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.
- “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.