Sitting quietly, doing nothing,
spring comes, and the grass grows by itself.
I have loved this haiku ever since I first read it. Twenty-five years ago I wrote it out on a piece of card and stuck it over my desk when I was revising for my final exams at university.
I felt instinctively that the words were true, yet I was stuck in a life where I had to strive to make things happen; work, and work some more, worry, then work harder, in order to get a qualification, so that I could get a job, so that I could carry on working hard.
The end was never in sight, just a life of effort and busyness.
I longed for a life where I was like the grass, biding my time and then growing when the conditions were right.
Or a life where I was just sitting, observing, not worrying or striving to control the grass (a pointless task!). Just relaxing, waiting for it to grow in its own sweet time and trusting that everything would unfold as it should.
Neither of these were true for me at the time, instead I was full of anxiety about the future. But I always felt that Basho was speaking across the centuaries to me, pointing out a better way to live.
I’ve been drawn to the haiku again recently as I talk to friends and coaching clients and think about my own life.
The idea of something happening, growing, reaching fruition in its own time and when the conditions are right. Of not knowing what the outcome will be, just letting life evolve and grow.
So often I’ve asked the question ‘now what should I do with my life?’ or ‘what should I do next?’ and expected an answer, fully formed and shiny, a new goal.
What happens when no goal appears, when I’m not sure what to do next? Can I allow my life to unfold naturally, following my interests and passions to see where they take me, without expectations?
My biologist self looks at the grass growing by itself and knows that it is only growing because of the coming together of the right conditions for grass to grow; warmth, sunlight, rain, suitable soil, the right numbers of grazing animals, strong roots that have survived the winter, viable grass seed.
So how can we create the right conditions in our own lives?
Sit quietly, do nothing. Or go for a walk, or whatever allows us the space and time to listen. We need the equivalent of sun, rain and sweet time to let us grow.
An idea nudges us in the quietness, whispers in a small voice ‘this is what I want’.
More ideas emerge, possibilities reveal themselves, action unfolds because it feels effortless, the right thing to do.
It takes faith and courage to let things evolve, to see where your path of life leads. Sometimes it can be a lonely road, it seems that not many others are taking it. But they are.
And eventually a goal emerges, a path appears in the undergrowth. There is a map and someone has been that way before. It might take some effort, risk and persistence to follow the path, but it feels right.
You just have to start walking through the grass, which is growing all by itself.