“We cannot make love happen; it arises spontaneously when the conditions are right. Similarly, we cannot make awareness happen; it arises spontaneously when the conditions are right.” —Andy Puddicombe
The beauty of sunflowers in all their unique and varied forms delights my eye more with each year I sow them as simple seeds in my own garden.
It happens each year in early May, I head outside with my seed packs in hand (the varieties I explored and sowed this year are seen below), selecting a handful of spots that receive lengthy amounts of sun and also available to be seen should they grow and mature into their full blooms. They don’t need to be watered, but do need spring rains to germinate, so if rains don’t fall, regular watering needs to occur until they are healthily sprouted and doing well. After all, many of the ones (all included in this bouquet seen above) that have bloomed this year received no water at all during June and July, but they did have what they needed – sun and summer warmth, mild weather (meaning, no hail storms or ferocious winds) and no pups or myself stepping on them or pulling them out of the ground by accident.
So many opportunities for unique and brilliant natural beauty.
I am choosing to use the example of gardening partly because it is one of the best teachers of patience, but also of the requirement that we will have to invest up front without guarantee that it will bloom as you had hoped; however, the likelihood that it will is increased when we give the seed the right conditions and let go (or walk away) and just go about our lives and let it do what it does and receive what it needs. And in this case, the sunflower is ideal because there is very little we have to do except plant it in the right spot and then walk away and let nature take its course. In other words, when we stop forcing, stop being impatient, and stop manipulating, we give ourselves time and the space to enjoy our days until that wondrous day when the sunflower blooms (usually about 90-100 days later).
As I was researching for today’s post and scouring the internet for examples of long-term life investments worth making, the only posts that came to the forefront were associated directly with money. Understandably, to a point. When we think about tomorrow (i.e. our future) we often think about it logically, How are we going to finance the life we want to live? But too often we forget about the long-term investments that will pay awesome dividends to the quality of our life that are not tied to our monetary investments. Yes, we need to live in the present moment, something we talk about regularly here on TSLL, but there are ways of living in the present moment that are choices that also invest in our future, creating the strong likelihood that more magic, deeper connections, and a rich quality of life awaits us down the road. But first! We have to invest today and consistently so in order to eventually create the conditions for such occurrences to happen.
Something talked about in the premiere episode (#339) of this year’s season of the podcast (its ninth) was the Paradox of True Contentment.
“The paradox of contentment demonstrates that the most difficult part of living a life of contentment is at the beginning when you are just starting to dare to trust that cultivating the necessary skills of self-awareness, mindfulness, etc. Why? Because likely the environment you live and/or work in, the relationships (maybe not all) that you are engaged in, don’t nurture the values you are trying to strengthen. However, with consistent, intentional effort, because you are living a life of true contentment, you begin to have the strength and trust in making different decisions that build relationships and an environment that does support how you want to live, and because you are surrounding yourself with such an environment, it becomes easier to live the life you had envisioned when you began the journey.”
Yes, to repeat the phrase, good, worthwhile outcomes do take time, but we have to discipline ourselves to become comfortable with not seeing results for quite some time, yet continuing to put in the necessary focus, investment in our intentional efforts, and then let go and let things beyond our control dance with the magic we have and our putting out into the world.
Kate Northrup, author of Money: A Love Story, put it quite succinctly, “When we go first, the universe responds.” Or in the case of investing in outcomes that will take time to materialize, we have to demonstrate we are willing to put in the effort and not need to be coddled or entertained along the way with immediate feedback or reward, but rather exercising trust and simply (yet not initially easy to do) let go and hold on to the confidence in our decision to invest.
“We must all suffer from one of two pains: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret. The difference is discipline weighs ounces while regret weighs tons.” ― Jim Rohn
And so I began to make my own list of long-term life investments, investments worth choosing where we must invest in up front with either time, consistent effort, money or all three that will not bear fruit for potentially many years to come … until they do.
Partly inspired by the quote at the top of today’s post, and something we talked about in depth in this August’s A Cuppa Moments with TSLL’s TOP Tier Member community, the return on our investment in meditation and all of the other mindfulness practices adhere to horticultural time rather than clock time, and by that we mean, there is a germination period that is undetermined, but unless we invest at all, we will never be able to hopefully, at some point, see the results of our efforts.
~explore all of TSLL’s posts on Mindfulness here.
2. Your dharma
A term that many TSLL readers may already be familiar with as we’ve talked about it in this post and in my most recent book – The Road to Le Papillon – a concept taught to me by experts in mindfulness beginning with Deepak Chopra, Jay Shetty, and many others. Dharma is the equation of Passion + Expertise + Usefulness = Dharma.
Making a conscious effort and intentionality to figure out what our individual and unique dharma is, which requires us to deepen our awareness of ourself, really listen, pay attention and be honest, shedding outside layers of ‘should’s, will gradually and eventually lead us to figure out our dharma so long as we are also listening to what the world is searching for, what it needs, how we can then contribute constructively.
3. Your sanctuary
As shared in The Road to Le Papillon as well as in this post, our sanctuary need not be an actual house or apartment or even a physical structure; in fact, even if we think our sanctuary is a physical structure, it is actually an intangible structure where we have and know how to locate in our days to be able to nurture ourselves as necessary. Our place of sanctuary, where we know we can go to fill fully rejuvenated, to rest, to return to our center and be reminded of our true self, is crucial for our well-being. Figuring out what this is and then once we do, investing in prioritizing having access to it as we need throughout our daily life elevates the quality of our life because our mind has space to think well, to be still and therefore make better decisions moving forward.
Once we know what we need, then at that point we may begin to invest in a physical structure of some sort. It may be our home, or it may be a portion of our home – a nook or a garden where we find respite, calm and thus can gain clarity. Figuring out what we need, so that it will be with us throughout our lives will take time because it takes time to know ourselves, and part of the knowing is taking in much time to explore and expose ourselves to different environments, then observing ourselves – how we felt, what we were drawn to, what put us on edge, examining why we were put on edge – was it because it was simply different or new and we needed to step forward more gradually, or was it something, due to knowing ourselves well, just simply didn’t work for us?
Enjoy the journey, the long-term investment of time and purposeful attention given to figuring out what your sanctuary will entail, and then bravely choose to begin investing monetarily with your sage intention to give yourself a place of rejuvenating calm that will, as shared in great detail in The Road to Le Papillon, become the springboard for you to then go out into the world courageous that is full of unknowns, and with an abundance of curiosity, knowing you have a sanctuary to return to when you need to rest and recharge.
4. Your garden
Whether our garden is small or large, or we merely have a spot for a beautiful tree, a favorite tree that brings spring blossoms in April and glorious fall jewel-tone leaves in the fall, investing in our gardens will provide priceless joy, groundedness, and mental nourishment. As mentioned above, a garden is a wise teacher in a myriad of ways, and while the rose shrub you planted this year may only share one bloom, if planted where it is happiest and cared for well, in 3-5 years time you will have a magnificent rose shrub that offers oodles of blooms.
5. Retirement savings
I would be remiss if I didn’t include a monetary long-term investment because money is a part of what enables us to live the life we love living, so as I have talked about retirement savings before in previous money posts, I will let you explore them here. And know that the automated savings we set up for our retirement is an ideal example of saving regularly and consistently beginning as early as we can and forgeting about it, letting the compound interest work its wonders.
6. Your health: body (inside and out) and mind
While we may generally understand that what we do (or don’t do) today regarding physical exercise, diet, habits of drinking, smoking, etc. – anything that affects (adversely or beneficially) our body and mind, sometimes it is hard to accept or realize that tomorrow will come and our body and mind will be the receipt, so to speak, of how we have lived leading up to that point.
From eating more leafy greens and less sugar, to stimulating our mind through learning new skills and content, to avoiding the sun and nourishing our skin, protecting our eyes, joints and hydrating regularly, the list goes on and on (many of those lists are shared here on TSLL – check out the archives), we may know these to be true, but are we putting them into practice . . . regularly? It’s one thing to say I don’t want to be [enter the characteristic you fear to embody when you are older], it is another thing to invest decades before that time to give yourself the most likely chance your fears won’t be realized.
7. Awareness (including initially and most importantly, self-awareness)
Perhaps I should have moved this one to #2 on today’s list, just below mindfulness, because living with self-awareness and overall awareness is a quality of living mindfully, but I wanted to save this for the final item to ensure it is remembered.
Awareness is an oft-talked about topic here on TSLL (see here). Why? Because it is the key to knowing more about ourselves, the world, others and thus being able to make the best decisions to deepen the quality of our lives. Without awareness, we don’t realize what we don’t know. Without awareness we don’t see ourselves clearly and can then never see others clearly because we reflect our own perspective of ourselves and the world as we see it onto them, limiting what we see.
Awareness involves knowing how to be a critical thinker, and while such a skill would be wonderful to know how to do naturally because it is vital to living a life of conscientiousness in a civil and social world, as building trust and establishing clear communication are fundamental necessities, it must be learned, and often we must choose to learn this skill as it isn’t often taught in a regular public education curriculum (unless a student selects higher level courses that include this offering). As someone who taught this skill for 11 years during my 20 year public school teaching career, I look forward to teaching how to be a critical thinker as it is a crucial lesson in the larger course about contentment to become available in 2024.
With that said, when we become aware – not just of what we see, but now having the skills to go deeper with understanding and examination through objective observation – both of ourselves and others (which includes the world around us), we begin to make sound decisions. We become more motivated and trust more in our own decision-making to be willing to invest in the long-term, to be knowledgeable of what is a priority for us and to confidently know it is our priority and not one put upon us by the culture we live within.
Often the reason long-term investing isn’t chosen, even though we may read a post such as this one and find ourselves nodding our heads in agreement to some, most or all of the points listed, is we seek to know – we want certainty, some sort of reassurance that our life is going well, and so we seek to acquire something (clothing, a new tech item, even a relationship, etc.) because we want approval, and even if the ‘knowing’ or the sense of security is temporary, it soothes us for that moment. But the problem with making this our modus operandi is that the benefits of long-term investing will never be experienced, our lives won’t get richer (literally, but most importantly, figuratively). We won’t deepen our relationship with ourselves, we won’t really know what we can offer the world and what we can uniquely do that brings us fulfillment. We won’t experience deep, loving relationships, we won’t find a sense of personal security that need not be constantly asking or seeking approval from others. We won’t experience a deep abiding peace, true contentment, because we haven’t given the ‘seeds’ time to germinate. And so knowing all of this, will you choose to invest long-term?
As someone who has been on both sides of this question, knowing long-term investment is wise, but also wanting to know now if it all will be worth it (but realizing the immediate knowing isn’t possible), I will acknowledge, saying versus doing are two different things, but once you experience even just once the benefits of a long-term investment, you will begin to consider doing so in other areas of your life.
Thank you for stopping by today and wishing you well as you begin your investment journey to create your best life.