There comes a point in all of our lives when we realise that we've outgrown our work, our friends, our homes, or even our entire way of being.
The exact moment when change arrives is unpredictable - it can happen in the blink of an eye, or it can build up over time creating sufficient tension that something has to give.
The trouble for many of us is that we become so comfortable, we lose sight of the container, or the cage (as one of my clients has described it) that we've built around ourselves.
This is Jasmine's story and although Jasmine is a plant that used to reside on our terrace, her situation is not unlike the the ones I witness as I help people break free of their self-imposed cages to create something new.
Jasmine was tall, luscious and beautiful when she arrived on our terrace a few years ago. Although she had a slight infestation of bugs, she was soon sending out her tendrils and new leaves appeared.
Her long, vines reached out across the space in different directions providing some shade from the hot sun. In the spring, she was a mass of white pin-wheel flowers and a light perfume wafted through the air on a warm evening breeze.
When the days grew shorter, we watched the leaves turn a gorgeously deep red and I gently prune her trailing branches in the hopes of a stronger growing season the following year.
Sometimes I found little heart shaped red leaves on the ground and I smiled as I collected them - such are the simple pleasures we find in the garden.
In the spring the new growth was minimal at best. During the lockdown, I paid careful attention to water and fertiliser, but the growth simply didn't arrive. Jasmine bloomed with as many flowers as she could muster but the perfume was weak and muted - stunted - much like her growth this past season.
This year as the days once again wane towards the Autumn, I noticed that Jasmine had Lost her glossy sheen and she no longer grew her vines. I knew it was time for Jasmine to be re-homed.
The long process of removing Jasmine from the pot reminded me of the process I've been through to get out of my own comfort zone.
Things seem to move swiftly at first - beginners luck they say - but then it all started to get too difficult; and it in these moments that we start to see what we're made of. Do we give up? Do we thrash about smashing things up to get what we want; or do we become a little more ingenious and find a way to lean into the challenge, to smooth out the edges and find a different way?
Jasmine was growing in a pot where the middle was slightly wider than the top - wide enough to make a change more difficult than it needed to be. Her appetite for nutrients had transformed much of the compost to a thick web of roots that prevented a smooth change from one home to the next. And so the real work began; much as it does for all of us as we face the inertia created by our own comfort zones.
For the next couple of hours, I trimmed away layers of roots from all sides to create more space so that I could move Jasmine out of the pot. Turning the pot and sloughing away the layers of this matted, fibrous network, I was reminded of the 'skin' we must all shed for us to make the change that will eventually free us from our cage, our constraints or our comfort zone. Change isn't always easy, and it is our persistence to the task that helps us to eventually reach our goals.
It didn't help Jasmine that she had also shared her potty home with an aggressive annual mint and a catnip that had become a self-service dosing station for our fur baby whenever he felt inclined to have a kitty-high and roll around on the floor for a bit.
It wasn't lost on me that this situation invited me to look at where in my own life I try to cram too many things in, stunting my own growth rather than creating a laser like focus or mastery in one domain. Complementary plants can certainly work; but in this instance it only increased the amount of fibre that needed to be removed so that Jasmine could be extricated from her constrained life in our terrace pot.
Eventually poor Jasmine was free from the shackles of mint-root and dry potting mix. It astounded me how dry the soil was despite frequent waterings. The pot stood a meter high, 1/3 full and yet it appeared a desolate place, devoid of the ingredients that inspire a rich and luscious life for a plant like Jasmine.
Unfortunately, plants cannot move themselves the way we humans can, and they must deal with the conditions in which they find themselves. It's a case of thriving, surviving or dying.
We humans take all of this for granted as we look around our comfort zone and wonder, could it be different?
We lose sight of the power we have to create tangible, meaningful change in ways that other organisms on our planet simply cannot.
For those of you who want to exercise that agency in your own life, here's some questions to help you get in touch with your own dis/comfort zone:
How comfortable is the comfort zone for me?
Do I like it here, or am I tolerating it?
What am I giving up to maintain the status-quo?
Is this really the life I want to live?
What's missing that would make me truly happy?
What needs to change so that I can truly flourish in my life?
What is the smallest step I could take towards the life that I most want to live?
What support do I need to make this happen / who can I call upon to support me?
My afternoon re-homing Jasmine was earthy and wonderfully rich with insights about coaching, life and how things are. Nature and the world around us is one of our greatest teachers if we all it.
Post script: Jasmine was collected by a neighbour and is presently resting in a tub of well-watered fresh compost.
Tim Snell is a Coach, Consultant and Licensed Breathwork Instructor & Breath Coach.
He specialises in helping people create rapid change in their life through a unique combination of life, leadership and breath coaching.
He incorporates breathwork and universal wisdom into his work to deliver lasting change in people's lives.
He leads 3 virtual events per week and delivers virtual (and live) sessions to corporations that are committed to improved health and creativity.