Tending to Our Inner Garden

Tending To The Garden Original by Louise Rawlings

Tending To The Garden Original by Louise Rawlings

Something profoundly spiritual dawned on me over the weekend. And no, it does not have to do with Independence Day. Among all the July 4th activities and celebrations, my husband and I made the time to work on the farm. He runs a small organic CSA (community supported agriculture) from our backyard. It supports about 20 families with organic veggies, fruits and eggs. It is such a pleasure every spring, after a long winter in northern Illinois to get out and work the land with him. I don't do nearly as much as I would like, but I do help as much as I can when I can. And over the weekend, I did my traditional job: weeding the carrots. If you never weeded carrots, especially after you let them go for too long, let me tell you, it is a meticulous, long, slow job. In order to give them a good chance to grow and mature, you must really pull all the weeds, sometimes just getting your fingers in between them, pulling the weeds and leaving the carrots in the ground. You have to be careful because if you just yank indiscriminately, you will end up pulling the carrot plants out of the ground. So it takes attention and patience. We currently 4 rows of carrots planted. And they are long! Before I started, I looked at them and felt this dread come over me as in "I'll never get this done". As I started the work, listening to one of my favorite blue grass stations on Pandora, I got into a rhythm. I was focused on pulling the weeds, making sure only the carrots stayed behind. I was quite happy, doing my work, being outside, listening to music and being around my family. After a while, I looked up. I looked behind where I have already weeded and felt proud of my work and gave myself a little smile. And then I looked forward to the work I still needed to do. The sea of weeds in front of me and the long rows that were waiting, took the wind right out of my sails. Ugh, I was going to be out here all day and never get it all done! I just decided to look down and keep going, occasionally looking back and keeping my eyes off the work still needed to be done. 
As I was sitting on the ground, pulling the weeds it dawned on me how similar our inner work is, and for that matter any work we engage ourselves in, to the practice of pulling weeds. Many times, especially at the beginning of our spiritual work, we can feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount of "weeding" we must do. It can feel almost impossible to get it done. We may look at the habits we have, the thoughts we think, the beliefs we hold and we may believe that we can never change them. The desire is there to change for something better, but the sheer amount of work can seem crushing. I know I have been there many times. It can feel paralyzing. Tending to my carrots provided me with some ways out of the paralysis. For one, just paying attention to the work in front of me, "keeping my head down" sort of speak and doing the work, helped me focus on just the next step. After a while, I could look back and really see the results of that work: nice rows of carrots with no weeds. Looking ahead at how much work was still needed overwhelmed me. Re-focusing on the task at hand, kept me going until I could take another peak and feel hopeful again. My husband joined me later to help me finish. 
So how can we use this experience while tending our inner garden? For one, we must be able to identify the weeds. What is it in our inner garden that we must keep and what is it that we must pull: what thoughts, habits, beliefs, people, places and things are supportive to our well-being, and which ones are not? Do you know what brings you up and makes your life better and what brings you down and does not? Become prepared to differentiate so you can start your work. Second, start where you are. Whether your inner garden is full of weeds from years of neglect, or just needs some maintenance, start where you are. Take stock of what's there so you know what you have to work with. Third, just start. Just do a little or a lot, go slow or go fast, whatever works for you. But just do it. No matter how long you stare at those weeds, they will not pull themselves (I tried my Jedi mind trick on those weeds over the weekend and they didn't budge; darn). Fourth, stay focused on the task at hand. Whether you are working with your beliefs, teaching yourself self-love, watching your thoughts and picking different ones, starting new habits, learning to be around supportive people, just stay with that. If you keep thinking about all the work that you still have to do, you will get overwhelmed and might even stop what you are doing. Put your head down and do the work in front of you. Fifth, every so often, take a break and take stock of all the work you have done. Look back and see the beautifully weeded carrots that now have a chance to take off and grow unencumbered. Look at your hard work and rejoice in it. I rewarded myself by taking a break and sitting down next to my husband with a cold one in the shade. It felt so good to think of the progress I made and the hard work I put in. How can you celebrate the progress you made tending to your inner environment? Sixth, invite help in. I was soooo grateful when my husband joined me in weeding the carrots. It's as if we were connected in the same mission, working together towards the same goal. I felt supported and understood. Who can you invite in to support you in doing the inner work? Identify that person, knowing that they will be there for you, pulling in the same direction and being ready to celebrate those beautiful, fluffy green carrot tops in the sun! As a coach, I love doing just that. My heart and soul do a little happy dance every time one of my clients moves forward. I'm also there when their fingers get sore from pulling too many weeds. It's what us gardeners do :-). 
So if you are ready to start having a beautiful, happy, weed free inner garden but don't know where to start, give me a call and let's chat about that. I bet we can come up with something worth bragging to the neighbors about.