Mind gardening

August 31, 2008

I have neglected my garden this year, and not only do I now have sections overrun with weeds; but because I wasn’t vigilant, certain ones crept in unnoticed. These rogue plants and tree seedlings would have been easy to take out if caught early on. Now they are stubbornly entrenched and require a lot of energy to remove.  And because so many of my weed plants have reached maturity, removing them actually causes their seeds to release, so that I’ll have a whole new crop vastly multiplied to contend with next spring.

The idea of comparing the gardening of one’s flowers to gardening one’s soul is not new. Still, this morning whilst dealing with all the weeds, some new connections occurred to me.

Of course one needs to catch weed seedlings early and pull them out before they gain the upper hand. This applies as well to catching unwanted habits early and nipping them in the bud before they get firmly rooted.

This last point also is true for bad thoughts, which when allowed to root, then go on to ripen and throw off their negative seed children.  It is much better to train oneself to not follow negative thought chains, and to turn to tending the healthy, beautiful plants in one’s mind garden.

But you can’t ignore the negative thoughts, you just have to train yourself not to dwell on them. And when you’ve decided whether they add to the beauty and variety in your garden or not, you can either remove them or leave them to grow. But check on them from time to time to make sure they don’t take over!!

The Zen of being ill

August 30, 2008

I recently read an article by a well known Dutch woman writer, who claims it is a lot of nonsense to see illness as a life lesson, or to try to make the best of it in any way at all.  She has MS and has had breast cancer and survived them both. She poses as simply a realist. But even in view of the difficult health challenges she is facing, I find her view embittered. 

When questioned about a man who recently recovered from a heart attack and felt that his life had changed for the better, she said, ‘Fine for him, but I can’t fool myself like that’.

To the statement that after illness you often enjoy the small things in life more, she said,’That’s only relief’.

I admit that she made a legitimate point about the tendency in our society to avoid pain and suffering at all costs, and to try to smooth them over with various ‘pseudo spiritual’ explanations. But she goes on to assert that people can’t really change fundamentally and that if anything, illness amplifies personal characteristics, often negative ones,  rather than changing them.

But her dark view only reenforces the prevailing lack of meaning and hopelessness that so many people are suffering from.

The examples she gave, tended to prove out her views, (which is usually the way it works, the world you see is the world you get).  She spoke about another Dutch writer with MS who said, ‘the concept that sickness can be a life lesson is a psychosomatic insult’.  This woman eventually committed suicide.

On the other hand, I heard an interview on the radio of a very young DJ who had been paralyzed from the waist down and  there wasn’t a trace of bitterness in his story. On the contrary, he too was a fighter, but his gentleness and acceptance and his conviction that he could use his experience to help others in the same situation, spread healing wherever his name came up.  And it would be to someone like him I would turn to and draw hope from when the time came where I might be confronted with similar circumstances.

Yes, there is suffering, and pain that can’t be softened. Sicknesses are messy, humiliating, painful and horrible.  And yet, there are always people who don’t let themselves be defined by this, and manage to transcend their circumstances not only for themselves, but also for each one of us.