The Art of Pruning

I watched as Miguel delicately cut the lifeless leaves gathering at the base of his Rubber tree. His 2018 project was to add more life to our flat, and succeed he did. The sudden transformation of our balcony into a verdant urban jungle, combined with his morning routine of shirtless gardening has earned him the nickname ‘Mowgli’ among our friends.

I’ve been keenly observing the thickening foliage the past five months, and it’s amazing to witness the valuable effects of Mowgli’s constant pruning, specially to our fruit-bearing plants. We suddenly have a good supply of Calamansi and Chili peppers, plus one, chubby Eggplant. When you regularly take away dead branches and unnecessary buds, plants are able to absorb nutrients better, enabling them to grow faster.

Our lives require pruning too. Through time, we accumulate things, narratives, relationships, and ideologies that we carry with us. Pruning is about taking a step back and letting go of all those that are weighing us down; saying no to what is no longer aligned with the life we’d like to build, so we could be free to become the version that we seek. 

Sometimes pruning is about letting go of something good, in exchange for something better for us. Just like a gardener who cuts away perfectly healthy branches in favour of more robust ones, we need to be wise in choosing where to invest the finite time and energy that we have. As my Mom once said, “The secret to happiness is working on the essentials, less on the trimmings.” The tricky part is, many of life’s trimmings come in a really shiny package. It’s so easy to devote ourselves to pursuing them to the point of compromising what is truly valuable.

Every year, I commit to making concrete changes in order to be my best self. And it’s a rocky journey each time. Certain predispositions and bad habits that I thought I’ve unlearned would always reappear wearing a different face. My penchant for constantly trying out new things often distract me from my priorities. I’m hoping that a pruning mindset will allow me to be more skillful in keeping my tendencies in check so that I could anticipate and avoid falling into my usual patterns. 

Pruning is always mildly painful because it entails saying goodbye. And endings are often sad even if we know that there’s something better waiting for us on the other side. Instead of fearing the idea of suffering, I'm choosing to embrace it with a serene heart; hopeful for the new heights I’d reach and deeper roots I could rest on.

It’ll be springtime soon.