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No wine this year: three lessons in resilience from plants and grapevines

Three ways to develop resilience: 1) Don't believe your mind, feel your emotions; 2) Commit to your practice, not to an outcome; 3) Develop rituals.
Stefania Montagna

Stefania Montagna

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No wine this year

One simple text and an announcement. Followed by some pictures: grapevines looking frazzled, their roots firmly anchored to a soil that was covered in snow. This happened on June 11th, in the midst of a heat wave that came with snowstorms and blizzards. The grapevines? Gone.

The message came from my partner’s cousin, a hyppy woman who, between her job and two kids is always on the run and spends her week-ends tending to the grapevines, the mynth, the aloe vera and everything else that she has planted alongside the vineyards—which, as it’s typical in the area, are built sidewise along steep cliffs. To say that I am impressed with her orchard is an understatement.

Ribeira Sacra, a region of grapevines built along the cliffs of the Miño

​In our fast paced society, we too often forget the orchards and the grapevines. Interestingly enough, the fate of harvests wasn’t mentioned in many of the articles I have read this week about the heat wave that has been setting record temperatures in north America, although—I’m sure—the fields have been affected. Maybe the orchards are the answer: to the heat, to the out-of-season blizzards and to our own resilience.

Resilience in plants: a different creative approach

​Stefano Mancuso, Italian botanist, and a founder of the study of plant neurobiology—the field that studies the way plants communicate—points out that the difference between animals and plants is that animals—including the human species—solve their problems by moving.

This has an important implication:flight or fight isn’t an alternative that‘s available to plants, when you think about it.

Comic Strip by Stefania Montagna

Therefore, Mancuso tells us, plants are extremely creative in the resolution of problems. Their creativity rests on a decentralized, distributed structure, increasing their resilience in the face of adverisity. There’s no head, no nevralgical center, not one decision maker.

In truth, as recent studies in neurology have proven, the same decentralization is found—to a very large extent—also in the human body. For example, memory is not a centralized function of the brain: even in the brain, it rests on a series of functions and systems. But what’s remarkable is that scientists have recently demonstrated that the gut—also dubbed “the second brain” of the body—has a memory of its own. Some therapeutic approaches—such as biodynamic dialogue—have been leveraging this knowledge for decades.

Doesn’t this make you feel like you also want to leverage this knowledge and start living on a different rhythm? No longer fight or flight, but flow?

Three powerful lessons in resilience

There are at least three powerful lessons to be inferred from the story above:

1. To be more resilient, rememeber that you don’t always need to trust your brain

​If you were a plant, and you’d been under the weather, you would neither flight or fight. And maybe, maybe you wouldn’t think either. Maybe you would just feel. And connect. Which means, no analyzing or rationalizing. Remember: “I feel you’re wrong” is not a feeling.

Don’t feel your ideas. Focus on the four basic emotions: happiness, sadness, anger or fear and focus on how they move through your body. And know that, often, an emotion is just a cognitive interpretation of what’s going on in our body.

In and of itself, stepping away from the mind and into your body will enable you to develop a higher level of resilience, cause, when confronted with an obstacle, recognizing your emotions gives you a way to name and separate, and therefore find an anchor before you decide how to respond.

2. Become more resilient by letting go of the outcome

​There are things that are within our control and things that are decidedly outside of our control, as working with an orchard so clearly shows.

We are only responsible for our 50% of the equation, for the commitment we put into showing up every day for the work we’ve chosen to do to serve the world.

But we can never get to control the outcome. That’s why, in business as in life, it’s best to focus on our practice: on what we will do day after day to breathe life into our projects and dreams. Focusing on our practice makes us resilient, cause it gives us a sense of predictability and control. A storm might come, or a heatwave. Both might destroy our metaphorical orchard, but neither will be able to destroy the heroism that’s behind our commitment to show up day after day.

3. Develop resilience by developing a ritual

​What would you do the day after the blizzard if you owned an orchard? You’d return to the plants and show them your love.

An orchard commands a set of rituals in order to prosper, and those are the ones that we would return back to again and again, no matter what.

The orchard doesn’t know that it’s Sunday, Christmas day or the peak of the summer holidays: it needs tending to every day.

However, that tending to is based on the cycles of the moon and must be informed by what nature has already provided. There’s no point watering the orchard if it’s been raining for four days.

Resilience, likewise, rests on the ability to adapt when the conditions change, and still keep our true north.

Likewise, we’d do well to develop a ritual—for anchoring—but without ever making it too rigid.

​Now let’s turn the lens on you

  • What are you doing to ensure you’re balancing your commitment to your goals to respecting the rhythms? (Of nature, of life and your own)
  • What is the one thing you can commit to trying next time you find that you are drawn to fight or flight? What ritual can you set up for yourself?
  • What practices could you commit to in order to develop resilience?

Send me an e-mail and let me know!

And if you think someone you know might benefit from this, send it over!

May we all, together, reach our height and shine a light 💕 💕 💕​

Stefania

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