I spent a few days at O.U.R Eco village this week. My first day there I helped weed the garden. I haven’t really been around a garden since childhood and I forget how much work they can be. The patch I was working on with another volunteer had been neglected; it was overrun with weeds and the vegetables that had been planted were getting choked out.
There were some weeds which were obvious intruders in the garden and there were other weeds that were more difficult to identify because they were so robust they almost seemed to be planted intentionally. The more obvious weeds had shallow roots and came out easily, while the others were deeply rooted in the soil.
Since there was an overwhelming amount weeds in the garden, I looked for the obvious and easy to remove weeds first. This removed a layer from the jungle of weeds and made space for me to better identify the more tricky weeds. However, once I took out the all the easy weeds from a patch and started to work on the more difficult ones, my progress slowed and the job began to feel much more tedious.
When I got tired of digging out the deep roots I would skip to the next patch, telling myself I’d go back to the difficult weeds later. Eventually, I noticed that I wasn’t going back to the challenging parts of the garden. I knew that the stubborn weeds had to come out because their strong roots take a lot of nourishment from the garden. Why wasn’t I tending to them? I had to ask myself if there were other areas of my life in which I behaved this way.
I’ve always liked the metaphor of the mind being like a garden, but I gained a greater appreciation for it that day. I saw my resistance to removing the stubborn weeds as a reflection of how I deal with stubborn thought patterns and beliefs. When I identify a deeply rooted mental pattern, I work at removing it for a while, but when it becomes too overwhelming, I move on to something easier with the intention of going back to the more difficult things later. Unfortunately, it takes time before I notice certain patterns again and the longer I let them remain rooted in the soil of my mind, the more they choke out the thoughts, beliefs, and ideas that I want to flourish.
A healthy garden takes constant attention and work, so does a healthy mind. Our subconscious mind is like fertile soil; it doesn’t discriminate what grows in it. If we don’t make a conscious effort to pull out our mental weeds, they will continue to grow and take energy from what we intentionally plant and want to thrive.
In the garden, as much as I didn’t want to deal with the stubborn weeds, I stuck with it because I knew they were not healthy for the garden. With the right tools and a bit of patience, I managed to get the stubborn weeds out so the plants we wanted to grow could reach their full maturity. When weeds are left to spread throughout the garden, they take valuable resources away from what we are trying to cultivate. It’s the same with our minds; our time and resources are limited, so we should use them to nourish the values and goals that serve us in life.
Even though I got through the day, I realized I’d rather not deal with stubborn weeds – in a garden or in my mind. The neglected garden reminded me of the importance of tending my mental garden; to keep my thoughts in check by pulling the weeds out while they are small and manageable. This includes the mental weeds of judgement, self-pity, doubt, fear, and anxiety. These weeds will inevitably keep entering my mind, but I can prevent them from growing and becoming deeply rooted thoughts.
When the weeds are not given a chance to grow there is more space for gratitude, healthy intentions, goals, and visions for the future to come though. But, aside from keeping the weeds at bay, for these positive thoughts to really thrive, there can’t be too many growing at once. Just as we can only grow so many plants in a limited space, we can only grow so many ideas at once. I’ve been contemplating ways to simplify my life and be more productive in the areas that matter most to me. I found that the best ways of doing this is to limit the number of things I focus my attention on. Ideas can’t grow to their full potential when they are getting choked out by so many other thoughts; I have to know which plants are the most essential to grow and give them the ongoing care and nourishment that they need.
“A man’s mind may be likened to a garden, which may be intelligently cultivated or allowed to run wild; but whether cultivated or neglected, it must, and will, bring forth. If no useful seeds are put into it, then an abundance of useless weed seeds will fall therein, and will continue to produce their kind.”
~ James Allen, As a Man Thinketh