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The Garden of the Mind

Monday 16th July 2018

Why Taking on an Allotment is Similar to Beginning Mindful Meditation

The deeper the root, the more time and effort it takes to get to the bottom of it; but if we keep at it, possibly asking for some assistance along the way - eventually we’ll get it out.

I’m certainly not the first person to compare the mind to a garden, and I’m sure I won’t be the last - but below are some thoughts I have been mulling over since taking on an allotment and practicing mindful meditation on a regular basis!

When we start our journey into mindfulness and meditation it is similar to being given a piece of overgrown land to tend. When the space is overgrown, It can be difficult to work out what’s going on, but gently clearing some of the growth on the surface helps get a better understanding of what’s deeply rooted.

Once some unneeded clutter has been cleared we start to make sense of the space, possibly making some decisions on what needs to go and what needs to grow. We might have some deep rooted vegetation that we don’t feel is beneficial for the space, so we gradually start to dig to the bottom of the root. The deeper the root, the more time and effort it takes to get to the bottom of it; but if we keep at it, possibly asking for some assistance along the way - eventually we’ll get it out.

Alongside this process of removing deep roots, we might begin to plant some seeds. The seeds need to be nurtured in a safe environment before they can look after themselves, so we pay close attention to them every day until they are strong enough to need less work. There will always be weeds and pests trying to take over, so regular maintenance is required, even when the seed grows into a hardy plant.

When the space is thriving, healthy and diverse, it will still need maintaining regularly to make space for new growth; and there is always the possibility of some kind of problem that ruins our plans and takes us back to square one! Whatever happens, once we’ve started looking after the space, we start to become more skilled and become more prepared for deviation from the initial plan - when it inevitably changes.

Managing an allotment is an ongoing process that begins with lots of hard work, clearing space and nurturing seeds; but in time, it becomes a very pleasurable place to be - somewhere you take your time to nurture and maintain, a space you visit as often as possible for pure enjoyment.

The mind is similar to an allotment - if left unmanaged it will become overgrown with thought patterns we didn’t necessarily chose to grow. We have to observe it and clear space on the surface level, before we can understand how it works deep down. With a bit of daily practice, eventually we can find out what thought patterns and resulting emotions are deeply rooted, behind the surface level ‘noise’.

Once we know what's going on deeper down in the mind, we can dig a little deeper to remove the roots of thought patterns which are not beneficial for us and other people we come into contact with. It’s hard work - especially if the root is very deep, but, as with the allotment; if we stick with it and possibly get some help then eventually we can get to the bottom of the root.

We might plant some seeds of change, which will need nurturing frequently if we want them to grow into deep rooted behavioural patterns. Deeper rooted patterns will always take over if we don’t keep checking back and keep clearing space. The majority of deep rooted behavioural patterns will have been created unwittingly, so may not be the ones we wish to have - but they are there and will take constant work to change. We also need to accept that things don’t always go to plan and we need to adapt to the challenges life presents, constantly.

The impermanence and unpredictability of life makes it a constant challenge to stay leveled off mentally; but with continuous practice, the practice itself becomes a behavioural pattern and subsequently becomes easier to keep up - helping us to balance our reactions to the ups and downs of life we encounter daily.