Sunday, March 2, 2014

Stressing the Vine

When we long for life without difficulties,
remind us that oaks grow strong in contrary winds
and diamonds are made under pressure. 
― Peter Marshall

People speak of wanting an easy life.  But how many of us really want it ‘easy’?  If our desire was met and we faced only comfort and ease, wouldn’t we soon become bored?  Where’s the fun in life without challenge?  Where’s the flavor without spice?  Where’s the growth without pruning?  Would we not seek to create our own chaos if chaos didn’t exist, particularly where situations have become stale or too readily assured?  I dare say that we would.
Yet we hear so much about how unhealthy chronic stress is for our bodies.  We need only turn on the news or read a health post on the Internet to discover all of the reasons why we should rid our lives of this toxin.  Constantly faced with demands, frustrations, hassles and deadlines, it seems impossible to break free.  But do we really want to break free?  Might this be where the magic happens?
Consider the life of a wine grape.  While it’s true that many agricultural endeavors require nutrient rich soil to thrive, winemakers worldwide will tell you that when it comes to growing grapes for wine, fertile soil is not always the best.  In fact, most California vineyards are planted in soil that would choke the life out of other crops.  Growers look for nutrient poor or even dry soil that drains well because it forces the vines to extend their roots far into the dirt to find sustenance—stressing the vine—and causing them to direct their energy and sugar into grape clusters instead of leaves, which produces small grape berries.  A handful of tiny grapes will be almost all skin and very little juice, which translates into a rich, concentrated color and flavor in the wine.  For these growers and vintners, the stressed grape is the best grape and produces the superior vintage.
Might we also benefit from a bit of stress on the vine?  In our periods of stress we are called to break out of our complacency, extend ourselves beyond the comfort zone, and direct our energy to find ways to thrive even under the most pressure-filled conditions.  We are given an opportunity to turn our negative stressors into positive ones that help us to grow, remain vital and alive.  We learn to think positive and remain hopeful for better days. We discover how strong and capable we are.  And if we stretch, we learn that humor and laughter are the catalysts that lift us out of our oppression and transform us into the most colorful and delicious versions of ourselves, like the wine grape.
So perhaps what we really mean is that we want an ‘easier’ life, every now and then; a break from worrying that a certain wolf may huff and puff and blow our house down.  If an easier life is what you desire then I suggest you can have it, simply by making up your mind to not dwell on factors that you cannot change and, instead, look for ways to set a positive process in motion; and trust that there is a good reason for this.

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