by Blythe Pavlik
Many years ago, in the early stages of my personal self exploration, I serendipitously came across a transformative quote by Anais Nïn. She wrote, “It takes courage to push yourself to places that you have never been before... to test your limits, to break through barriers. The day came when the risk it took to remain tight inside the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” This quote has since remained a sacred mantra in my life. It defines the critical, painful and rarely mastered moment of labor.
The labor of self actualization... the labor of humility... the labor of change.
In the moments of my life when pain swells up in my heart and the jagged edges of the unknown dance in reflection of an indiscernible death, I try to imagine myself as a flower bud. I try to imagine the intense pressure required to push out from a previously frozen stem into a potentially neglectful world. I recognize the power pulsing through my being with a determination that seems wiser than me. I am, after all, merely one innocent bud on a glorious vine. The movement from bud to bloom carries with it the possibility of painful layers of reflection. Reflection into the self, into the environment of the self, and into the ancestral lineage of the self. “Who am I?” I wonder, peeling back each tender petal from my vulnerable core. When I joyfully recognize the color in my bloom... the pain of becoming finally begins to cease.
This is the journey of the awakening human consciousness. Within this journey are collective layers of liberation and actualization of community, as well as the unique process we all endure with the hope of fulfilling some sort of destiny. And we battle the idea of destiny the entire way. We struggle against a sense of being controlled, all the while striving to feel the relief that comes from surrender to the process.
In Portland, buds have begun to form on flowering trees, bushes and vines. Bulbs have begun to send their open green hands up through the soil to greet the coming spring. This is a magical time of year. Being witness to the labor of the Earth is inspiring, humbling and soothing. I realize that my own processes of blooming are interconnected not only with all of humanity and womanhood but also with the Earth.
Lately, I have begun to allow myself to bloom without apology. I have bloomed many times in various gardens, with a vast range of gardeners tending to my needs. I have bloomed at times with missing petals or no fragrance. Other times, I have bloomed quickly - being the first flower in the garden to fade. And...I have had many springs without blooming at all.
After moving through so many cycles, I have finally become aware of my responsibility to my own process. I recognize the vital influence of a lush, supportive garden environment as well as the importance of mindful and patient gardening. We are much like the blossoms of the Earth. Many of us have the basic requirements to survive our cycle, but in order to thrive we must - we must - take time with each petal as it peels back, exposed by raw light. We require organic and compassionate caretaking of our process. We must not rush and we must not judge brashly what we become or who we are as we bloom.
When we come into our own "flower power," becoming consciously human, we attract to us generous pollinators in birds, bumble bees and butterflies. We rise vibrantly with no apology. THIS is WHO we ARE! We fulfill our experiences, our dreams and our destinies. And amazingly enough, it is when we are vibrant that we can share our abundant pollen with others. We can offer support to buds struggling to bloom. It is when we have fully become ourselves that we can share the wisdom of our journey with others who may reside in toxic environments or host a negative self image that serves only to suffocate their dreams, retarding full expression.
The cycle never ends and is never mastered. Each season brings new elements that influence or hinder our growth. But as we learn to recognize our beauty, however we may appear, we learn to settle our roots in fertile, welcoming soil. We choose to be surrounded by other blossoms on a similar journey of becoming self. And we labor and rest in the bosom of a peaceful, growing garden.