Picking Rocks as Therapy
Posted December 20th, 2011
I’m a believer in therapy. But recently I doubted its efficacy. It felt forced, invasive and energy-sapping. I almost gave up, but as I said, I’m a believer. Practically speaking, as a coach it’s essential that I continue to do my own work if I am to engage whole-heartedly with my clients.
So I asked myself: What do I want therapy to be like? The answer came to me on our last visit to my beloved’s homestead – a potato farm in Aroostook County, Maine (which is SIX hours north of Portland, if you can believe that…)
I’ve come to appreciate that my optimal approach to therapy is an organic one. It’s not about digging deep down into the bowels of my past or psyche, but simply looking down at my feet and noticing what rocks are blocking my path. That’s what I want – the organic, the noticing, the patience to wait for something to be revealed from my inner earth.
Now, if you’re anything like me, this whole farming metaphor is making you go, “Huh? Picking rocks?” Let me explain…
My husband grew up on a potato farm. Woe unto anyone who groans about work being hard or tedious, for his response is most often: “You want to know what hard is!? Picking rocks on your birthday EVERY year, that’s what’s hard..”
Being from NJ, I grew up believing potatoes were something that just magically appeared in supermarkets, so this “picking rocks” concept needed a fair amount of explanation when he first uttered the phrase to me.
Here’s the deal: every year, about a month after the seeds have been planted, but before the potatoes really start to grow, the whole family (and all their friends and neighbors) would head out into the fields (typically RIGHT on his birthday in June) and would pick rocks so that when the potatoes grew up through the earth, they wouldn’t get bruised by bumping up against a rock. They did this EVERY year.
“Didn’t you get all the rocks the previous year?” I’d ask.
Silly me. Apparently the earth just keeps pushing up more rocks, resulting in an endless cycle of churning and picking, churning and picking.
So you see? There isn’t any need to mine deep down for the riches, the earth will bring them to you and deposit them right at your feet. And then you can just pick it up and go, “huh, look at that one!” and chuck it on the flatbed with the other rocks.
I like this because it’s seasonal. There is a time for picking rocks, and there is a time to let the soil do its work. That was the answer to my question: I don’t want therapy to be about digging around in my soil with a sharp metal prong. I want it to be an organic process that stems from within.
But in this age of “just do it”, wherein we have built alters to technology and our machines, this “let the earth bring it to you” approach can sound like a cop-out because of its implicit ease and slower pace. That’s okay. I’m cool with that.
I trust my rocks will come to me. And in the meantime, I’ll be walking my fields, breathing in the rich smell of fresh dirt at my feet and marveling all the expansive blue sky above.
I’m living above ground from now on. And I happy to report my new therapist is driving a rockin’ flatbed next to me to keep me company and help carry my rocks.