by Leona McDonnell Mindfulness and Wellness
Weeding and pruning our mind? Strange concept? Think about what makes a really ‘good gardener’ for a physical outdoor garden. Someone who can plan, can prepare an area, can visualise, who is skilled at what they do and who is knowledgeable about what foliage will be compatible and flourish in a shared space? Now let’s apply that concept to our mind.
But how can we compare our mind to that of a physical garden? Can we apply the same thinking, the same principals of having a ‘good gardener’ for our mind? Absolutely! A ‘good gardener’ will analyse and assess the physical space that they must work with. They will then carefully choose what flowers, plants, seeds, shrubs and trees they wish to grow in this space. They will carefully care for and nurture these planted seeds to blossom. They will continually prune and weed this garden space to ensure that it has the best possible environment for these seeds to grow in. We can do the same and become very ‘good gardener’s’ of our own mind.
Think of yourself as that competent and knowledgeable gardener of your mind. You have the choice to decide what kind of seeds or thoughts you wish to plant in your mind garden. You have the preference of where you wish to plant these thought seeds so that they will work in unison with any additional thought seeds that you want to sow in your mind garden or any that may be deeply rooted in your mind garden already. You can choose how much time you wish to invest into the design and planning stage of your mind garden, how much time you want to spend nurturing and caring for it and how favourable you want the environment to be for growth and bloom. You can decide when to start preparing your mind garden for the seeding and planting stage. You as the gardener of your mind have full capacity to make all these decisions. You can become skilled at looking deeply below and far beyond the surface of your mind garden. You can develop the ability to see the beauty and the delicate way that your mind garden can be nourished to bloom, to blossom, to shedding and to restoration, just like the seasons of nature. Planting, seeding and growth in Spring, full bloom and blossom in Summer, harvest, shedding and letting go in Autumn and a recline back inward for rest and repair in Winter.
The most beautiful and empowering thing is that we can be the gardener of our own mind. We can choose to plant thought seeds that will ultimately empower, encourage and help us to grow personally and to achieve a mind garden that is calm, peaceful, serene and full of natural beauty. We may also now have additional time to invest into our mind gardens. How many of us have taken to planting, pruning, trimming and weeding in our own physical outdoor gardens in recent weeks? How many of us love to nourish, nurture and maintain our physical gardens because they uplift us and help us to feel more peaceful, relaxed and soothed when we look at them? How many of us also find ourselves comparing our own physical gardens to our neighbour’s gardens watching and wondering what they have decided to plant and seed in theirs?
Today, you can start or choose to design or re-design your own mind garden. You may ask “but how do I do this?” “Where do I start?” You may feel so overwhelmed trying to control or gaining control over your mind garden. So many of us feel that our mind gardens are completely overgrown and overrun with weeds over these last few weeks. We feel that it is getting harder to maintain control over our unruly mind gardens as each day goes on. The answer to these questions is simple, you start at the start and slowly take one stage at a time.
Firstly, you need to remove any thought weeds or overgrowth that is blocking your ability to see and think clearly. You need to remove any of these non-nourishing and wrecking thought weeds by pulling them out. As you pull each one out, feel the physical relief of being able to toss that thought weed to the side, declaring that you don’t need or want it anymore. Some of these thought weeds will come out or pop out quite easily but you may have to continue to encourage and slowly extract a few deeper-rooted weeds. You may even have to dig around or dig out some of these stubborn thought weeds. You might also choose to do a little each day, take a break and come back. The overall weeding stage may be too overwhelming to complete all together. You can ask yourself, is this thought weed serving me well? Do I want to hold onto this thought weed? If the answer is yes, ask yourself why you want to keep this thought weed in your mind garden, what purpose does it have? If the answer is no, then get rid of it, don’t give it any more energy or a favourable environment to grow in. Yes, the weeding stage can be quite uncomfortable. That feeling of unrest in the unknown of what lurks beneath each weed that you pull, of what will potentially surface as you extract the weed. You may get some bruises, cuts, stings maybe even thorns but these don’t last forever, they are only temporary. These will all heal as will the physical hole where the weed was rooted. Think of this phase as getting your Spring garden ready. You are cleaning, clearing and making room for your summer garden.
So, what would you like your summer garden to look and feel like? Full of colour, of beautiful scents, of bloom, of birds, bees and insects? Having carefully planned, assessed, visualised and implemented your Spring mind garden, your Summer mind garden is bound to be bursting with encouragement, empowerment, hope, life and positivity. Having had the belief of what your Spring garden would flourish into, the patience to watch as your planted seeds matured and grew, you now can reap the rewards of the time and effort that you invested into your Spring garden. Just like at harvest time in Autumn, gardeners and fruit farmers are literally rewarded for the fruits of their labour with beautiful crops of healthy fruits and vegetables. They can measure and quantify the success of their investment into their Spring and Summer gardens by their bountiful crops. They have reaped the benefits for what they have sown.
When we think of Autumn and our physical gardens, we see a letting go and shedding by flowers, plants and trees. After the long bright summer days and warmer temperatures, nature is more than ready to let go of what it doesn’t want to be carrying into its Winter garden.
We also have the ultimate power and decision as to what we want to let go from our Spring, Summer and Autumn mind gardens. What do we want to shed? What are we no longer willing to hold onto? People often ask me “but how do I let go?”. I tell them to ask themselves “is this thought helpful?” Most of the time the answer will be no. I then tell them to say to themselves “I give myself permission to let go” and then feel the mental, emotional and physical relief of letting go. Do you think a tree struggles with the decision of whether to let go of that one or any leaves during shedding? Why would the tree need to hold onto those leaves if they have already served their purpose? What’s the point in holding onto something that no longer has life, something that is now finished with? Our Autumn mind garden should be a place and time of complete shedding, for completely letting go, for baring ourselves and our thoughts. Knowing that it’s a natural part of the cycle of nature to release, to feel light and free but also to feel solid in our statue and presence as we do so.
When we think of our physical Winter gardens, not much happens above the surface. It’s a time of rest, repair, solitude, hibernation and internal recovery. Here is when we may see the skill of a good mind gardener. Not to physically push, not to emotionally demand, not to overstretch, not to ignore the natural beauty and rhythm of the earthly cycles. Being prepared and capable of fully embracing this period of stillness, of internal recovery, of inner repair and of personal growth. Resting in the stillness and quiet above the earth’s surface but safe and secure in the knowledge of growth and deep rooting below its surface. We too need periods of rest, repair, recovery and internal regeneration in our mind gardens.
The key to achieving a mind garden full of hope, light-heartedness, encouragement, empowerment and positivity is in the realisation that we do have ‘full’ control over the choices of our thought seeds, over how much time, energy and love we want to invest into our mind gardens. We also have ‘full’ control over how over-grown or out of control we are willing to let our mind gardens become, over how willing we are to give our mind gardens much needed rest and recovery time to repair and renew. Influencing our thought seeds like this means that we are sure to build a mind garden that will sway with the wind and rain but will also remain stable, deeply rooted and solid in stormy conditions.
The questions I would like to leave you with are “how do you want your mind garden to grow?” What better time than now to pause, review and ponder over whether you would like to create, re-design or re-plan your own mind garden? Perhaps using this time would be seen by a ‘good gardener’ as the ultimate opportunity to invest extra time, commitment and energy into developing a garden of your dreams.
(Published in the Westmeath Examiner on 21-4-2020 and in The Anglo Celt and Meath Chronicle on 22-4-2020)