A garden is the best alternative therapy.

The Garden in our Mind

What follows after the asterisks is a repost.  For personal reasons in my life right now, I decided to revisit it.  No one commented at the time of the original posting, and I’m opening it up again for dialogue.

My teenage daughter has begun asserting her independence through bouts of rebelliousness.  Last week, she left school to go be with her “boyfriend” at his house, in his room, with no parents at home.   While she claims nothing happened, she is only sixteen and she knows this is against many rules.   My wife inadvertently discovered a recording my daughter made on her cell phone after she knew she was caught, in which she made fun of the conversation I describe in my post below.   The recording was full of so much angst projected upon us as parents – so many hurtful, negative things – I was shocked.  In the recording, she mocked the life’s lessons I have to teach and what I continue to try to impress on her in conversations such as these.  I know that this is to be expected from teenagers, but I was still hurt.   As punishment for lying to us and deceiving us, I woke her up early on Saturday morning.  I had her get up, go outside to the front lawn, and pull up weeds.  After a couple hours of this, I dusted off the Bible, gave it to her and asked her to open it up to Matthew 13:1.  Then I had her read the Parable of the Sower.

Behold, there went out a sower to sow: And it came to pass, as he sowed, some fell by the way side, the air came and devoured it up. And some fell on stony ground, where it had not much earth; and immediately it sprang up, because it had no depth of earth: But when the sun was up, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away. And some fell among thorns, the thorns grew up, and choked it, and it yielded no fruit. And other fell on good ground, did yield fruit that sprang up and increased; and brought forth, some thirty, and some sixty, some a hundred. He said unto them, He that has ears to hear, let him hear!

I told her what I found and that what she said hurt my feelings.  I told her that, if she doesn’t want to listen to me and doesn’t want to accept the lessons I have to teach or the experiences I have to impart on her, then maybe she can open her mind to the teachings of a man who has had a profound influence on tens of billions of people for the past two thousand years.

I also told her that I hope she understood the symbolism of her getting out in the front yard and pulling weeds.

I told her I want her to be successful, to be happy, to be content with the choices she makes in life, and to think long and hard about the consequences of her thoughts, beliefs, choices and actions.  To me, an important part of that process is experiencing what thoughts and beliefs produce good fruits and which do not.  Lying, deceiving, hiding and projecting are all poor choices, born of a mind that doesn’t want to take responsibility for itself.  Thus, the consequence of being grounded and having to get up in the morning to pull weeds.

I hope she doesn’t hate me, that morning was her sixteenth birthday.


emerging Columbine

To see a world in a grain of sand, and a heaven in a wildflower, hold infinity in the palm of your hand, and eternity in an hour.” – William Blake, Auguries of Innocence
Gardeners of Belief

The intricacies of life never cease to amaze me.  Working in the garden, I am constantly reminded how interconnected, precious, delicate and persistent all levels of life are.  There in my backyard, in my little corner of the world, Mother Nature shows me how alike we truly are, and how even the smallest, seemingly insignificant living things reflect the greater world.

I like to stare at plants and trees, and they communicate with me.  They have an energy of calmness and vitality.   They don’t rush around trying to do a thousand things, keeping appointments, paying the bills, and raising kids.  They steadily draw their lifesource from their location, content to grab a piece of earth forever and stretch to the warm light above.  They aren’t worried, anxious, fatigued or afraid.   Therefore, when the plants “communicate” with me, I immediately feel calm and content.  What would it be like to be a tree, I ask myself.   Without fail, there is an immediate feeling of peace and serenity that comes over me.  After all, if my worries consist of drawing life from the ground, growing and swaying in the breeze, then tranquility seems to happen naturally.   Humans, I think, make life all too difficult.

When I stare at the plants I see that, physiologically, plants are a lot like humans and other animals, from their roots to their stem or trunk to the branches, leaves and fruit.   I am reminded of diagrams I’ve seen of a human body’s nervous system – the nerves branching out like roots in all directions, the spinal cord like a plant’s taproot and main stem, the brain’s neural pathways like the branches and limbs of a tree.   Humans tend to believe that we are the highest life form, telling mythological stories about how the world was created for us to take dominion over and how we are the end product of evolution – the masters of the planet.  How ignorant humans are – and blind.  The natural world is like the greatest story never written down – a dynamic adventure of endless excitement, wonder and exploration.   We are not masters of the world, but its’ co-creators and co-inhabitants.  We are not the end product of evolution, we are life becoming.

As such, no life is more sacred than the next and all levels of reality reflect life’s infinite creative force.   Culturally speaking,  however, humans do not believe this to be true and the state of the world and our private lives reflect this.   Men seek to dominate and control reality, which has reduced mankind to slavery on many levels.   More and more, we are becoming cut off from our Source and further and further away from the natural world from whence we came.   Instead of green grass and blue sky we have concrete and ceiling tiles.  We make up a whole host of things to fill our time and attention, while many of us feel less and less content with a growing feeling of “there must be something else.”

Last night, Michelle, Erin and I were talking metaphorically about gardens.  In a garden, one prepares the soil, plants seeds or small plants, nourishes them and protects them from weeds, so that they will grow strong to produce flowers and/or fruit.  As our nervous system is similar to the structure of plants and trees, so are our thoughts and beliefs, which form mental structures in our minds that eventually grow , metaphorically speaking, into flower- and fruit-producing plants or noxious weeds.   The core beliefs we hold are fundamental to our experience of reality, grounding us to that reality like a taproot stretching into the ground.  Those core beliefs that we accept give support and life to thoughts that enter our mind at any given moment of the day.  Over time, the thoughts we accept and act upon create stronger support for the belief structure in our minds, which branches out with additional beliefs and thoughts that seek to reinforce the original belief.

We are all gardeners of our minds, whether we are conscious of it or not, and whether or not we’re attentive, conscientious gardeners.  Every one of us has a garden bed full of beliefs.  Sometimes those beliefs create a beautiful landscape and produce a lot of beautiful flowers and fruit.   Sometimes weeds of conflicting beliefs pop up in those gardens and threaten to choke out the more attractive plants if not challenged and pulled up from the roots.  And still, sometimes, one’s garden is completely overtaken by weeds and noxious plants and choked by brambles and thorns which blot out the sun and steal nutrients from the ground to leave it barren and infertile.   And, just as the microcosm of my little garden reflects the macrocosm of the greater world, so does the private garden in my mind reflect and condition my experience and perception of the world around me.   This is true for everyone.  We just haven’t really been taught how creative, alive and important our thoughts and beliefs truly are and how to be better gardeners.   Nor have we been taught how to be mindful, to watch our thoughts move through our minds like sticks upon a flowing river.  Those sticks lead back to something – a belief that we hold.  If we do not challenge harmful, negative, self-limiting thoughts, then those thoughts become strengthened, root themselves in the soil of our minds and grow to produce thoughts, beliefs and experiences to reflect them.   In this way, the world is our mirror.

We are learning to create responsibly with our minds.  The world is a reflection of that process – the medium in which we experience, evaluate and learn this important lesson.   Personally, I am learning to cultivate love, kindness, patience and insight while I pull weeds, water my plants and sit quietly in my garden.  The garden is a place of meditation and learning.  I wanted a place to grow food, but I found a lot more than that.

I found myself, reflected in the dance of a honeybee, the growth of a young seedling, and the intrusion of persistent weeds.


Comments on: "The Garden in our Mind" (14)

  1. I do love that parable very much. I am the mother of 5 and have a grown daughter and an 18 year old daughter. I do empathize with how hard it can be as a parent. Even though your daughter has much anger and is acting out, your continued expressions of love, discipline and maintaining your rules may make all the difference as she grows older. You may not see the benefits in her character soon, but many children return back to what their parents have taught them as they leave their teen years. Your daughter is blessed that you are striving to make a difference in her life, despite the difficulties. Many parents just give up…My prayers are with you and your daughter, today.

    • roundrockgarden said:

      Thank you so much, Noelle. Some of this is karma, I’m sure – and I can truly empathize with my parents now for the hell I put them through then. I keep telling myself that I’d rather she hate me for awhile and that later on she’ll appreciate all of our efforts to get her going in the right directions. You are right, though, many teens do return to what their parents taught them after they get beyond the teenage years. I know I did. I can only hope that it will be the same for my daughter. I just need to make sure she knows how we feel and that the doors of communications (both ways) are open. Thank you for your prayers.

  2. Well written, Joseph! When I first started gardening I was amazed at how much gardening pertains to real life and how many lessons can be learned by gardening if you open up and really listen.
    Sounds like you are handling the situation with your daughter the right way. She probably hated pulling those weeds, but she will remember what you told her. I think they want boundaries because it just shows how much they are loved. I enjoyed reading your post!

    • roundrockgarden said:

      As it is in the microcosm, so it is in the macrocosm (and vice versa)!

      I’ve learned a lot while growing things. I find a lot of quiet, meditative time in the garden. Even doing menial tasks, I can zone out and find myself having an intense internal dialogue where I’m working things out. Maybe I should put a blog post out there asking for people to submit what they’ve learned about life through gardening. That would be an interesting exercise. I’m sure many gardeners have a lot of insight to share!

      Thanks again, Amy, for your kind words and encouragement.

  3. Teenage years are definitely hard ones. I put my parents thru a lot too so I can relate with the actions of your daughter. I don’t know how I (or they) survived it all, lucky I guess, but once I got into my twenties, I feel like I changed gears for the better. It sounds like you’ve done your best to teach her now you just have to have faith that it’s in there waiting to take root. At that age it’s so hard to understand the repercussions of your actions, isn’t it? I hope it all turns out well for everyone.

    • roundrockgarden said:

      thank you kathleen. i consider a lot of this to be my karma for being the same to my parents. : / i think she’s learning the greater repercussions of her actions, not just the immediate consequences in her life. those repercussions are a little harder to grasp …

  4. Elephant's Eye said:

    I am not a parent, but I very much enjoyed this post at http://bluegategardens.blogspot.com/2009/10/trolls-and-cruelest-mother-ever.html

    • roundrockgarden said:

      That was a good read. I, too, had a “troll” for a first car – handed down from my brother who got to drive the troll first. Actually, ours was named the “bu dawg” as our parents raise bulldogs and thought it would be cute to put it on a license plate. You could hear that car coming a couple miles down the road. It was always getting me pulled over for the noise. Shocking that, in those days, it was perfectly acceptable that there was a huge hole in the floorboard of the car, so you could lift the mat and see the road racing by beneath your feet. I and my friends also called it the flintstone mobile as you could almost put your feet through the hole and run along with it. I enjoyed the post, thank you for sharing – for visiting my blog and reading – and for your help.

  5. I don’t have a teenage daughter, but I remember being a teenage girl. Self-absorbed, bitchy, egocentric – how many phrases are there to describe the complete lack of regard of the world beyond your own ears? I was like that until my early 20s. I hope your daughter isn’t, but I think most girls are. At least I hope it wasn’t just me!!!!

    • roundrockgarden said:

      I don’t think it stops at daughters – I was a hellion, gray-hair-making machine when I was a boy.

  6. I enjoyed your very honest and thoughtful post. We are going through something similar with our granddaughter–yes, not only did God give me three children to hone my parenting skills on, but now my grandchildren too. Does He have a sense of humor or what? I had someone tell me one time that a teenagers job is to push all the boundaries and question everything. I think in trying to become their own person, they have to push us as parents away. I think you handled the situation with humor, love, and wisdom–hard things when you are hurting. Keep up the good work. Someday she will thank you. Maybe not outright, but you’ll be able to tell.

    I find that gardening, getting my hands in the dirt is very grounding. I can have a bad day, and come home and go out in my garden and start puttering, and before you know it, I am breathing again, and feeling at peace watching the clouds and birds, listening to the wind, and feeling the connection through my garden to…nature…the universe…God. I was deeply touched by your description of gardens of belief. It’s lovely to know there are others who feel the same connection through gardening.

    • roundrockgarden said:

      I am happy that you were touched by my post. Gardening and, well, being in the natural world at all, tends to inspire me to think deeply about our place in the world and the interconnectedness of life. To me, there’s nothing better than being out in nature.

      Thank you for your thoughts re: my daughter. She’s not at all a bad kid, but these are really the first bumps we’ve come across, so it’s been a little difficult. Perhaps you’re right about pushing parents away – I did my fair share of that when I was younger. I guess the only thing w can do is continue to reach out to her and let her know that we are available to lean on/talk to when she wants to stop pushing. I hope, as you and others have said, that she’ll come back around one of these days and realize that we were there for her – and continue to be.

  7. Teenagers are beyond difficult. I have two stepsons and the youngest is almost 20 now. We struggled with both boys, more screaming with the older one, more crying with the younger one. I really doubted that they listened to anything we said, but both are now fine young men and we love spending time with them. In fact, our youngest gets home today for the weekend and we can’t wait for him to get here! If you had asked me 9 years ago when the teenage hormones hit, I would have bet money that we’d never be close again. Hang in there, it will get better. All you can do is keep parenting and trust that she’ll get it eventually.

    • roundrockgarden said:

      Thank you so much. Your insight as a stepparent is important to me as my new wife, Michelle, is also a stepparent. I know for all of my struggling against my parents, that I “came back around”. I hope it is true of my daughter!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: