Planting Good Relationships

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Photo by Samuel Alvarado

By Samuel Alvarado

Relationships between people, whether platonic, romantic or even with oneself, are like plants. Relationships and plants both require care, maintenance, and space lest they stagnate and die. I have had a wonderful “garden” of relationships for a while, but it is no easy feat to maintain.

I find that relationships and plants share several key characteristics, and I have noticed these similarities throughout my life. A plant or relationship can grow only when it is properly taken care of with the necessary sustenance, room, and care. Our relationships provide us with the steady stream of care, love, and motivation needed for us to grow.

Plants need the right balance between rich soil, sunshine, and water as their primary sustenance. Relationships between people also require sustenance by having substance in shared experiences. The parallels are clearly seen when the sustenance of relationships and plants are taken away, as neither a relationship nor plant can last long without attention and care. Sustenance for a relationship comes from being rooted in the lives of others, just as sustenance for a plant comes from being rooted in the soil.  Just as plants need water regularly, relationships need regular attention to ensure their longevity. With sustained maintenance, relationships can last a lifetime.

Most plants need space to expand, or they will stagnate instead of growing as they should. Without space, plants may be forced to recede into corners or against walls while trying to grow in what little space they have. Relationships too need space, as every person needs the opportunity to grow personally and, by virtue, grow the relationship with deeper self-knowledge. Most people need some time alone to better understand themselves so they can better function with others. At times, a person may pull or push away from those closest to them, and this new space may make it easier to focus on deep personal issues. The time alone, however, should not be extended without purpose because the need for social engagement is just as important as the need for space and privacy. A little self-care can help a person thrive in relationships because better self-awareness can allow for greater contributions to the group of relationships.

Plants need care when they grow unevenly, have been hurt, or become diseased. By the same principle, a relationship needs care when it has been stressed, damaged, or unloved.  Care for a plant may involve adding more nitrogen, adding a splint, or transplanting it after its pot broke. For relationships, people need to communicate effectively about what has strained the relationship and what needs to be done to rectify any damage. It does not bode well when one friend pours out their heart to another with little reciprocation or recognition. This apathy, however, broadens a growing divide in a relationship. When trust is broken, promises are left unkept or feelings are hurt; these issues need to be remedied promptly for fear that they ruin both relationship and the person who had been cared for before. When properly implemented throughout the life of a plant or relationship, the effects of intentional care can be seen clearly. Intention care is a necessity to foster our health and the health of the natural specimens we foster.

Callous handling of plants and relationships leads to the ruin of each. Therefore, I hope people learn to treat their relationships as plants. A plant may provide fresh oxygen and fruit, just as a relationship may provide companionship and love that every person yearns for throughout this journey we call life.

I could say that my garden of relationships has always been calm and full, but that would be a lie. Coming to college, I came in knowing one person, and I felt more alone than ever. My garden was nearly empty from relationships falling into disrepair or being intentionally burned. Now, after a year in Pensacola, I have a garden of flowers, cacti, and herbs that I love to see grow as they have helped me grow.

Meditation and Chi: The Energy Force That Connects Us

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By Jade Jacobs

“You are not a drop in the ocean, you are an entire ocean in a drop.” ~Rumi

At the core of every major religion and spiritual belief system lies the practice of meditation. When we look deeper, we see that meditation is defined as “the disclosure of considered thoughts on a subject” or “spending time in quiet thought,” and we can see how meditation truly is the center of religious practices. In this case prayer, philosophical questioning, and 2 a.m. discussions about our purpose in the world are all considered variations of meditation. Today, meditation, along with other ancient practices, is most commonly associated with the Eastern Hemisphere. However, centering exercises, such as meditation, are more than their typical portrayal of a way to connect spiritually to a deity; they allow us to focus our energy inward on our own personal well-being. In modern society, we tend to become so fixated on work, classes, and other obligations that we forget to allocate time to work on ourselves.

A notion that I personally believe in is that each of us are connected. Whether you follow a more faith- or strictly science-based outlook on the world, both tell us that the energy in our universe has been here from the beginning. None is added, and none truly leaves. Energy flows through the system in a cyclical fashion. Our bodies and belongings return their energy to the earth and are reborn in new forms of life. Our life energy flows on as well, whether to an afterlife, reincarnated, or with our bodies back into nature. This energy connects each of us to one another similarly like how the roots of a rain forest intertwine to connect each tree, each branch, and each leaf. The energy flows through the forest providing life, and it connects each of us as well.

Just as the energy connects us to one another, it flows within each person individually. An ancient belief is that the human body harbors seven chakras, or pools of life energy called chi. Each chakra is connected to a different element, and is governed and blocked by a different trait. To help restore peace to the body, mind, and soul, the chakras must be unblocked in order from bottom to top, similar to how river dams are opened and water is allowed to flow.

The first chakra is the root chakra located at the base of the spine, and is connected to the element of earth. It’s governed by survival, and is blocked by fear. Meditating on this chakra teaches us to realize our fears, and accept them so they no longer control or burden us. The chi flows into this chakra from the sacral chakra located in the lower abdomen. This chakra is connected to water, governed by pleasure, and blocked by guilt. Meditating on the sacral chakra opens the mind to the guilt that weighs us down to teach us that negative things happen, but dwelling on negativity only clouds our judgement of the present. The chi flows to this chakra from the third chakra in the solar plexus, located just below the ribcage. This chakra is connected to fire, is governed by will power, and is blocked by shame. Meditating on the fire chakra allows us to continue from the previous chakra and let go of the negativity that plagues us. The shame blocking the fire chakra is often tied to the guilt of the previous; both must be left in the past to cleanse these chakras.

Unblocking the lower chakras allows for us to move into the upper chakras, starting in the heart. This chakra is connected to air, is governed by love, and blocked by grief. Harboring grief locks the chakra and mind from expressing emotions clearly, and can lead to internal strife. In Chinese medicine, common psychological disorders, such as depression and anxiety, can occasionally be attributed to a blocked air chakra. Disorders are said to be due to the tension and pressure of the chi pooling within the air chakra which renders the body unable to properly handle the complex emotions. Furthermore, if cleared, the throat chakra, connected to sound, allows us to open the pathway of truth that is blocked by lies. The lies blocking this chakra are often the ones we tell ourselves, ones that keep us from fully realizing and accepting who we are. Our throat chakras are commonly blocked, and are especially difficult to cleanse. In a society that instills constant pressure of who you should be, it is difficult to accept who you truly are. However, acceptance and elevated self-identity leads to cleansing the following chakra: the third eye. Located between the brows, the third eye chakra is connected to light, governed by insight, and blocked by illusions. Throughout time, one of society’s greatest illusions is that of division. As stated previously, everything is connected through the chi it possesses. To unblock the third eye chakra, we must let go of divisiveness, and realize that there is no “us” or “them.” We are all only parts of one whole energy force. The seventh and final chakra is the crown chakra, located just above the head. It is governed by pure cosmic energy and blocked by attachment. Few people are able to see past the material world to connect directly to the chi that comprises life as a whole. We become so attached to the objects, emotions, and people around us that how completely connected we all are becomes difficult to see, and to accept.

We are all connected to each other, and to life as a whole, through a web of chi that flows incessantly through time and space. Like leaves in a great rain forest, we breathe as one. Meditation and centering practices aren’t attached to a specific religion or culture, they’re exercises that allow us to tap into this chi to let it flow freely through us. It is a way for us to connect to ourselves and others through the chi we borrow during our lifetime.