Nature AND Nurture

I have worked on my garden off and on the last few weeks, but it seems that no matter what my priorities for the day might be I find myself doing something with my garden project.  And it is a project, to be sure.  First off, the things that grow best here are rocks.  Creating any suitable growing space requires digging and lots of it.  Even when the boulders and large rocks have been removed the dirt needs to be screened to remove the next batch of rock, leaving mostly pebbles.  Organic compost of some sort is a must, otherwise it is just pebble filled dirt, not even close to soil.  Then there is the fence issue, or rather the lack of fencing issue, which means the deer are compelled to sample everything including the leaves of my tomato plant (yuck) to the “deer resistant” plants that I put in for color.  Undaunted, I plug away.

I realized this evening as I transplanted my basil seedlings ever so carefully that this is my outlet for the nurturing part of my soul.  Each night I carefully cover my rose-bush with a 30 gallon garbage can weighted with rocks; I knew rocks were good for something!  All of my veggies that I have here at home are in pots, which are nightly placed in the shed, then brought out at first light each morning.  As I did this again this evening, it dawned on me that the need to care for something is a deep and abiding part of who I am.

Yes, I take pleasure in the visual result of the products of my labors, be it a clean house, the yard neatly trimmed or the myriad tasks that take my time and effort.  But that I wander back to the garden to pluck a spent bloom, stake a drooping pepper plant, or work just a little more compost into the soil, speaks of something deeper than the esthetics or practicality of gardens.  To nurture nature and all that it holds and symbolizes, and to allow nature to nurture me, is to bring myself and this place to harmony and balance.

In the greater picture it seems that it is not a debate of nature vs. nurture; they are not adversaries.  It is instead how the nature of a person or place is brought along to be their fullest and most beautiful self as a result of kind and mindful nurturing.  To be fully present tending our garden of lovely blooms, be they persons or plants, giving all of our attention and care in that moment, is to be the help-mate of nature in all of its splendid variety.

Just Thinking

I am rereading “When Things Fall Apart, Heart Advice for Difficult Times” by Pema Chodron.  Although nothing is falling apart in a dramatic way, nor am I going through a difficult time, I began the book again as the result of simply dusting.  I picked up the book and began to flip through it as I recalled it was helpful at a previous juncture in my life and that there is mention of mindfulness and meditation which have captured my interest of late.  I had highlighted one of the pieces of advice to help with the meditative process of emptying the mind and becoming fully present in the moment which is to catch oneself when a thought creeps in with the phrase, “just thinking”.

The point is that thoughts are not reality, but are just thinking.  That we might change them into something concrete, through analysis and planning, no doubt.  But in the moment they are nothing more and nothing less than just thinking.  So often that thinking is worrying or trying to come up with a solution to a perceived problem that may in fact exist only in thought.  Staying focused and centered in the moment requires turning off the internal chatter, letting go of the notion of control, and yes, letting things fall apart.

Falling apart is what happens, it is how life works.  In all manner of things, falling apart and coming back together is the cycle of life.  In my garden the items in the compost bin are falling apart, only to come back together as compost to give new life and energy to the soil growing my vegetables.  Once harvested, the spent plants and trimmings return to the compost bin to start the cycle anew.  It is the same with our lives.  Some things become spent and yet do not disappear, they take on a new and different value in our lives.  Perhaps the spent bit; a relationship, a job, an old stomping ground; will nourish us for the next round of these things.  But to try to hang on to last year’s tomato plant in the hopes it will produce again next year is not only folly but denies the garden the nutrients needed to grow and prosper in the future.

Our “thinking” is a way of trying to hang on to what is spent, attempting to pull the past forward into the present.  “Being” is difficult in a society so invested in intellect and thought.  Yet in those moments of just being, mindful of one’s surroundings and senses we rediscover time and again, our true selves.  As I dig one shovelful after another of rocks large and small, untangle the grass and weed roots from the dirt, I can let myself and my thinking drift away and only be aware of the hot sun on my back, the strength in my legs and arms as I work, marveling at the earthworms in the rocky sandy dirt that will someday be soil.  The state of grace of just being in the world instead of feeling batted about by a torrent of thoughts that I came to associate with being “me” is profound and enriching.

Finding this center, this quiet place, requires a realignment of habit.  Turning off the internal chatter to connect with the moment takes practice and constant reminder.  The mantra, when one finds themselves becoming enmeshed in a problem to which there is no solution, pulling thoughts from here and there to create a different reality, is “just thinking”.  And adding the further reminder that thoughts are not real, can bring one back to mindfulness of the present and grounded in the peaceful knowledge that everything is changing all the time, falling apart and coming back together, and while we are a part of the process, our only responsibility is to notice.

What Do You Contain?

“The beauty you see is also in you…
You only see what you contain”

Isn’t it one of the lovely circles of life that the beauty we take in, we hold, and it in turn allows us to see and experience more beauty in all things?  I am privileged to live in a most beautiful place and it has opened my heart to other beauty in my life.  The beauty of a group of 15 kids ranging in age from 5-12 working together and helping each other in our community garden in our Libray Kids in the Garden program.  One child has profound hearing loss and speech difficulty, yet was easily welcomed and included by all the others.  The youngest seems painfully shy, yet found his footing with the help of another child a couple of years older.  The two oldest, where there seems to be a marked difference in maturity, hung together at first, then realized the younger ones were struggling with the scavenger hunt and split up to help the younger ones.  All of this coöperation, with not one episode of unkindness or lack of enthusiasm, was truly a thing of beauty.  As the weeks go by and our tomatoes, carrots, broccoli and assorted other goodies begin to ripen and the kids get to know each other better I expect there will be more moments like this.  This day, which was glorious in every way, with warm sun and clear skies, came on the heels of gray day after gray day, punctuated only by rain and wind.  I felt deflated and filled with the kind of gloom that only a long Montana “sprinter” (spring on the calendar – winter outdoors) can induce.  Then suddenly sun, smiling excited faces, and my hands in the dirt to turn it all around in a quick two and a half hours.

This morning we are back to “sprinter” even though summer is only days away, it is wet and cool again.  But the beauty lingers in me and I see how green the grasses and trees are, washed clean overnight; and the wildflowers continue to burst forth with the long hours of daylight with or without the sun.

Continually watering the inner garden and filling oneself with every moment of beauty and tranquility grows inward radiance becoming one’s gift to the outer world as well as to oneself.  Add a full mix of care, compassion, hope, joy, wonder and beauty of all kinds.  The more one contains of the positive  the less room to hold anger, sadness, cynicism or indifference.  Taking care what is added to the container, mindful that all that one contains colors all that is seen and done; choose wisely.

Knowing Your Path

“You will recognize your own path when you come upon it, because you will suddenly have all the energy and imagination you will ever need.”

What if the right path presented itself as a dazzling staircase that we only had to climb to find ourselves exactly where we needed to be?  Would we do it?  Or would we look at the amazing path and tell ourselves; it is too high, it looks too slippery, I’ll come back to it later when I am not so busy, it might be an illusion?

We have  myriad ways to convince our-selves not to do the thing that we know is best for us, meant for us to do.  I just finished a book that I cannot more highly recommend, “SWAY, The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior” by Ori and Rom Brafman.  It delves into the question of why we would do or believe something that makes absolutely no sense, and yet somehow we convince our brains, or vice versa in some cases, that it does.  A fast-paced read on a topic that could change how you operate and best of all, how to get unstuck from a behavior or relationship you have tried to escape.
http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2118114.Sway

If today the thought of one activity, one person, one idea, creates that spark of energy and imagination, then it is time to seize it with all you have.  Don’t climb that staircase, run up the staircase, shout from the top, slide down the railing and run up again.  Embrace this moment and give it your full attention and heart.  All of the paths are there, the bright sparkling ones, the cool deep ones that lead into the enchanted forest, the precisely laid stone, the overgrown tangled vine laden paths.  Which one intrigues you and calls you further along?  The path that resonates inside is not the same for each of us, rather it is the connection we feel to that path that has grown inside us as we have passed by so many others knowing they are not the right one.

Do not be cautious, do not choose with care!  Fling yourself at your path with all the daring and courage that you can muster.   The time for care and caution will be when you think you want to veer from that path to find another.  Be sure you have explored this one fully and allow yourself the time to reflect whether you have merely come upon a log you must climb over or if it is the end of this path and time to find the next.

And each time, let yourself light up, feel the thrill and magic of travelling exactly where you belong.  It is not luck that one finds oneself on the right path, all that you need is being open enough to see it and brave enough to take it.  Step quickly now, your path is right ahead!

Wisdom

“Patience is the companion of wisdom.” ~ Saint Augustine

I have tried to imagine the face of wisdom.  The image I see is a person of enormous calm and reserve, taking in everything, yet slow to offer comment.  Storing knowledge and experience for later use with caution and proper timing, the wise being of my imagination uses their experience to facilitate foresight and takes time to carefully consider consequences.  Taking mindfulness out of time and space and placing oneself in the past, the present and the future to see most clearly.

This is a patient person, waiting watchfully for events to unfold; unhurried by the immediate demands with an eye to the overarching impact of an action.  Words chosen with consideration and mindful of their impact, my imagined sage sees time as its companion and equal, not driving the moment but walking in unison. With measured thoughts and words, comes insight.  Learning from each experience, the knowing among us carefully build understanding and exercise a judicious habit of action.

Developing a way about us that allows wisdom to evolve requires slowing in all things.  Observing and listening, contemplating and considering, holding a thought until it can be examined with care before acting; all change the pace and the results.  Practice editing by speaking little and absorbing more.  Build up patience to give an idea chance to mature.

Wisdom comes not with age, but from a way of being.  Stillness and silence gives wisdom a garden in which to grow, whether you are 18 or 81.  Quiet your heart, quiet your mind and let the wisdom around you take root and flourish.

Wonder-ful!

“Never question the truth of what you fail to understand, for the world is filled with wonders.”―L. Frank Baum author of the “Oz” series

A sense of wonder has such a child-like characteristic to it, the very word evokes a vision of wide eyes, large smiles, standing on tip-toe, holding one’s breath.  How often as adults do we tap into our sense of wonder?  Wonder is magical and we become too jaded to experience that sense with any regularity.  Caught up in the adult sense of “knowing” we begin to lose the openness and sheer joy that comes from experiencing wonder.

I recently read an article about extremophiles.  Upon seeing the word I assumed it was about people who love the extreme; ones who would be good at reality television shows jumping off tall buildings onto a pile of pillows.  But no, it is a class of organisms that live in the extremes of heat, cold and pressure where it was previously thought no life forms could exist.  Digging deeper into the story, it describes an organism that has lived in a gas bubble in a crystal, and the crystal was fifty MILLION years old!  The organism apparently had not developed any way to divide or reproduce because it did not need to.  I continued to read filled with wonder.  The upshot of the article was we are discovering an entire new classification of life here on this planet; the obvious usefulness of which is to guide us to look for life in places we believed it could not exist here or on any other planet.

To understand how and why these creatures came into existence is far beyond my grasp, but I do not deny the truth of their being.  I am filled with awe and wonder at the things that are in our very midst and we are ignorant of their presence until someone with imagination and courage finds them.  The world outside and within is teeming with the undiscovered and when we allow ourselves the freedom of the wonder of it all, we become open to the great mysteries and excitement of life.

Opening up to that which strikes us as unlikely if not impossible with an inquiring mind and a receptive heart creates an entirely new space to grow oneself.  Tapping back into the sense of amazement at the world around us with a joyful sense of discovery feeds one’s creativity, imagination and freshens the perceptions of all that one believes and knows.

Let yourself believe for a moment in the magical, reclaim your sense of wonder, rediscover delight.

What Remains?

“All natural goods perish. Riches take wings; fame is a breath; love is a cheat; youth and health and pleasure vanish.”  William James

These words could be construed as the mutterings of a bitter old man, with a purely naturalistic view of life.  They are, when taken in the context of “The Varieties of Religious Experience”, presented as an example of the “sick soul”, a soul that cannot find the ease of living, forever searching and striving to discover some value, some greater worth than that which one possesses.  In the same piece James quotes Edward Everett Hale, “I can remember perfectly that when I was coming to manhood, the half-philosophical novels of the time had a deal to say about the young men and maidens who were facing ‘the problem of life.’ I had no idea whatever what the problem of life was. To live with all my might seemed to me easy; to learn where there was so much to learn seemed pleasant and almost of course; to lend a hand, if one had a chance, natural; and if one did this, why, he enjoyed life because he could not help it, and without proving to himself that he ought to enjoy it…”, as an example of what James calls the healthy-minded.  He acknowledges that there are degrees of healthy-mindedness and sickness of soul; and concludes that the sick soul has the more overlapping perceptions of reality.

Does this mean then that we should turn away from greater happiness, that we give up on the hope for a joyful existence to live a “real” life?  There is room in the mix for a respectful acknowledgement of evil, sadness, fear, loss, and all the elements the “sick soul” tends to dwell upon, without becoming consumed with the “problem of life”.  When it seems that all in life has the potential to eventually fade away, what is it that we might hold on to in the face of the inevitable loss?

When indeed all the material is gone, youth and health have fled, we are left with memories.  The memories of a lifetime of choices and chances taken; of seizing the moment to run free, making time for the joyous bounding adventures.  Memories of the people we have known, those we have helped and who have helped us; memories of tenderness, kindness and expressions of love.  Our fully integrated self has stored these and more in our bodies as well as our minds, and until both completely fail we retain the ability to remember, not just thoughts, but emotions and the physical sensations of those cherished moments.

As we are mindful today, we are filling the storehouse of our bodies and souls with the thing that lingers; that which holds far greater value than the car driven, the title or letters following names, the balance in the bank.  Let the thing that lingers fill our vessel with the sweetness and the treasures of a celebratory life.