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How to be strong: Grow down


I’ve been thinking about this idea for several months.taproot person

Usually, posts near the end of the year have to do with reflecting back upon the year that was or talk about planning for how the upcoming year will be bold, wonderful, and groundbreaking for you.

I hope your year is bold, wonderful, and groundbreaking for you, but that’s not what has been on my mind.

I’ve been thinking of something very simple.

The taproot.

Dictionary.com gives this definition:

tap Ÿroot [tap-root], noun, Botany, a main root descending downward from the radicle and giving off small lateral roots.

You’ve seen taproots before. Carrots are taproots. Parsnips are taproots.

Dandelions have taproots and that’s why they are so hard to get rid of. You pluck off the top of the weed, but the taproot remains stubbornly in the ground, ready to create another dandelion seemingly in an instant.

 The stubborn taproot

I remember one of my first wrestling matches with a taproot.

I was trying to remove an old, dead shrub in my yard. I dug around it, chopping off the lateral roots. I could feel the shrub give way as I dug deeper and I gave it a tug now and again to see if it was ready to be pulled free.

But something held it down.

Puzzled, I dug around and under the shrub, carefully clearing away any thin roots I saw that were keeping it attached to the earth.

I yanked again. The shrub moved back and forth freely, but still would not emerge from the hole.

Finally, I got out a flashlight, lay on my stomach in the dirt next to the plant and peered into the dark to see what could possibly be holding this shrub down.

Through the dust, I saw it. A root shooting straight down from the plant, easily ten times in diameter the size of the lateral roots.

No wonder I couldn’t pull the shrub up!

In the end, I had to get an axe and chop down and sideways to sever the taproot. When the shrub finally came free, I lifted it over my head, victorious after several hours of work.

 The work of the taproot

Then I set it down and looked admiringly at the taproot. It was dead like the bush but, even in death, it had a legacy: a tenacious desire to keep doing its right work in the world. It kept that bush attached to the earth no matter what happened.

All taproots grow down into the earth, not only securing the plant but also seeking out water to keep the plant fed and alive.

And, as the plant or tree sways in the wind, the taproot holds firm and grows even stronger in response to the turmoil above ground.

 The question

So, I’ve been thinking about this idea of the taproot and I started to wonder:

What is my taproot?

What is it that holds me firmly to the ground, that seeks out the water of life to feed me, that grows stronger as I sway back and forth in the storms of life?

And, even if I face adversity so difficult that I feel like I’ve been chopped to the ground, what is it that sprouts life within me anew?

If you’ll excuse my poor drawing abilities, here’s what my taproot might look like:


I realized that my taproot isn’t made up of an “it.” It consists of a core group of essential factors that include acceptance, connection, perspective, values, family, and friends.

You can see that my social group – my family and friends – and my values are the largest and most important to me. They are the things that are most deeply rooted and headed for the water I need.

Then come keeping perspective, being accepting, and being in connection with myself and others.

 What holds us to the earth

These are the things that hold me to the earth, that allow me to grow again even when I had life all planned out and the pretty flower of those expectations gets chopped off.

These are the things that grow stronger deep within me when I get buffeted by life’s winds.

These are the things that keep me always doing and seeking what is my right work in the world.

These are the things that grow down in me, rooting me, feeding me, and creating a beautiful blossom above.

This is my taproot.

What is yours?

Tell me about your taproot in the comments section.



  1. Shelly says:

    Great post. My tap root I will say are my children and grand children. I know that they need me and I need them. Sometimes I wish that they could form another tap root for themselves, like a sprig of a tree develops from an old tree allowing the young tree to grow and not need the adult tree to always shelter it from a storm once it becomes stabilized in the earth. Make sense? My adult children have not established a tap root even though it is encouraged. I have stopped enabling my daughter, my son I am still helping at 19 , however he is a little delayed so
    I am feeling somewhat guilty if I throw him into a tornado without a tap root!
    I suppose My parents are my tap root as they are very supportive of me and my mom listens to me and I her.
    Do you think if one could go under the earth and look up, there would be so many entangled tap roots that you couldn’t really figure out which root belonged to which plant?

    • Bobbi says:

      I don’t know, Shelly. I think those taproots are pretty strong and straight, so I think you might be able to see which one belonged to which plant! 😉

      But I think we can certainly feel like our taproot is tangled up in other things.

      I like your analogy of the new tree springing up from the adult tree. I grew up in Washington State and there is a wondrous rain forest on the Olympic Peninsula. There are trees known as ‘nurse trees’ that have fallen, but out of them grow new young trees, feeding off the nutrients of the nurse tree as it decays. There’s something magnificent about that, don’t you think?

      I also like how you are trying to help your kids develop their own taproot rather than relying on you and yours. Although I’m sure you are a big portion of their taproot, they will be most resilient when they have the depth they need on their own.

  2. Kriss says:

    My taproot is the gospel of Jesus Christ. This keeps me firmly planted in the world but not of the world. I realize “things” do not develop me; the experiences, adversities, trials, blessings & faith shape and mold me as a spiritual being having a mortal experience.

    • Kriss says:

      I believe if I could look up from “modern” taproots to the source of life–many millennia years ago–I would discover we are most definitely tightly intertwined & connected to the Father of all living. The experiences I wrote about (in first post) make one’s taproot strong enough to support another who may not be able to withstand adversities of life unassisted.

    • Bobbi says:

      Kriss, this is wonderful! Many people find their spirituality or religion to be an important part of their taproot. Thanks so much for sharing!

  3. Mamie Rock says:

    Dear Bobbi,

    Each time I read one of your posts I feel so grateful to have come across Bounce. Each year I struggle with whether to make resolutions- the discipline to improve myself is necessary yet so often in the chaos of life resolutions get shunted aside, leaving guilt in their wake. But to embrace an image for the new year- an image that will inspire me to take care of myself and the world around me- an image is the perfect New Year’s Inspiration. If I take the taproot as my image, then my spirituality, my family concerns, my work will all be focused on becoming deeper, stronger, healthier- a strong taproot will enable me to lavish energy on those whom I love while remembering to take the time to pray, meditate, and exercise. I cannot wait to share your post! May God continue to bless your efforts to reach out to others in the new year.

    • Bobbi says:

      Mamie, I love how you are using an image to inspire you! You and I are thinking alike in the idea that the taproot can be the thing to lead us, guide us, and keep us grounded.

      Thanks so much for your kind words about Bounce. I am blessed to have you in our community!

  4. Raelene says:

    Hi Bobbi:

    I really like your taproot analogy. I think for me, when times are difficult, I reflect that life is not always going to be up. There will be ups and downs. I draw upon faith and hope, and knowing that I’ve pulled myself out of deep pits in the past. I’m resourceful and resilient to some extent knowing that “this too shall pass.” I also try my best in tough times to stay positive–giving thanks for all I do have.

    Thanks for starting a lovely discussion.

    • Bobbi says:

      Thanks, Raelene! What you say is kind of what I call, for me, ‘perspective.’ Realizing that life has ups and downs and that I’ve made it through them before – this is an important component of my taproot.

      So good to hear from you!

  5. Jan says:

    This is fabulous and amazing. Such a delight to count you among the contents of my taproot. I am taking off in the car, alone, for a ride, and I have this to ponder as the year ends.

    Thank you.

    • Bobbi says:


      I’ll be so interested to hear what you come up with! It’s a cool concept, isn’t it? Perhaps a topic for our Gathering next week?!

  6. Chris Speers says:


    What a clever topic! I seldom look to see what keeps me going. Like yourself, I’d have to say friends and beyond that, hope, experience, and stubborness. I seldom respond to blogs but I really enjoyed reading yours today. All best for a healthy, hearty and serene New Year’s celebration.

    • Bobbi says:

      Thanks, Chris! I wish you a peaceful, healthy, mindful new year as well!

      I really like that you included hope in your taproot. That is a huge part of resiliency and one that I think will come up a bit more here at Bounce in 2014.

      Thanks so much for chiming in – it’s great to hear your voice!

  7. Ayelet says:

    I loved what you wrote! it’s beautiful!
    i think my taproot is: family. love. resilience. knowing that nothing is the end of the world. acceptance. professional support.

    • Bobbi says:

      Ah, Ayelet, one of my favorite perspectives: “knowing that nothing is the end of the world.” I love it!

      Thanks so much for sharing your taproot!

  8. Mary says:

    I love what everyone else has been saying! Your post has really got me thinking. I am going through a divorce right now and am sometimes feeling like my taproot is being shaken so violently that it won’t survive but then I remember how I felt before separation and realize what has kept me going is that I know my own truth and I seek out others who also know their own truth. I have discovered that I am stronger than I think I am and as long as I stay true to myself, everything will work out in the end. I still have to keep repeating this to myself at times. I have compromised my values and allowed another to trample all over them and felt absolutely terrible. I know now that I can never let that happen again. For the first time in my life I have cultivated a group of friends who are true to themselves and who support me in my journey. Being stubborn and resilient are important but the hardest lesson is self forgiveness and self acceptance. That is what I must nurture now after years of neglecting these. That as well as never, ever, ever giving up hope!

    • Bobbi says:

      Hi Mary,

      It sounds like “staying true to myself” is a huge part of your taproot – perhaps the deepest component. That is lovely and inspirational!

      And I agree with you about self-forgiveness and self-acceptance – they can be tough lessons. But the good thing is that you’ve already figured out you need them. Some people never even get to that point!

      Thanks so much for sharing about your taproot.

  9. Deb says:

    Thank you for the post. I don’t think resolutions are the best as far as accomplishing something more or different in a new year. I think resolutions are resolving the things of the past year or years so you can move on and be someone new in the new year. Therefore, I love your analogy of the taproot. I need to better water and nourish the components of my taproot. I have had many trials the past two or three years keeping a roof over my head. I am so positive and then it all goes. I wish there was or is a way to remain strong and full of faith in the face of total unknowningness. I would feel I really made a transformation in or for the new year if I could hold on to the positive place of being no matter what, no matter when I can’t see what is next. Thank you for the post and sharing. Nourishes

    • Bobbi says:

      Deb, I think you are remaining strong and full of faith. It may not feel like it, but that’s the beauty of the taproot – your faith is in there and keeping you going even when the above-ground part gets whacked down by life. It’s hard to stay positive all the time when we have real adversity like trying to keep a roof over our heads. I think it’s okay to let yourself be sad, angry, and frustrated sometimes but always remembering that your taproot of faith and optimism will keep you grounded.

      Here’s to a meaningful new year for you!


    Dear Bobbi I think after a long time I read a wonderful blog. It’s given new perspective to quest,how to look inside deep within and rediscover yourself. Great!
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  11. Isidore says:

    Dear Bobbi,

    Thank you so much for sharing such a beautiful and meaningful post at this special time of year. It made me reflect on the “Tree” pose in yoga. Occasionally my yoga teacher will invite us to meditate in the pose, and visualise our roots growing downwards into the earth, making us grounded and stable, and seeking nourishment and energy to draw back upwards for the tree, as you say. I always find this hard to visualise, but having read your post yesterday, you’ve given me a completely different perspective on what being “rooted” can actually mean. Wishing you a very happy New Year . . .

    Isidore recently posted…How to make your New Year Resolutions actually succeed (Part One)My Profile

    • Bobbi says:

      Happy New Year to you, Isidore!

      I can see where visualizing the taproot during Tree pose can be very powerful! Perhaps it is an idea you can share with your teacher and fellow students.

      I’m glad the post is helpful for you, Isidore!

  12. Nicole D. says:

    Happy New Year!!

    I believe mine would be perseverance; which is also my word for 2014. I have to hold onto something and it was originally a phrase, never, ever, EVER, give up. Which, in turn, I realized is equates to perseverance. This path is rather difficult at times, but I’m vowing to never, EVER, give up.

    Thank you, Bobbi.


    • Bobbi says:

      That’s great, Nicole! So ‘perseverance’ is your root word for the year. I’m wondering if growing some of the other aspects of your taproot may be helpful, too. Perhaps social support and hope?

      Wishing you a peaceful, meaningful New Year!

  13. Anu says:

    Thank you so much for this! It reminds me of the artistic renderings of the ‘tree of life’ I’ve seen in various places.
    To me, that tree relays the importance of a strong foundation–it’s topmost branches reach, but it seems balance rules–as the top expands, so does the base/root ball.

    My taproot, I think, is my sense of responsibility and my love for my son. He’s 29 and he’s been labeled autistic since before it was ‘kewl’ to sport such a label. I’ve been working hard on getting him ready for the world–one day, I wont be here anymore, and we’re not from a family focused family, so he’s going to have to take care of himself. don’t really have any friends–I have people in my life that I have love for…people who I would do almost anything for, but I know better than to expect anything like that in return. I know people, and I choose to love them, anyway…

    My sense of responsibility, the love I have for my son, love I have for other people I used to know, and humans in general….and my knowledge of humans…That’s probably the pith of my taproot. The exterior, or the ‘skin’ that maintains all the innards listed above, would be my spiritual belief system. Because of that spiritual edge, there are scuffs and scars evident on the root, but the structure is still quite sound.

    Please don’t judge me as harsh or uncaring because I don’t have friends. I’m autistic, too…went to an experimental school as a child because of it. Gray areas are hard for me, so I have to view things in a manner that makes sense to me–is within the spectrum representative of my map of the world. Just as many others, I’ve had some life experiences that were very painful. Choosing to love other humans despite the hiccups, expecting nothing in return, is my way of kicking myself in the tookus –helps motivate me to plant my feet on the ground every morning.

    Happy Happy New Year…

    • Bobbi says:

      And Happy New Year to you, Anu! I love your poetic comment here!

      Yes, the Tree of Life image is equally compelling, isn’t it? You may also be interested in reading James Hillman’s wonderful book, The Soul’s Code: In Search of Character and Calling. Hillman also talks about the importance of growing down, that we do our best in the world when we attach well to our roots.

      No judgment of you, my friend! I admire your spunk and your sense of humor as you tend to your taproot!

  14. Anusha says:

    Thank you for the perspective. My tap root I would say is my mother. I can’t think of anyone else. Time and again, through the rough and smooth, my mom has always been my anchor. My worst fear is what will I do without her? I have been with my faith in God for years now. My mother has always been my source of strength, the one person who makes me feel life is worth living. There are times when I feel totally insignificant, like nothing I do would make a difference in the lives of those around me. Those are times when my dear mom comes to my rescue, always believing in me, always motivating me. What would I do without her? The very thought freezes my mind and body.

    • Bobbi says:

      Anusha, you bring up a very good point: what happens when our taproot is filled with something that is not everlasting? It’s wonderful how much you love your mother and how much she supports you, but you’re right, she will not be with you forever. This is a great time for you to fill your taproot with your faith and other non-perishables. Perhaps 2014 is your year to grow your taproot so that you can stand strong on your own.

      Thank you so much for sharing!

  15. Dean says:

    Interesting post, Bobbi. I honestly have no idea what mine is. Maybe that’s why I’m so afraid to take risks. If I fail and get blown over, I don’t know what it is that will keep me in the ground.

    I’m going to have to mull this over a while. Now THAT’s the sign of a great post!
    Dean recently posted…Whew, Just Made It: Stone Enjoy By 12.13.13My Profile

  16. Judy Kukuruza says:

    I have read the comments and responses and felt uplifted and challenged. I would say our taproot is love, determination, and survival. If not for the love and encouragement of those we cherish, our taproot would have not continued to keep us alive. Thank you

    • Bobbi says:

      Hi Judy,

      I think you’re right about your taproot, knowing you as I do! You have a very, very stubborn, strong taproot!

  17. Happy New Year, Bobbi! I love the analogy you’ve created and can visualize you thinking about this for quite a while. Excellent presentation.

    Thinking about my taproot, I would say it’s relationships, friends and family who are important to me. Also the knowledge that I am doing work (or just being) to make a contribution to the world.

    Wonderful, thought-provoking post.

    Love and thanks, xoA

    • Bobbi says:

      Hi Annis!

      Yes, I can see those things in your taproot! And I love how you noticed that your own sense of making a contribution is an important value and part of your taproot. Great!

  18. Ralene says:

    I have been thinking about this a lot lately. I feel like my taproots might not be as strong as I’d like them to be with friends and family with the exception of my kids ….. they are my taproot.

    I am wondering if these can start at anytime? or have I just missed many opportunities with friends and family since I tend to be somewhat anxious and come across and closed off or critical.

    Anyway, thanks for the post! 🙂

    • Bobbi says:

      Ralene, I think you can work on growing your taproot at any time in your life. Part of the point of this post was to encourage people to take a look at what makes up their taproot and do exactly what you are doing: assessing whether you need to grow it more.

      If you want to be closer to family and friends but find yourself blocked by anxiety, take some steps to alleviate your anxiety through therapy and other modes of help. You can do it!

  19. Ciara Conlon says:

    Beautiful article Bobbi, I think family and loved ones are the most obvious but as you point out our values I think would be very important in grounding us to what we believe in. Great food for thought, more things for the gratitude journal! Happy New Year
    Ciara Conlon recently posted…How to Set Goals & Achieve them this YearMy Profile

    • Bobbi says:

      Hi Ciara! So nice to see you here again!

      I hope all is well with you and I’m glad that I’ve provided more fodder for your gratitude journal!

  20. Ali says:

    Hi Bobbi,

    Great post! I loved the imagery too.

    The beautiful treasures in my life that give me roots and allow me to continue to grow even when I’ve stumbled, or strayed from my connection, or my flower has been chopped are friends, family, the feeling of Love, connection to our oneness, and passion. There are many more, but those are the ones that stood out as you asked the question. One or all of those things bring me back.

    This was such a lovely post to read tonight and gave me pause to feel real flowering gratitude for all of these things and for the life we get to live. 🙂

    Thank you again!
    Ali recently posted…LOA – What I learned from my MandarinMy Profile

    • Bobbi says:

      Hi Ali and thanks so much for your thoughtful response! I like how you noticed that just thinking about the taproot creates a place of gratitude – beautiful!

  21. Jordan says:

    Great post! It’s so important to stay grounded. Thanks for sharing.
    Jordan recently posted…I Fit In Nowhere, I Fit In EverywhereMy Profile

  22. Jeremy says:

    Wow, that was a really beautiful article. Loved your analogy. I’m sure most people would have a very similar “taproot,” with their top 3 being family, friends, and value. Seriously, I can’t think of anything more essential than those. But I’ll probably add passion somewhere after those 3!
    Jeremy recently posted…5 Jim Rohn Quotes That Will Change Your LifeMy Profile

  23. Maria says:

    I am so glad I found your article today. I was feeling disconnected or unaware of my taproots. God was and I hope still is my main taproot even in my moments of disbelief. My daughters, my love for life and my husband’s faith in me are my taproots. I am sure I have many more. I am going to do an internal journey to find them. Thank you for the wake up call.

    • Bobbi says:

      Hi Maria, I’m glad this has prompted you to more clearly identify your taproot. It sounds like you have a wonderful start!

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Bobbi Emel is a therapist who helps people in Los Altos, Palo Alto, Mountain View and the greater Bay Area manage their stress and develop their strengths.
She is effective in helping people dealing with anxiety, worry and grief; and also those who want to improve their effectiveness and performance.