Cultivating Strength

This is a part of The Cultivate Project. A once a month project where I explore mindsets and practices we can cultivate and nurture to bring more care to ourselves and others.

For a short time the Strength collection is available as an art print or notebooks or sketchbooks. But they are only available until August, 17th 2022. After that I’ll move on to the next month’s cultivation project.

Cultivating Strength

“What you are searching for is searching for you.”

Bisha K. Ali – Ms Marvel

As I sit here writing this episode, I’m unsure of even where to begin because I have so many thoughts surrounding this month’s focus. Maybe because I need to work on this right now. But fair warning, if I get away from you in this episode, keep listening, I’ll bring it back around somehow. Also I want to say beforehand, in this episode when I speak of anxieties, I understand clinical anxieties are something to be addressed with a licensed professional. And I hope if you find this episode encouraging or motivating but you need help in that area, licensed professionals are the way to go to get that help. They can even help those of us facing light anxieties and it’s always good to seek out help. We aren’t meant to do this alone.

 

Change is hard. We don’t like change. But I think we’ll all agree we need change. It’s when change is forced upon us that it’s especially hard. But in that moment if we face it with strength, we often find the good.

 

Strength allows us to grow, to move forward, to come out of hiding, to move and do with purpose, to make changes and waves in this world. Without strength, we stay where we are and accept what is because it’s comfortable – even if it’s a comfortably hard life. But this is hiding.

 

 So many of us are hiding – including myself – it’s hard to come out of my little shell and as an introvert I’d much rather be there. But to reveal ourselves and stop hiding allows us to walk in purpose through life, and that takes strength.

 

We hide in things like social media, behind masks we’ve crafted, in Netflix or anything else on demand without commercials, in our homes (do we actually want to work from home because we are hiding? I’m guilty of this and have to force myself to get out) And hear me out on this one: in the groups and circles of people who think, act and live like we do. I think it’s the toughest to recognize and remove ourselves from but how do we learn or grow in these spaces.

 

We cannot fulfill our purpose, much less even know or step forward into our purpose by hiding. We must put away the fear and anxiety that comes with stepping out of hiding and actually take that step out.

 

To illustrate in an allegorical way – in Genesis in the Bible, God searches and searches for Adam and Eve asking them where they are hiding after they’ve eaten the forbidden fruit. And since it’s after they’ve eaten the fruit, you can imagine the anxiety and fear they had to step out of their hiding places and show themselves to God who is looking for them but also told them not to eat that fruit. It’s like when a child knows they’ve done something wrong and hides from their parents. But this began a new journey. They step out into an unknown space, unsure of how their parent (God) will react, knowing they did something they weren’t supposed to do.

 

So this brings me back to us. Often I think we hide because of shame, guilt, emotions, or fears and we have no desire to face them because it’s uncomfortable. It makes us squirm. But what can bring us out of our hiding? Love. If God is love then love brought Adam and Eve out of their hiding spot. Why can’t love bring us out of ours?

 

We can find love in our purpose to pursue something bigger than us. It takes great amounts of love to have a purpose, so much it seethes out of us and to others, making it bigger than ourselves.

 

But it takes strength to turn away from our hiding places and turn to our purpose which we find rooted in love. And if you missed my episode on self love, this is a great time to listen to that as well because it begins with love within ourselves that we allow to spill out to others and in the spilling out we find our purpose.

 

When we step out of our hiding places to search for our purpose (our why and way which is beget of love) or begin working in our purpose, we are met with fear, overwhelm, and anxiety because we are stepping into a new journey, something we are unsure of and often maybe don’t see past a certain point. Not to mention it’s probably big.

 

But here’s what you do: focus on your why. It takes strength to focus instead on our why rather than on the fear. And this is living – hiding is not living. Accept the fear and anxiety that we have for tomorrow but instead focus on your why in today and with strength move forward.

 

This is how we create change in our lives, hopefully the way we want.

 

However, what happens when change is forced on us? It also takes strength and we must face it in exactly the same way. We focus on today and our why and take steps forward.

 

What does it look like to have strength? Exactly like I said above. We recognize and see our fears, our anxieties and acknowledge they are most likely there because of the unknown. Then we turn our thoughts from them and instead focus on what we can do today, the good in today, and those things that we know help us change our mindset.

 

I am still working through how to have strength and let go of fear and worry. But I love to lean on the words from a mentor, Matt Tommey who asked if in facing fears, worries, and doubts if we are reaching for our swords or if we are reaching for our blankies. This utterly made sense to me. And it’s something I often ask of myself. Am I trying to hide and comfort myself with my blankies or am I moving forward with strength and using the tools I have to do so?

 

I find it super helpful to acknowledge what your blankies are. It can be anything that assists you in hiding and making you feel better about hiding. For me often it’s food or cleaning, or any form of procrastination that seems like I’m accomplishing something but I’m actually avoiding something else. All in the name of whatever good I’m doing. However I’m not working in my purpose but doing what is easy. A goal this month for myself is to do one hard/scary thing a day. Yesterday I applied for a fellowship, today I went to talk to a printer in person, when I can’t stand even making a phone order to our favorite pizza place. It can be simple, or it can be more complex, but if you find yourself putting it off, do it. So each day, I’ve written out one uncomfortable thing to do among the other things I need to do but are easier for me. But I want to draw on strength and do those hard things moving through the uncomfortable in order to reach my goals.

 

Blankies can also be confirmation of your opinion by others, busyness, and a big one: complaining. Complaining is probably the number one pick for most people, especially if we get confirmation by others in our complaining.

 

Holding onto our blankies is wallowing in our emotions in which we get stuck, causing us to sit in passivity. Picking up the sword is acknowledging the emotion but moving forward. Reaching for emotional blankets keeps the focus on the fear or whatever is wrong. Your sword should be something that helps you refocus. We must acknowledge these emotions and allow them to be – they are what makes us whole and human they are the cracks, but after acknowledging it use it for good and not for passivity.

 

What are some other swords we can pick up and use instead? I love using positive music. Much like music can help me work out and feel like I am strong, it can do the same when I feel like sitting in my emotions and reaching for my blankies. It’s a motivating force to get me moving and doing the uncomfortable things. Exercise is another sword for me – Running makes me feel stronger and I feel more motivated to do the hard things after a run. Self control and patience are other swords that are difficult to learn to hold but help us in strength when we use them.

 

So today, are you picking up your blankie or your sword?

"Meeting God means leaving our hiding place and confronting what we have known all along. To find God, we must stop avoiding life."

Martin Schleske - The Sound of Life's Unspeakable Beauty