. Stress seems to affect us at the weakest part of our physical structure.  It can show up as back pain, headaches, ulcers, anxiety or depression. But can there be a hidden benefit of stress?

Pain can sometimes drive us to notice something unacknowledged that we may have been afraid to face or feel.  Often, periods of stress are invitations to discovery and healing.  They are ‘pivot points’ which demand attention, when we can no longer maintain our past ways of coping, forcing us to re-examine our routines and priorities.

Sometimes it takes crisis to initiate growth.

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Like growing tomato plants we send off shoots in a many different directions, flowering away, starting little round bits of potential but not necessarily bearing fruit or bringing our goals and dreams to fruition.

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Last week I told my friend Cynthia my plants were producing extensive branches with flowering blossoms and forming clusters of green tomatoes, yet nothing had ripened. Knowingly, she suggested cutting back watering them to just once a week or pruning them back explaining, ‘the plants have to think they are dying to persuade them to bear fruit.” 

What we do to survive is often different from what we may need to do in order to live.

Crisis can awaken us to outdated priorities or unhealthy survival patterns.  It can be an invitation to prune unnecessary or unwanted habits or commitments in order to encourage fuller growth and yield.

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Cynthia was right.  I trimmed back the plants and stopped watering and immediately the fruit began to ripen.

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Could the hidden benefit of stress, pain or illness be to initiate growth, to cut out beliefs, habits, people or projects which no longer serve us and to promote actualization of our goals?

Exercise: Close your eyes and think about the many projects and offshoots of your life.  Recognize that you have a limited amount of time and resources available. What branches could be trimmed or removed in order to allow you to bear more fruit?

Now imagine you can see the spot you most want to bear fruit.  Recognize that you do not need to demand that fruit to ripen.  It is simply a matter of time.  Imagine watching it develop in the perfect moment to harvest the sweetest rewards of your patience and growth.

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