About two years ago I started a rock garden with cacti and succulents. (The length of time from then until now is important to remember.) The feature photo for this article shows the current state of the garden, and in particular, highlights the massive, beautiful, yellow/green aloe plant.
Soon after I mapped out how I wanted the garden to look, a dump truck load of rocks was deposited outside my gate. After several days with a wheelbarrow, bare hands, and the help of my son, we moved the massive pile of large chunks of mostly volcanic rock into the yard, arranging them in the most aesthetic way possible.
Next came buying the cacti and succulents and planting them in strategic places amongst the rocks. Over the next six months or so, I kept adding new plants–some my partner and I bought and some were gifts from friends. One day our gardener, who was also tasked with caring for the garden once a week, arrived with a small aloe plant as a contribution to the developing garden. I was delighted to receive such a gift, and when he asked me where I wanted it planted, I asked him to pick what he thought was the best place.
From then until now, the aloe has grown from 10 inches in breath to approximately five feet! (I am wary of attempting to get an exact measurement as it is too easy to get impaled on one of its spiked extensions). If my math is correct, the aloe grew six times its original size in two years. My conclusion is the aloe has thrived because it found the right place–its ideal balance of sun, shade, water, soil, and surroundings.
How about you? Are you in the right place to thrive? There are two main components to consider in assessing whether you are thriving in the right place: the cognitive/emotional component and the behavioral component. The cognitive/emotional component entails self-exploration–facing your fears, identifying, examining, and sifting through your beliefs, and engaging in an honest self-appraisal. The purpose here is to become at peace within yourself. The behavioral component is whether you are structuring your outer life in ways that are congruent with your inner life. Simply put, these two components are “knowing yourself” and “asserting yourself.”
Knowing yourself precedes asserting yourself. I recommend you read my article “Know Thyself” as a starting point to becoming peaceful within. I need to note that getting to know yourself is more than uncovering your ego because, in truth, that is your false self. Your real self is far more energetic, harmonizing, unifying, expansive, and loving than you could ever imagine and only a spiritual journey will allow you to access it. (See “Are You Grown Up?).
So, what does it mean to assert yourself? To assert means to act in ways consistent with your beliefs and values and to set boundaries that reinforce your integrity and well-being while also respecting the beliefs, values, and boundaries of others.
The focus here is to look at the daily decisions you make that shape the “place” you are in. In this area, relationships are key. Below are some questions to ask yourself in regard to your relationships and the external space you collaboratively shape with them.
> Do I choose to be around people who are respectful, affirming, encouraging, and forthright?
> What do I expect from the people I choose to be with? Too much? Too little?
> Do I allow for changes in my relationships?
> Am I holding on to relationships I would be better off releasing?
> Am I honest with myself about what I really want and/or need from my friends and family?
> Do I set clear boundaries in regard to how I let people treat me?
> Do I feel “trapped” or taken advantage of in any relationships?
> Am I afraid to reach out and establish new friendships?
> What are the qualities and characteristics of the people I most enjoy being around?
Behind every one of these questions lies the choice to be assertive or not. Negative answers to these questions mean you are not being assertive.
Another important part of finding the right place is the choices you make in regard to your living conditions. The house, community, culture, and location are as important to you as sun, water, and soil are for the aloe. Questions to ask yourself to decide if you have found the right place are:
> Do I feel safe?
> What would I change if I had the resources?
> Do I enjoy the climate?
> How easy is it to get my basic needs met?
> Is the infrastructure accessible, reliable, and usable?
> How aesthetically pleasing are my surroundings?
> Since I first arrived where I am now, how much have things changed in ways that now impact me negatively?
> Is my living space too small, too big, too old, or too unaccommodating?
> How easy is it to access the places, people, and activities I most enjoy?
> How would I react if someone told me that I had to stay where I am for at least 5 more years?
> Am I often stressed out, unhappy, sad, frustrated, or anxious with my life situation?
This last question is critical because you change and your circumstances change–usually over time, but sometimes abruptly. You reach a point where you no longer feel comfortable where you are. You realize you are no longer in the right place. This is the time to allow yourself to make the changes you need in order to have peace within and harmony without.
I will end this with a story about my two beloved, former neighbors who moved to another state about a year ago. I both questioned and grieved their decision, but having just visited them I know they have found the right place. I invited them to tell their own story, and they graciously agreed. Here is their story in their own words.
Finding the right place involves many components. Two of the most important components are balance and harmony. So after almost 20 years of living in one place, we felt our property and surroundings had lost those elements that for us were essential. Still beautiful, but no longer in balance and definitely incompatible with our own beliefs and values–we saw the encroachment of new buildings around us, neighbors who generally came on weekends only, a community that could not collaborate, accelerating prices for everything, more litter, increased traffic and pollution, and a lot more noise. Changes in the weather–hotter drier springs, noticeably less rain, and more dust and smoke in the air all negatively impacted us. The quietness, harmony, and beauty of before–gone. We sold.
Now we live in a different part of the country overlooking a beautiful lake with a cooler wetter climate–ideal for our passion for gardening. We live in a rural setting in a small indigenous community where participation in village affairs is welcomed and valued. We are encouraged to celebrate saints’ days and village parties, and yet our neighbors respect the serenity of this lakeside community. We have both found a quietness, a spirituality in this place, a state with an enormous richness in art and crafts. A perfect balance and harmony within ourselves, with our neighbors, and with our community. Neither of us can imagine living anywhere else.
Finding the right place takes reflection, self-honesty, resourcefulness, and courage. Do you want to thrive like the aloe and my neighbors? If your answer is “yes,” are you ready to begin to make the changes needed to find the right place?