Hi friends, welcome to July! The boys and I recently returned from a lovely 2 weeks visiting my parents and sisters in Philadelphia. As always, saying goodbye was bittersweet – I hate not being a short car drive away from any of them, but I really, really love sleeping in my own bed! In any case, the first thing I did after we pulled up into our driveway from the airport was soak in Bella cuddles (she wiggled and shrieked in excitement for a solid 10 min!) The second was to check on our plants.
I’d heard about the crazy hot weather that had hit Houston while we were away, and was relieved to find that our sprinkler system and rain had kept our garden in pretty good shape. I was not as happy to discover, however, that the weeds in our backyard had also enjoyed the heat and my absence! They were everywhere, growing in every single flower bed and pot, some so large at this point they had completely covered the lantana, jasmine, and mint I had just planted.
As I knelt down and got to work, I remembered a quote I had read somewhere:
“Your Mind is a Garden, Your Thoughts are the Seeds. You can grow Flowers or weeds…” ― Osho.
Yup, it definitely checked out. Negative thoughts, much like the weeds I was fervently plucking, were usually uninvited, incredibly invasive, and pretty darn tedious to clear out. If they were given the time to establish their roots, they took space, energy, and nutrients away from everything else, preventing good thoughts from flourishing instead.
In yoga philosophy, subtle impressions in the mind that over time become predictable thought patterns, habits, perceptions, and biases are called samskaras. Our samskaras, both the good and the bad, make up our conditioning and drive our actions from deep within our subconscious. Much of the work we do in our yoga practice consists of clearing out negative samskaras and making room for positive ones. In other words, getting on our mats for daily practice is the equivalent to tending to our gardens.
I was about half way done clearing my herb garden when I had to stop for a moment to consider if the pretty green thing in front of me was, in fact, a weed. It seemed too lovely to be a weed, it couldn’t be. But then again, it was growing very aggressively, choking out my oregano and sage.
Often, the most dangerous samskaras we have are the ones that can easily be confused for “good ones”on the surface but slowly choke out any possibility for joy, peace, and balance in our lives. Perfectionism is a great example – it may seem like a good quality on the outside, but it’s actually a harmful mental construct that keeps us trapped in dissatisfaction and not-enough-ness. As Elizabeth Gilbert points out in one of her Ted Talks, perfectionism is just fear dressed up in high heels. Other examples of these sorts of “pretty weeds” are busyness, popularity, and power over others. Although these might make us feel successful, we’d be much better off planting the seeds of self-love, belonging, and compassion in our gardens.
This weekend, we are celebrating the gift of freedom. I feel incredibly grateful to live in a country that honors our rights to speak and act freely, to choose our own path, and to pursue our own happiness. But just because these freedoms are granted to us in the Constitution doesn’t mean we’re actually enjoying them. Unfortunately, our minds are often slaves to unrealistic expectations, regrets, “shoulds” and “should haves”, external validation, and a variety of other beliefs that keep us chained to jobs, situations, and relationships that don’t serve us. If our minds are trapped and controlled by harmful samskaras, then we are not really free. True liberation, it seems, can only be achieved in the field of the mind.
This month, I invite you to consider the following question:
What weeds need to be removed and what seeds need more nourishment in order for your mental garden to flourish?
Wishing you all a beautiful 4th of July weekend.