Photosynthesis: Connections to Life, Growth and Perspective

“I want my words to illuminate like the sun, as I give my daily lecture on photosynthesis to my houseplants.” ~ Jarod Kintz

In my daily watering of the fresh basil, parsley and coriander plants that sit on my kitchen window sill, I began to notice that over a period of a few days their slender stalks and rounded, green leaves lean markedly towards the window and the light streaming in. So much so, that if I don’t turn them they get tangled up with one another and almost start to climb the pane.

I move the herbs every few days to keep them balanced and limit any lopsided growth. Sure enough, each time they start to lean again, reaching for their source of energy and life.

It’s a complex, natural process – science calls it photosynthesis. Plants, flowers and nature as a whole never stray or deviate from what benefits them the most; they instinctively know that air, light and water enables and promotes life.

As I was tending to my sweet, fragrant herbs this observation sparked a thought, and here I am, duly expounding my extemporaneous insights!

Humans on the other hand, have a tendency to lean towards the shadows: thoughts and actions that don’t serve us. That is the divine burden, blessing and responsibility of conscious thought, infinite choices, free-will and intelligence.

Perception and perspective…

It’s easy to reach for the light when things are going well.  We are bursting with energy, and more likely to be happy and positive.

It’s when we are beset by problems, dealing with trauma, challenges and difficult situations that we can become caught in the shadows. We’ve all experienced times in our life when it felt like we were an unfortunate character trapped in a dystopian novel – enveloped in a story so unpleasant that even Charles Dickens couldn’t imagine or describe it!

“Please sir, I want some more” ~ Oliver Twist

We can become entrenched in our views that God and the universe have it in for us, and nothing will ever be good again. There was once a time when I was at rock bottom that I believed the implacable march of fate was against me. But perception and perspective is everything…

“Why, then, ’tis none to you, for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so. To me it is a prison. Well, then it isn’t one to you, since nothing is really good or bad in itself—it’s all what a person thinks about it. And to me, Denmark is a prison.” ~ William Shakespeare (Hamlet – Act 2, Scene 2)

How do we interpret such events and times? That’s the hard part. We can get down on ourselves, others, or our lot in life, or we can put it down to experience and try and glean something positive from such moments and move forwards. I’ve often exacerbated a tricky situation by self-sabotaging myself.

However, my greatest spiritual learning, growth and development has always arisen from my deepest and most intense suffering. Not that I relish suffering, none of us do, but part of life is embracing both the ups and the downs, the duality of existence.

I find it helpful to accept everything that constitutes my life experience, that way I recover quicker and put more energy into solving and improving things instead of grumbling and having a pity party. It doesn’t always happen straight away though!!

Rudyard Kipling had it right in his poem If, when he advised us to meet with Triumph and Disaster and treat those two impostors just the same.

I have to constantly remind myself to practice gratitude. I like to think of 3 things: something/someone or a happening from my past, present and future. The last one takes a creative licence and leap of faith that things will be better. Afterwards I always feel happier. The problems are still there, but the difference is I’m better equipped to handle my life when I’m in a higher vibration and reaching for the light.

I’m quicker to notice when I start moaning and gently forgive myself for holding myself back. That has taken years to master. Other strategies are to do more of the things that bring me happiness and fulfillment, look to where and when I’m in flow and unencumbered by the cares of the world.

So when we get pulled off course and away from the light; whether it be a short deviation or a lengthy detour,  it requires being aware and taking steps to alter direction, just like a weed or flower will grow through the tiniest crack in a block of concrete; it is indefatigable in seeking the light.

It’s never fun wallowing in the shadows, and if we’re not careful it can be an addictive form of energy that our ego feeds off. Just like the leaves of the kitchen herbs lose their vibrant, green lustre and wilt if deprived of light and water, we too become spiritually, mentally and physically jaded. Being unplugged from our source is debilitating.

“Four elements, Hydrogen, carbon, oxygen and nitrogen, also provide an example of the astonishing togetherness of our universe. They make up the “organic” molecules that constitute living organisms on a planet, and the nuclei of these same elements interact to generate the light of its star. Then the organisms on the planet come to depend wholly on that starlight, as they must if life is to persist. So it is that all life on the Earth runs on sunlight.”  ~ George Wald (referring to photosynthesis)

Something simple like deep abdominal breathing, going for a walk, or being in nature can give an instant lift and help us through the moment.

Just as the leaves of plants will turn brown, crinkle and die if left untended, so we must dig deep and look to our strengths and sources of joy to lift us out of the gloom and bloom once more. Love is light.

Plants have no choice but to grow and nourish themselves. It is an automatic chemical reaction when carbon dioxide, water and sunlight are present; life-sustaining energy will be produced. Energy that not only benefits the plant, but also humanity, for the oxygen we breath and the food we eat.

For all you budding scientists out there!

Soul stamina

Our collective soul stamina was sorely tested this week, with the horrific events in London, and it is right to mourn and fully support those affected. Wisdom urges that we do not wallow in victim hood but tackle such evil at its root cause – the twisted, de-humanising and hate preaching ideology of extremists. Weak minded individuals who use religion as an excuse to vent their sick sense of puritanical outrage and violent tendencies. They live in the shadows, the unconscious.

Our anger at such heinous acts can make us bitter and resentful, but this is unhelpful if we wish to create a safer, happier and more prosperous world for the human diaspora.

The British mantra of ‘keep calm and carry on’ seems very fitting right now…

The terrible news of Wednesday’s events made me feel sad and tearful, but also grateful for another day with my family. None of us knows what will happen when we step outside our front doors. The brave PC Keith Palmer could not have known that fateful day would not turn out like any other normal day at Westminster, until he made the ultimate sacrifice to protect our democracy. The stories of the other souls who died in the attack (indeed, from all terror attacks, wars and their effects), are equally heartbreaking. Grief stricken parents, children and families who will not see their loved ones return home.

Whatever we may be dealing with, there is always someone who has it worse somewhere in the world.

In fact, millions do, the global challenges are great – but we can each make a brighter future if we follow Gandhi’s advice and endeavour to BE the change we wish to see in the world.

I’ll bid you farewell with a final analogy of the herbs reaching for the light. Let’s take a leaf out of nature’s book and adopt photosynthesis for our mind, body and soul!

Oxygen is the lifeblood of our respiratory system, powering our cells and movements, the influx of fresh ideas and zest for life. If you can’t escape a polluted area, have plants around you. Chlorophyll is the green pigment in plants which when consumed, keeps our blood and organs in an alkaline state – being as huge swathes of the population live in a toxic environment.

Water is the fluidity of our mind set and attitude; it needs topping up daily, and perhaps filtering to remove any impurities, (those stagnant, self-limiting and negative thoughts), thus hydrating our motivation and belief as well as our cells.

Sunlight, converts vitamin  D3 in our bodies and can be likened to our higher Self, our soul, the source from which we manifest physicality and spiritual resilience, even transcendence. It is our guide and home, showing us the way.

All these biological elements in photosynthesis are needed for an organism to grow and thrive. Our mind, body and soul are dynamic systems, each needs the right form of energy in order to follow our dreams and live life to the full. If we can only reach up into the golden rays of consciousness, those invisible photons of the soul, even on bad days…

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