One of my favorite metaphors for the prisoner reentry work I’m involved in is “planting seeds” . . . planting seeds in the minds of audiences at my speaking engagements for people to think about crime, punishment and justice in new ways . . . planting seeds with the agencies involved in the prisoner reentry coalitions I’m helping to form across Pennsylvania to improve reentry and reduce the use of incarceration in their communities . . . planting seeds of hope and a sense of worthiness, meaning and purpose for the men and women in the RMO’s twice-weekly Successful Returning Citizens Mentoring Support Group meetings . . . planting seeds for new programs and services that we can offer through the incredibly dedicated partners in the RMO.

Of course, it takes a whole mix of just the right elements for seeds to germinate – sun, rain, air, fertile ground, to name a few. Some seeds may never germinate. Some may thrust up spindly seedlings, then wither and die. Some may start to take root, but be mowed down or yanked up, either carelessly or intentionally. Some may falter due to drought, flood, lack of sunlight or toxins in the environment. All of those metaphors also hold true with this work.

Once a tiny seed germinates, takes root, grows sturdy and strong, and produces a tree or flowers, it’s one of the greatest miracles on Earth.

And . . . all of that takes a tremendous amount of energy and resources.

There’s another process, called “quiescence,” that’s just as crucial to healthy, living plants.

“Quiescence” for trees and perennials is defined as a period of “tranquil rest”, when they slow their growth in response to environmental cues such as the colder temperatures and reduced daylight. This cycle of “tranquil rest” lets the plants develop stress-resistant seeds and buds that will reemerge, strong and healthy, and blossom again in the spring.

I like that metaphor, too. It reminds me that, like the trees and perennials in my little city garden, I need to give myself the gift of “tranquil rest”.

Along with this concept of “quiescence”, I continue to be profoundly moved (and shaken!) by several thoughts from Thomas Merton and Wayne Muller that I’ve written about before:

First, from Merton: “To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything, is to succumb to violence. The frenzy of our activism neutralizes our work for peace. It destroys our own inner capacity for peace. It destroys the fruitfulness of our own work, because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful.” ~ from “Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander”

This notion of frenzied busy-ness as a form of “violence” is disturbing, yet it seems intuitively true. And I continue to see the wisdom of following nature’s rhythms as an antidote.

In his book “Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal and Delight in Our Busy Lives”, ordained minister and therapist Wayne Muller writes:

“If busyness can become a kind of violence, we do not have to stretch our perception very far to see that Sabbath time – effortless, nourishing rest – can invite a healing of this violence. When we consecrate a time to listen to the still, small voices, we remember the root of inner wisdom that makes work fruitful. We remember from where we are most deeply nourished, and see more clearly the shape and texture of the people and things before us.”

So, as I have done for the past several years, I’m once again going on a “technology Sabbath” through the month of December, limiting my time on social media, email and voice mail to only what is required to fulfill my responsibilities with my reentry consulting clients and the RMO.

I’m looking forward to savoring this time of deep peace and re-connection with family and friends, time for quiet reflection, time to appreciate nature, and time to marinate in gratitude for the many blessings and miracles in my life. I hope this time of “tranquil rest” will also help me to develop some stress-resistance, to re-emerge strong and healthy again in the spring, to continue the work of planting seeds.

I wish each of you, and those you love, abundant joy and tranquility throughout this season of miracles,

Question of the Day

What would a time of “quiescence” look like for you? How might you create such a time for yourself, whether for an hour, an afternoon, a day or longer? You are deeply worthy of such a gift. May you find ways to grant yourself that peace.

Posted by Melanie Tagged as:

Next: How being trauma-informed improves criminal justice responses

Previous: Traumatic Childhood Experiences Linked to Adult Addictions, Mental Illness and Crime - Part 2