What Do You Need to Prune?

Here in the tropics, I’m discovering that things grow with abandon during the rainy season.  Every day there’s buzzing and grinding echoing through the verdant valleys as West Indian gardeners go about taming the unruly Hibiscus, Bougainvillea, Ginger Thomas, Ixora, and other flowering tropical wonders.  During the first few months in our new home, however, I did NO pruning because the prior owner had cut back everything so mercilessly that nothing could bloom.  Everything was tight and symmetrical, but certainly not flourishing.  Now, left to their natural patterns, the plants of our garden are growing and blooming like crazy.   I go out every week or so and do some selective pruning to give them shape and encouragement, and also to make space for us to move past the plants along the walkway and driveway.  I cut mindfully, trying to maintain a natural shape and encourage the plants’ fullest and healthiest blooming beauty. Today I tackled an area I hadn’t pruned at all yet, the area around the guest apartment which we soon will offer as a vacation rental.  I had enjoyed the dense tropical jungle effect, a treat for a gal from West Texas.  But the plants were straining upward to get some sun, the tight weave was shielding their roots from the rain, and they were looking straggly and weak.  It took some courage to start cutting, but each time I stepped back to observe the effect, I could see something really nice was emerging.  I started with my loppers, did finer work with my nippers, and then took out some exposed wood with my saw.  I wandered through the growth, beginning to see how I could make a little garden hideaway in the shaded protected corner.   I trimmed to create a way to move through it as well as to bring in a bit more light and breeze.  I trimmed to help the plants frame and compliment the guest apartment rather than overwhelm it.  I trimmed to help the plants grow stronger and more able to withstand strong winds.  I trimmed to help them bloom.

Finally I stepped way back to check out the overall picture.  It looked quite nice, and I was proud.   I got excited about showing Peter my handiwork, and then I realized:  he won’t be able to tell what I’ve done.  In fact, even I can hardly tell what I’ve done because it looks natural and relaxed.  It looks like it’s “supposed” to look.  It looks like itself.  I guess that’s what good pruning is all about.

Good pruning is part of what good personal growth work is all about too – whether through coaching, workshops, counseling, or one’s own self-directed journey – it’s about pruning back what’s no longer necessary, what’s struggling, what’s blocking the natural flow, what’s taking energy and resources to maintain yet weakening the whole in the process.   In carefully, lovingly and intentionally letting go of what is no longer working, we allow the natural beauty of the true self to emerge.  We relax, we blossom, we grow strong.  No one is likely to say, “wow, what a good job you’ve done pruning yourself!”  They may not even see it.  But when we free ourselves to breathe, to move, to express and be seen as we are, we flourish.

In our flourishing, just as in my garden’s flourishing, there will be greater and greater expansion.  That expansion will bring forward to the need to prune again, to find anew that which is no longer needed or useful, and to carefully, lovingly let it go.


May your heart guide all your pruning, and may you flourish and bloom.