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Vigor & The Art of Bonsai

A hobby I picked up this past year is bonsai trees.

I’m not sure what first drew me to them, but now, I’m fascinated by this process and these trees.

For those who aren’t familiar with bonsai, it is a technique where instead of planting a tree in the ground, you plant it in a container or pot. The word “bonsai” literally means “tray planting”. The idea is to keep it from growing to its normal size but to mirror the proportions of a large, “wild” tree.

It may be a stretch, but I think there are a couple lessons to learn from the art of bonsai.


A bonsai tree has specific conditions that it needs in order to thrive. It needs the right amount of sun, the right nutrients in the soil, the right ph levels, the right amount of water, the right temperature, etc.. And if a tree lacks healthy roots, it won’t be able to absorb and transport the vital things it needs to grow. When all those factors are in order, the tree will absorb energy through the roots and transport it to each brand and leaf, and the tree will grow.

Growth is good, but not all growth. Sometimes growth needs pruned.


Pruning may seem painful, but it is necessary for a healthy tree.

Pruning is the cutting off of strategic branches in order to manage the size and “vigor”. If we have done our jobs, the tree has good soil, the right amount of light and water, and it is growing well. “Vigor” is basically all the cumulative energy the tree is bringing up from the soil and into new growth.

You’ll notice that some areas of the tree grow extremely fast and others grow more slowly. The fast areas would be described as having more vigor. The idea is to cut off the fast growing areas as well as the areas that won’t help our objective. For example, if a branch is growing in toward the middle of the tree, it will complicate the design and take vigor away from the sections of the tree that we want to grow well.

It all boils down to a simple formula.

Growth & pruning make for a healthy, well-balanced bonsai tree.

I would argue this is also the formula for a healthy life.

A healthy life starts with taking in things that give us vigor. We spend time and energy cultivating our physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional health.

Then, we need to cut some stuff out. We have to recognize what is taking too much of our energy and vigor and not producing the results we want. We have to be honest and self-aware about where we’re headed and if all the things that take energy help us actually get there.

So, I have two questions:

How are you cultivating vigor? (Physical, mental, spiritual, emotional, etc.)

What things are taking your vigor that need to be cut out?

Ps. A Youtube account who walks you through bonsai care: Nigel Saunders.


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