From this Perch column: How does your garden grow?
"I must have a prodigious amount of mind; it takes me as much as a week, sometimes, to make it up!"-- Mark Twain
Here's to the human mind. Like Mark Twain, we all have prodigious amounts of it.
That vast mind of ours gives us consciousness and thought, gifts we sometimes put to good use, and not so much at other times.
Which brings me to one of my favorite spiritual images. It comes from Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist monk and peace activist.
He suggests that the mind is like a garden, with all kinds of dormant seeds.
Using this metaphor, he divides those dormant seeds we all have into two categories:
• Seeds of humility, love, compassion, joy, sharing and understanding; and
• Seeds of anger, resentment and fear.
So what to do about all those seeds that are just sleeping there in the "soil" of our mind?
For Thich Nhat Hanh, it comes down to a choice of which seeds we water: "The seeds that are watered frequently are those that will grow strong."
The water comes in the form of our thoughts and the actions that follow.
A spiritual concept, or teaching, has to make sense for me to see it as helpful wisdom.
I experienced an immediate "Yes!" or "Aha!" when I first learned of the seed garden metaphor.
New Year's Aspiration
We are about to close out 2018 and greet a new year. It's the time of resolutions.
I'm not big on resolutions, mainly because mine have usually been born out of some sense of lack. "I don't exercise enough!" "I don't eat enough of the right foods!" — on and on. So I would resolve to change.
And then when I would inevitably bail on the resolution, I would feel worse than I did before I got into the damn thing in the first place.
But I have experimented with a different approach. Instead of calling it a resolution, I've tried calling it an aspiration. Somehow an aspiration feels lighter than a resolution.
The results of my unscientific experiment: calling it an aspiration instead of a resolution increases the chance that it will stick for more than one or two weeks.
It's with this in mind that I aspire to water those seeds that are a pathway to peace and happiness.
Also, I aspire to avoid watering the seeds that stoke the fires of anger, fear and resentment.
Enter the real world and I can easily find myself watering the seeds in that second category I mentioned. It is almost always unintended — more like it sneaks up on me.
And often, I remain oblivious for quite some time without realizing that I'm watering seeds I prefer not to water.
What to do? For me it starts with good, old-fashioned awareness of what I'm doing. I find that it helps to slow down, breathe and look for a larger perspective.
I'm reminded of an episode from The Simpsons in which Homer gets mad at a neighbor and rushes out to buy a handgun. He enters the gun-store steaming mad, but when the proprietor tells him there's a 3-day waiting period, Homer complains "Three days?! But I won't be mad then!"
I know I have the ability to be wakeful and choose wisely when it comes to this seed-watering, as I'm guessing everyone does. After all, we all possess "prodigious amount of mind."
I guess it comes down to how we use it.
How does your garden grow?