The word “understory” refers toÂ Â Where I live, most of the understory in the woods is, unfortunately, something called bush honeysuckle. While it is bright green and looksÂ like a cheerful thing in early spring, poppingÂ into life after the bareness of winter, it is a non-native, invasive plant. Plants like this choke out the native shrubs and plants, filling up the understory of our woods with something whose main virtue is that of shelter for birds. A good thing, for sure, but bush honeysuckle also offers bright red berries that are tasty and appealing to birds but offer no nutritional value. So this is a pretty bad deal all around. Parks and conservation departments urge us to destroy the plants if we have them in our yards, so that they don’t continue to spread.
On a long ramble in the woods the other day, as I enjoyedÂ the long view, I was struck by the similarity between a forest’s understory and what I will call our own understories. Deepak Chopra says that myÂ core self (what some would call the soul) is perfect and cannot be altered or damaged by life, circumstances, or anything I or anyone else could ever do. It (I) will remain perfect for eternity. Oh, I find this amazing! Â Mesmerizing. Liberating. My various good and bad traits, my little peccadillos, strengths, vulnerabilities, all of the negative and positive aspects of what I call my personality, he says, are not partÂ of my pure, true self. My pure,Â trueÂ self is perfect. YES.
I usually think of myself asÂ the fully fleshed out self that I present to the world, and for that matter, to myself, with all those traits and characteristics, all my variousÂ circumstancesÂ and all of myÂ history. But to believe Deepak,Â I am part of the forest–the sycamore, the eucalyptus, the redbud, the maple–perfect just as I am.Â My understory isÂ all kinds ofÂ other things. I want my understory filled with authentic, true-to-me, polite, i.e., non-invasive, elements that belong in and peacefully coexistÂ within the forest. I want my underpinning to be strong but not invasive. I want real and true growth springing from the ground I’m rooted in, a bed of beautiful plans and ideas blooming in me, creativityÂ blossoming, wandering, daydreamy thoughts, innovative ideas that foster, rather than inhibit my own and others’ enrichment. I do not want repetitive, negative thoughts, petty grievances, old slights and hurts choking off all these positives. Â I do not want circular thinking, assumptions or fear winding themselves around me and preventing my growth. I want true grounding, unimpeded by my own unwillingness to let go and open up. This is what I want my understory to be.
So, just what is my understory? What is yours? Can we alter them? I say yes. Will we? I say yes, at least, for my part, I will. I can and I will alter some things. I can and will do some pruning. For the sake of the forest.