3 Things You Need If You’re An Airplant

At the end of A Wild New Work, we do a closing ceremony where each person is asked to bring in a gift (real or symbolic) that they’d like to leave the group with. In our ceremony this past November, one of the participants very sweetly brought me an airplant, which is one of my favorite kinds of plants.

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultant
Some of my airplants drying out after their bath.

Airplants, formally known as Tillandsia, are native to South/Central America, the southern United States, and the West Indies. They’re these adorable little things that can attach to other creatures (you’ll see them growing on trees in the wild), but many of them don’t require any soil.

Some of them will shoot roots, but they’re unlike other plants in that they don’t require an underground support system.

In my work, I talk a lot about how important it is to be grounded (rooted), because without being grounded, it’s easy to lose a sense of who we are amidst the chaos of life. Rooting into what is meaningful for you, whether it’s through a daily spiritual practice, going for a walk outside, or simply living in integrity, is essential for us humans to live well.

But sometimes we’re so taken out of our elements, either by a crisis or a major change like moving or getting a new job, that it feels like we lose our rootedness for a minute.

This is the limbo stage we get put into when we enter into a new phase of our lives, and it can be really uncomfortable.

This topic feels very personal to me right now, as I’m about to enter into the completely unknown territory of motherhood. Maybe for you, the territory is a reconnection to your true identity, a new relationship, or an unfamiliar town that you’ve just moved to.

I think airplants have something to teach us about this place of limbo – this feeling like everything is unfamiliar, or like we can’t make sense of things like we used to. Eventually we’ll get rooted again (hopefully in a rich, healthy soil), but if we take a few cues from our airplant friends, it’s possible to get through this in-between stage with grace.

The three most important things that airplants need in order to survive are light, water, and air. Let’s take a look at how each of these can help us in these times of transition (bonus: this can be a mini airplant care tutorial if you need one!):

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultantLight

Airplants need to be no more than three feet away from a brightly-lit window. They love the light.

The light warms us, helps us see clearly, and bestows invisible vitamins on us without our having to do anything. It’s a gift.

When we’re in this place of feeling like we’ve lost our groundedness, we can seek the light. What is it in our lives that makes us feel warm? Can we get closer to it in this time? And how about seeing clearly? What can we do to have more clarity? Maybe it’s journaling, asking ourselves if we really believe something to be true, or talking to a supportive person in our lives.

Sit in the light of what feels like truth to you and you’ll get all the warmth, clarity, and nutritious vitamins that you need in this time. For me, this light has been the work of Byron Katie and her book Loving What Is, which I highly recommend.

Water

Most airplants need a bath 1-3 times per week for about 20 minutes each time. This enables them to really soak up resources and stay hydrated.

When was the last time you felt totally submerged, in a good way?

Think back to a time when your cup felt really full or like you had a lot in your emotional/energetic tank. Can you feel that fullness in your body?

A few weeks ago, I scheduled a prenatal massage because when you’re pregnant, your body has no idea what the fuck is happening and starts to decompose. Or at least that’s what it can feel like. On my way to the massage that I was so looking forward to, it was raining, I had Lykke Li playing, and my heart was so full. I hadn’t even gotten to the massage yet, but that simple act of showing up for myself and what my body needed made me feel submerged in goodness.

We all need to bathe regularly, and not just literally – we need to feel submerged into whatever it is that fills us up, whether it’s a massage, lighting a candle, or getting outside. Just because we don’t have roots in this time doesn’t mean that we have to run on empty – just like airplants, we can still store up resources to draw from when we need them.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pkjm_Go-JFk
Air Plant Design Studio

Air

Once the airplants get their mini spa day, it’s really important that they dry out completely within four hours. Putting them in a place that gets good air circulation is critical, or else they’ll rot from the inside out (I’ve had this happen, and it’s sad).

Fortunately, when we’re in this place of limbo and newness, there’s already lots of air circulating!

We’re no longer in our stale, stuffy old patterns – we’re breathing in novelty and change. The key is to incorporate plenty of light and water into your life so that all of the freshness around you doesn’t start to feel completely overwhelming.

This sense of limbo won’t last forever. Eventually, we’ll begin to feel grounded again and things will start to feel familiar. Change is a wonderful thing most of the time, but it can cause some real discomfort when we’re in the midst of it.

If you’re in unfamiliar territory, don’t panic: that sense of groundedness will be back soon.

In the meantime, focus on the light, water, and air that are always available to support you.

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