The Super Hero Within
The growth imperative is the defining characteristic of life itself. Growth is the natural process of becoming stronger, healthier, more adaptable and more amazing. A sprout becomes a tree, which grows and bears fruit, eventually creating a habitat for many creatures to live amongst. There was a time when no one could run a 5-minute mile, and now the current world record is 3:43. People used to think the world was flat, and now there are footsteps on the moon. There was a time when a computer was as big as a room, and now one can fit in the palm of your hand. Life moves ever onward, and we are all destined to play our part and honor the growth imperative that lives within us.
As a kid, I collected comic books like a mad man. I remember the longing I felt to have super powers when I read those things. I wanted Super strength, super speed, super eyesight, hearing, endurance and many more. Not to mention the even cooler ones like the ability to climb up walls, change the weather, talk to animals, or shoot laser beams out of my eyes. There were endless varieties of super powers on display in those comics and I wanted them all! My super power turned out to be a deep fascination and love of sharing medicinal plants and health.
These days, Marvel has become a phenomenon that resonates with people all over the world because it is connecting with a deep natural instinct or desire in all of us to crush our limitations and be our best selves. This impulse arises from the healthiest part of us, the growing tip of the bud that’s both tender and fearless at the same time. It’s the part that wants to grow, evolve, excel, surpass, serve the greater good, have purpose and thrive. The impulse is ancient and universal, but its expression is very individual. The Sistine chapel, empire state building, Lakota feathered head dress, getting up early to hit the gym, taking the time to make your bed every morning, these are all examples of this impulse. The desire to thrive and be our best shows up in all aspects of our lives and personal health. It’s a physical, psychological, and spiritual phenomenon. Whether we are an athlete, student, entrepenuer, cinematographer, janitor, parent, or any other role, we all want to access our inner super powers, and become the hero of our own story.
Every good Super Hero begins with an awesome origin story filled with challenges that must be overcome. They become super by taking on the challenge, and using it as an opportunity to draw upon hidden abilities and courage they may not have known they had. Overcoming the challenges revealed their powers.
Between the ordinary and the uncommon is the territory of stress.
There is a constant impulse to grow and adapt in our lives. If you’re a seed sprouting out of the ground, you’re growing towards unknown territory. The sprout has no idea what type of conditions it is likely to encounter and for how long. It pokes out of the ground and may encounter a deluge, or gale force winds, or a sweltering drought. The sprout has no idea. It doesn’t have control over the outside conditions it will encounter. Its job is just to grow despite, and in relation to, the conditions, whatever they may be. It requires a willingness to risk, or it won’t get anywhere. Reach for the sun, keep your roots down and go for it! Stress, and our response to it, is the beginning point for the growth experience. Often, the difference between surviving and thriving lies in how we relate to and adapt to the stresses in our lives. Comfort and growth are not necessarily compadres. So what is it that compels the sprout, and all living things, to grow, evolve, and stretch beyond the comfort zone with no guarantee of safety or success. It is our life force, or QI or Prana in the language of traditional plant-based medicine, given to us free of charge when we show up on the earth, that compels us to grow.
What that sprout experiences in those variable and potentially harsh conditions is stress. And it is those very challenges that teach the plant how to grow towards its ultimate goal and become a tree. If there were no conditions affecting us, there wouldn’t really be a need to change, expand or grow. We are not all that different from the sprout. We too experience many forces and challenges, both big and small, every day and every moment that we are alive. Those forces encourage our growth and develop our ability to move in the optimal direction. So stress is an essential part of life, and not something to be over simplified or merely coped with.
When we start working with stress from this perspective, we start using our energy more wisely so that it can take us further.
The way that a sprout ultimately grows into a giant Sequoia is by directing its energy towards the sun, despite all of the many forces that act upon it over time. This only happens if the tree is adaptable, using energy efficiently, going with the flow, but continuing to push when necessary.
The same challenge and opportunity is ours. The requirement to change, grow, and evolve is presented to us every day of our lives, there is no getting away from it. Life wants higher and higher expressions of itself to exist, what can I say. There is before Michael Jordan, Muhammad Ali and Jane Goodall and after, that’s just a fact.