• Casey McKinley

If we're not growing, we're shrinking


We naturally take comfort in the belief of a steady state. One that offers rest when we're tired, space to lick our wounds when we're hurt and freedom to soak up our pleasures when we're thriving.


But there is no such place. We're either rising or falling, expanding or contracting, developing or regressing.


At each moment, we're either being dragged down by our primal self or lifted up by our higher self.


Our primal self is concerned only with obtaining the immediate pleasure derived from satiating our base emotions, such as: lust, greed, anger and fear. With our primal self in charge, we face a steady march downward toward the empty and worthless world of oblivion.


In contrast, our higher self seeks to deliver pleasure by fulfilling the needs of our higher emotions, such as: love, contentment, peace and freedom. With our higher self leading the way, we progress upward to the world of abundance, happiness and purpose.


The throne of control is never vacant as these two forces are constantly at battle to occupy it. Whoever is on the seat of power will be taking us the only direction it knows. Unless we are consciously elevating our higher self to the seat of power, our primal self has the reigns.


Our higher self requires the right conditions to grow and thrive, much like a tree seedling. Where the seedling requires the correct climate, location and water levels, our higher self demands cultivation of the "Three P's":


  • Productivity: We must be consistently working toward something meaningful. This provides us with regular evidence that our lives matter. There is nothing more soul-sucking than spending our most precious resources (time & attention) on something that doesn't offer any value.

  • Passion: We must be consistently dedicated to a pursuit we're passionate about. As the precursor to purpose, passion ignites us in a way that nothing else can. Embracing our passions turns on our ability to do truly great things. While it may be "safer" to chose a life devoid of passion, who would want to live through such a monotonous and trudgingly boring affair?

  • Presence: We must be consistently living in the now, by consciously letting go of the wounds of the past and the worry about the future. There is a childlike freedom we gain by not allowing the problems of the world to stick to us. There are endless barriers that exist when we leave the present. For instance, not being good enough in the past has no bearing on whether we're good enough this time. Additionally, being worried about failing in the future will certainly prevent us from being our best preparing for it now.


To become an expert arborist of our higher self, we must develop the necessary skills of cultivation. As our skills grow, so does the size and grandeur of our higher self.


Expert cultivation is a two-sided affair.

  • On the first side, we focus on giving the tree everything it needs to grow than thrive. Here, we will steadily come to know and nourish the relationships and activities that activate our Three P's.

  • On the second side, we focus on pruning away the weeds that threaten our tree's growth. Here, we discover the relationships and activities that will never give rise to the Three P's. These weeds must be pruned away ruthlessly to prevent them from sucking up any more of our vital resources (time & attention) than is absolutely necessary.


We have spent our entire lives cultivating the right conditions for our tree and have now been thrust into a new world overnight.


Like an expert arborist, we have to adapt to the new reality.


We must reconnect to the conditions that give rise to our higher self.


Additionally, and more importantly, in a time of immense change, we must honor the importance of the second side of cultivation by remaining vigilant of the new weeds that are sprouting up all around us. Rather than allow these new weeds to suffocate our tree from the vital resources it needs, we must prune them away relentlessly to wrest control from our primal self.

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"To the dull mind all nature is leaden. To the illumined mind the whole world sparkles with light."  Ralph Waldo Emerson

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