Pandemic Purpose: Prune the Tree, Drop the Rock

pruning a bonsai tree

When we first entered into the pandemic “bubble,” it was important to take time to focus on our grief. Life as we knew it was coming to an end for the foreseeable future, and it was important to give ourselves space as we accepted a new level of uncertainty.

Now that we are more than half a year into the pandemic, situations that seemed unnavigable and too complex situations have become more manageable. We’ve adjusted. And perhaps now we can better find meaning in the midst of still unanswered questions and complexity.

In this blog post, I’d like to help you improve your experience in this difficult time, by embracing specific changes and a new mindset.

Control and Mastery in a Time of Ambiguity

As human beings, our brain has a tricky relationship with ambiguity. While collectively experiencing a global pandemic, we are full of ambiguity. As there is no clear solution or straightforward procedure to address it, we live in ambiguity. This can lead to confusion, anxiety, and a sense of feeling out of control.

As ambiguity increases, the amygdala (which is the grey matter deep inside the brain’s cerebral hemispheres) begins responding to a perceived threat in a situation. Anxiety and fear rise, while the ventral striatum (the part of your brain that helps respond to rewards) simply stops functioning. So, how do we move forward when our regular ways of decision making won’t provide us with answers? By taking advantage of what we can control and cutting off the dead weight that is slowing us down – in other words, dropping the rock and pruning the tree.

Letting Go of What’s Not Serving You

Whether in the midst of the pandemic, or at any time in your life when you’re feeling a sense of volatility during stressful situations, it can be useful to realign with what’s important and what’s not. What can you let go of that’s currently holding you down or bringing you a negative emotion? In times of uncertainty and great change, it’s generally our first instinct to hold onto what we already had, before life became uncertain – whether it’s positively serving us or not. Whether that may be a job that we hate that pays the bills, or a relationship that we know is not working, at least it’s familiar. The stress of the situation we used to be in seems better to us than entering a new, uncertain situation.

Even if we don’t know where we’re going or what we’re doing, now is the time to take back some control – and we can do this by downsizing. What can you afford to drop? There’s a concept which is very popular in AA circles called “dropping the rock”, when it comes to shedding bad habits. Many of us are constantly carrying rocks with us that do not serve us in any way. Do we want to carry these rocks? No. But we don’t know how to drop them.

Drop the Rock

Drop the Rock weight

Now more than ever, it’s important for all of us to take a look at our lives and determine what’s not working. You see people who have taken this time in quarantine to make positive changes in their lives, and use this as a time for transformation. Don’t beat yourself up if you’re not one of those people, if you’re just getting by. Processing grief is different for everyone. And perhaps you’ll consider a little experiment – if you could go into a bubble for the next 10 to 12 months and decide to make a commitment to letting go of at least one thing (or rock) that’s holding you down, what would it be?

You don’t have to commit to anything right now, other than a little thought experiment. And in time, after considering, you may choose to take the plunge and drop the rock of a job that’s weighing you down. You may want to take this time to quit smoking, clean out all the junk in your house, or straighten out your finances. What is a burden you’re carrying around now that is not serving you?

Pruning the Tree

To truly discover the changes you need to make in your life, it can be helpful to return to your core, to realign with who you are and what your values are. We’re all experiencing a great homecoming right now (since we’re stuck at home!).

The pandemic, although a time of great turmoil, chaos, and confusion itself, can be compared to any time of your life where you’ve felt completely out of control, like you’re caught in the middle of a storm. And like a tree in a storm, weak limbs that was not are starting to come loose. We can prune the limbs that were not helping us stay strong, vital and healthy.

In order for you to know what it is time to truly drop, or “prune,” think about putting a bubble over the next year. Who or what is in the bubble with you, and what’s staying behind? What activities come with you and which aren’t serving you? What “stuff” can you relinquish, and what do you want to keep? This is an opportunity to take control over your life, shed the extraneous limbs that are really just weighing you down.

Finding Your Pandemic Purpose

Does the thought of losing your extraneous limbs or dropping the weights that have been holding you down get you excited? It’s important for all of us, at some point in our lives, to take stock and lighten our loads. You may not feel ready to make any changes in your life whatsoever, and are solely focusing on getting from one day to the next – and that’s okay, too.

We all need to do what we can to increase the peace within ourselves and take control at a time where we feel that so much is outside of our control. And if there’s something that you’ve been feeling isn’t serving you, consider making those first steps to prune the tree or drop the rock. I promise you’ll feel lighter and more able on the other side.

For more, listen to my podcast episode, Prune the Tree, Drop the Rock.

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