Message from the Forest

Message from the forest: Give up the struggle!

A few weeks ago, I took a short walk in the mountains and ended up on the bank of the creek, sitting on the roots of a big spruce tree. The challenges of the moment were on my mind and I wondered, as I often do, what I might be missing. As I sat quietly, I focused on nothing more than listening, not too hard to do when the music of the creek filled my ears. As the sounds shifted and flowed, sometimes emphasizing high melodies, at other moments deepening and gurgling, I closed my eyes and felt the weight of my body settle into the forest duff, felt the support of the Earth and the life all around me. After a few moments, a very specific thought clarified itself, almost like a gentle command: “Give up the struggle”.

I felt at once the meaning of the words, although I knew it would take some time for my mind to catch up with the understanding. It wasn’t a suggestion to just give up and stop trying, nor to give in to some notion of failure. I also knew this particular directive would be challenging for my personal make-up, no matter how well I came to understand it.

A couple of years back, I listened to a talk by an astrologer on the ‘secret fear’ of each sign (Sun, Moon or Rising would work here). She noted that the secret fear of a Capricorn person is of being a loser. I have my Sun and several other planets in that sign. Capricorn gives me my connection to the Earth and the wisdom of Nature; my grounded and practical approach to most things; and my ability to climb the mountain, such as that of a career. It also gives me the will to strive towards ‘success’ – the opposite of being a ‘loser’. 

Yet, while striving towards a goal can certainly be an admirable trait, it can also become unbalanced. The hard work and striving become ends in themselves, and struggle becomes a habit. 

In the birth chart, accomplishment, commitment, and mastery are aspects of the archetype of the planet Saturn. Saturn represents our inner authority and integrity with ourselves. When we ‘do’ our inner Saturn, we bring ideas into reality, make commitments, and take responsibility for our time-and-space-bound lives here on Earth.

But the focus on achievement to the exclusion of all else is an unconscious expression of the planet Saturn, which rules the sign of Capricorn. Overdoing in order to reach a summit of some sort fails the ultimate test of sustainability and is no longer life-affirming, but life-draining. It is not the best expression of Saturn.

That same planet is ‘exalted’ in Libra, the sign of the scales, meaning that it finds its greatest expression by reaching for balance, beauty and justice in relationship with another. Fully embodying the archetype of mastery and integrity is not about ‘making it happen’, but about co-creation. The ultimate success comes through cooperation, not domination.

This is the true meaning of Libra, and the work of Libra season. The harvest is mostly in, the nights are becoming longer (north of the Equator), and rather than pushing through we are rewarded for cooperating – amongst ourselves and with the wide world around us. Cooperation, too, is how we reach toward the ever-elusive ‘balance’, which does not exist as a place, but a process. Life is a dynamic, flowing dance and just as in any dance, it is most beautiful when there is an ongoing give and take, ebb and flow between the participants. If the dancers stop to strike a perfect, balanced pose, they are no longer dancing. If we expect to stay in perfect balance, we are likely no longer breathing, and we are certainly no longer cooperating with the flow of life. 

And, while we are generally taught it is better not to go to extremes (an unconscious Libran trait), as my father was so fond of saying, moderation in all things – including moderation. Extremes can strengthen us (as Wim Hof tells us), and expand our range. And some of us only seem to find the middle after exploring the edges. Maybe we burn ourselves out by over-working, over-doing, over-achieving. Or perhaps, instead, we give up and settle for surviving rather than flourishing; for what we need instead of what we truly desire. Neither end of this spectrum is a place we can live

Giving up the struggle means allowing ourselves to flow with the dance, even at the far edges of what is ‘good’ for us. It means accepting we want what we want, as well as the limitations of the moment. In order to fully cooperate with life, we must act from a place of acknowledgement of how things really are. It means, for instance, desiring a home with space, quiet, garden, trees; and appreciating the cramped, noisy apartment that shelters me for the moment.

My daily practice now is to notice when I seem to be making things harder than necessary. When I find myself beating the keys on the laptop trying to finish a newsletter, I pause to wonder if it really needs to go out today. If I catch myself thinking of how I could or should have done something better, or differently, I practice remembering what I did well. 

There always seem to be ‘shoulds’ behind struggle, an unconscious quest for perfection and an ideal of success that drains energy. Maybe for me, there is also that secret fear of being a loser. Giving up the struggle makes room for true success, born from authenticity, integrity, and cooperation.

The advice from the forest feels life-affirming: give up the struggle. Just keep flowing like the stream, or swaying like the trees in my own unique way. Let life lead, and keep dancing.

How do I struggle? Let me count the ways:

  • Judging myself for feeling anything but grateful for what I have.
  • Second-guessing a decision I’ve made and implemented, or an action I’ve taken.
  • Focusing on what wasn’t perfect instead of what went well.
  • Trying to figure out how others are going to respond to what I do, what I say, what I write.
  • Blaming myself for not being in ‘better’ shape, having more clients, creating more classes, having a nicer website.
  • Worrying about next week, next month, or next year.
  • Pretending I don’t feel a certain way, or wanting to feel a different way than I do

In what ways do you struggle??

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