As I get started I want to play a game…so grab someone by you, or if you are feeling particularly lethargic, you can just watch the movie clip down below…but playing is much more exciting!! This is a game I played growing up with my 4 brothers–and me being the only girl, things often tended to get a litte hazardous. But don’t worry, we are playing one of the safer games…ish.
Now I couldn’t find the official name of this game, so I have given it my own name: Trees vs Elements. The objective: you are a tree, and you don’t want to be knocked down by the elements. Simple enough.
Because I would prefer not to have any casualties due to this game, I am going to give you two focus tips that will keep you upright.
- Your legs [Trunk]. To become rooted and grounded you are going to want to be in what is called the ready stance. What is the ready stance? Feet apart. Knees bent. Lean slightly forward. This is going to make you ready to stand strong and stay upright.
- Your arms, [Branches]. Unlike the unwavering trunk, branches are very flexible and non-resistant. What happens if a branch is unwilling to yield? It breaks and can fall down! We don’t want that. Being willing to bend and flex is how you are going to be successful.
Okay let’s play! The two of you will face each other, palms touching. Now you are going to try to push each other down. Palms don’t have to touch at all times, but they are the only parts of your body that touch.
It might take a few tries…GO!
Alright give yourself a hug! Thank you for your willingness!
This fun little game is actually going to be our reference point as we continue–which will entail breaking down the branches and trunk of the tree…person, I mean.
The lesson gleaned from this game is targeted towards the entire spectrum of success, but right here we are going to focus directly on becoming successful in health.
Remember the first focus tip?>>Ready Stance! Focusing on each leg of the ready stance T R U N K:
This teaching comes from Rabbi Simcha Bunem of Pershyscha. It was said of Reb Simcha Bunem that he carried two slips of paper, one in each pocket. On one he wrote: Bishvili nivra ha-olam—“for my sake the world was created.” On the other he wrote: V’anokhi afar v’efer”—“I am but dust and ashes.” He would take out each slip of paper as necessary, as a reminder to himself.
TRUNK leg 1: Self-Worth. Your physical body.
“Compared to God, man is nothing, yet man means everything to God.” –Dieter F. Uchtdorf
“Once we believe in ourselves we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the Human Spirit…” –E.E. Cummings
V’anokhi afar v’efer”—“I am but dust and ashes”—is also a call to an awareness of our finite-ness, our mortality, our smallness in the cosmic scheme of things.
Even dust has worth.
Alma 26: 12 Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak; therefore I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things; yea, behold, many mighty miracles we have wrought in this land, for which we will praise his name forever.
Even in our comparative nothingness, we are still of worth…and it comes with no prerequisites. Even dust, the lowliest spec, does not need prerequisites to have worth.
Dust and Ash belongs on every surface of the earth.
Turns our Dust and Ashes have many worthwhile uses!
-Recycles the natural nutrients back into the earth
-Toothpaste (wood ash)
-Prevents plants from frosting
-Repels lice ticks and fleas
-Rids ant colonies (they cannot pick up the ash)
-Used as a filter
-Used in wounds to kill bacteria and aid healing
-Helps in the formation of rain (the absence of dust particles can delay rain)
-Dust particles present in the atmosphere reflect the sun’s rays, so even after sunset there is still some light
-Used as an insecticide
-Large contributor to quality topsoil
-Dust particles attract minerals
-Also attracts moisture, where the minerals then dissolve into the soil which gives added liquid and nutrients
-Used as an aesthetic medium in art, particularly ceramics
No matter how small or insignificant we are, we still have enormous worth; which means we are deserving of love and belonging, no matter how slight we might feel. “Most of us think, I am pretty worthy of love and belonging — but I would be really worthy of love and belonging if I could lose 15 pounds”, says Brene Brown, Researcher and Author of vulnerability and authenticity. Simply existing, even as a dusty/ashy spec means you are entirely worthy of love and belonging. Cultivating this worthiness goes something like this:
Figuratively: “sure I was swept in the house to be discarded, then later became the irritating particle of dust caught in that persons eye, but I know that I still have worth—I know that I still belong.”
Literally: getting up in the morning and telling yourself, no matter what does or doesn’t get eaten today, I know I am enough. And then going to bed at night thinking, yes I am imperfect, probably ate too much and am afraid to check the scale tomorrow…but I am still worthy of love and belonging.
Brene further says, “Our worth is an as is, ready-now proposition.”
Cultivating our worth hunkers us down into a strongly grounded ready stance.
“Compared to God, man is nothing, yet man means everything to God“. –Dieter F. Uchtdorf
We are nothing…and we have worth.
TRUNK leg 2: Self-Divinity. Your ethereal body.
“…we have [a] spark of eternal fire burning within us” -Dieter F. Uchtdorf
“You are the entire ocean in a drop.” -Rumi
Bishvili nivra ha-olam— “for my sake was the world created.” This pocket reminds us that we are all created in the image of God. It is a reminder that our inheritance is all the blessings of Creation.
There is within us a connection to something so much greater than our small existence. A power flowing through our veins that can enable us the more we recognize and embrace it.
Just as a tree is perfectly linked to nature, our divinity is linked to our nature.
: Nature > Latin/Nat = Born
: Divine > Latin/Divus = Godlike
Is a drop of the ocean still connected to that great body of water it came from?
There are times we might feel like an insignificant dollop and ‘what does it matter’ if we do this, or eat that –but we cannot forget the greatness from which we came– this eternal vast body of power. You will never be separated from the greatness within you!
Consider choosing sustenance that lines up with the greatness from which you are formed. I am not sure a Twinkie or French fries are aligned with this same prominence…what forms of nourishment line up with your greatness?
Best of all is to experience Self-Worth and Self-Divinity together– the radical humility of “dust and ashes,” and the acceptance and love of self as “the world was created for my sake.”
One leg>how utterly small we are, and second leg>how infinitely great we are. It is this contrasting balance coming together to form a single trunk that keeps us from leaning and teetering to an unbalanced state, leaving us susceptible to crashing down. Solidly embracing and standing on both legs roots a solid trunk.
Our health B R A N C H E S are somewhat different. What is the main difference between a trunk and its branches?
Unlike the trunk, branches are very flexible and bendable!
Tell me, what exactly is the purpose of a branch?? Why does a tree need them? Can a trunk by itself qualify as a tree? …Honestly I felt silly for not knowing this but I had to google it! Type type->search->Oh. Right. Duh…
: Branches give the tree nourishment by reaching and growing towards the light, for its leaves. They are always flexing.
I think a good word for a branches’ success is: non-resistance. Ever heard of the phrase “that which resists, persists”? A branch can bend any which way, and then snap back to its original position of continual growth. Non-resistance is what keeps the branch strong and gets it through the tough elements, or life circumstances.
To expound on this idea, the first non-resistant branch (or arm, like in the game), is to be ever flexible with ourselves…thus,
BRANCH arm 1: Self-Compassion.
“Unlike self-criticism, which asks if you’re good enough, self-compassion asks, what’s good for you?” -Kristin Neff
“Talk to yourself as you would to someone you love.” -Brene Brown
A few things tie into self-compassion when it comes to our health. Specifically, #choosingkindness. Nourishing interactions instead of depleting interactions. This is where food comes in! What does it mean to choose ‘kind food’? At first it sounds quite silly…I imagine a muppets movie with happy puppet singing fruit..but that’s not quite it. Kind food is simply choosing food that gives back to you! Giving our body nourishing food instead of depleting food, while keeping all other interactions with yourself kind and nourishing. This doesn’t mean eating carrots and kale all day then checking off the ‘kindness box’ because you are eating *such* nourishing food…remember we are trying to choose kindness in ALL interactions with ourselves! Enjoying food is kindness to aim for. In this scenario the other interactions with our body would probably entail being bummed and depleted as you ignore your body’s desires, craving more excitement for your taste buds.
It is delicious and wildly fulfilling to replace depleting food with a nourishing alternative, all the while keeping your taste buds happily dancing!
Also very important to self-compassion is #lettinggoofperfectionism. Kindness in all interactions with yourself entails being okay with imperfections. So if we end up eating that Costco chocolate cake, heaven forbid with some ice cream, we are not going to go into self-loathing shame. Nope…we are going to enjoy the heck out of that cake! That’s when it becomes soul food, right?? Probably J. Similar to a branch, being bent away from the reach for nourishment, we finish it, lick our fingers, and then snap back to our original position of growth. We ate the cake, we savored and enjoyed it, now snapping back to the original position of choosing nourishing foods. Branches do that-they bend with the elements -and they do not shame themselves with this curving. They simply come back to their original reaching for nourishment…and often rather quickly. Have you even been hiking and the person in front of you pulls back that branch and forgets you are behind them? Watch out!! Branches can snap back to their original position REALLY quickly. So can we.
Last one for self compassion–#proddingyourhunger. Here is an example– when reaching for another helping, or that secret stash of treats- instead of that momentary pause of thinking “am I really hungry for this?” before you indulge, try asking yourself “what am I really hungry for?” The reality is “we don’t want to eat hot fudge sundaes as much as we want our lives to BE hot fudge sundaes” says Geneen Roth, author of Women, Food and God. Are you actually craving a deeper and more satisfying form of sweetness? Of nourishment? What are you hungry for???
For me I am usually really craving more connection. Having a heartfelt conversation with my husband, asking him for a massage, going on a walk in nature, etc. Otherwise, I settle for a less-than-satisfying connection to food.
We have to be prodding our desires-our cravings-to uncover what it is we are truly hungry for.
BRANCH arm 2: Self-Trust.
“Self-Trust is the first secret of success.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Self-Trust is the essence of heroism.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson
“As soon as you trust yourself, you will know how to live.” –Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe
Okay, last limb.
We all know that someone who diets so marvelously, but then gains all the weight back-if not more when they stop, right? Why is this?? Let that marinate while I share this thought with you.
In exemplifying the LDS religion, to me it comes down to this…
We have Faith-which is us putting our trust in God.
Then there is the Atonement, which is God putting his trust in us.
See, when we sin we are either hurting ourselves or others, and God can’t trust us if we are the cause of hurt. But when we repent through the Atonement, we are gaining his trust. As simplistic as it is, for me the Gospel really comes down to trust.
Jumping back to the dieting question…why is it that our bodies gain the weight back? Just like our relationship with God, if we are causing our body hurt, our body does not trust us! Consider that excess stubborn weight…we need to gain our body’s trust, so it doesn’t need to desperately cling to excess reserves. This last limb is self trust.
I am going to share with you the Anatomy of Trust, paraphrased from the research and work of the wonderful Brenè Brown. Building trust is a slow process and takes dedicated and stalwart bravery, which is why this philosophy is called BRAVING TRUST:
B/oundaries: I respect my boundaries and am aware and clear about what is okay and what is not okay. “I need to draw [this] line when it comes to [this] circumstance.”
(*For me, not allowing large open-bag treats while watching movies)
R/eliability: I am reliable. I do what I say I am going to do.
(*Starting s m a l l…I know of a man who’s new year resolution was to run one mile a day. Just 10 minutes! Guess what—he did it.)
A/ccountability: I own my mistakes, apologize and make amends.
(*I binged, and I am sorry. Lets try again.)
V/ault: I open my vault when appropriate.
(*I share my vulnerabilities with those who have earned the right to hear it)
I/ntegrity: I act in integrity. I choose courage over comfort. I choose what is right over what is fun, fast, or easy. I choose to practice my values rather than simply professing them.
(*Sticking to the grocery perimeter, and avoid those amazing coupon deals for processed food)
N/onjudgemental: I am nonjudgmental. I listen to my body’s needs, and am open to whatever they may be. Even if it means asking for help.
(*Asking your spouse to help remind you of your goals, or to watch the kids while you take some time to rejuvenate…ie a bath)
G/enerous: I am generous to myself. I am doing the best I can. I nourish myself because I believe I deserve it.
(*Buying organic when possible, finding a favorite healthy treat and treating myself often, etc.)
Building trust with ourselves is a process and it’s often in the littlest moments, when nobody else is watching, that our body learns it can rely on us. Braving trust is the surest way to hold hands with your body in health!
And there it is-a HEALTHY TREE. Two solid legs make a grounded trunk, and each arm makes non-resistant and flexible branches. Cultivating these four qualities of self-divinity, self-worth, self-compassion and self-trust is what keeps our tree upright and strong while facing the elements life has to offer us.
Becoming successful—whether it be in health, or any other fruitful goal, is a lifelong journey.
I dare you to fully engage in the ever-present game of ‘trees vs elements’ to help you stay upright in your endeavors!
PHOTOGRAPHY BY THE INCREDIBLE MARINA POLONSKY, http://polonskyfilm.weebly.com/film-production.html