The year is already up and running, and summertime is hopefully around the corner. The flowers are blooming again, green grass starts colouring the earth, and the sun will shine more often. The garden season starts. You might have a look at your garden and see its state, you pull the weeds, and you plant new flowers. It is a simple as that.
You see, taking care of the garden in your backyard is a bit like taking care of the mind. So why not have a look at your very own garden, the garden of your mind?
Rick Hanson, neuroscientist and psychologist with a huge interest in personal well-being and psychological growth, suggests the following:
1. Start by observing the garden.
Rest your eyes and your awareness on what is here in front of you, in the present moment. Be with the mind, which means the following: feel the feelings, experience the experiences, think the thoughts. Try to do this with acceptance, as you may not like what there is. However, simply be with it and don’t try to change or suppress it. Imagine yourself sitting in a movie theatre and watch what is going on on the screen, i.e. your life in this very moment. This is mindful awareness.
2. Now you can pull the weeds, i.e. reduce the negative.
Challenge wrong or harmful thoughts (they are after all just thoughts, not necessarily the truth), challenge fixed or selective perceptions, inhibit harmful actions. This can be done by slowing down, releasing tension (yoga, sports, a walk), deeply breathing and relaxing.
3. Finally plant the flowers, i.e. grow the positive.
Think what’s true and beneficial – yes, you did not manage to do all 10 things on your to-do-list, but you DID do the most important things – , feel grateful for what you have and act in ways that are beneficial to yourself and to others.
We could sum this up as: letting be, letting go, and letting in.
A good example would be to examine a relationship, such as with a child:
He does not listen to your order to stop playing with his toys to come to dinner. Recognize that you get angry, frustrated (emotions). The stomach tightens (sensations). You think: “Why can’t he not for once do as I say?!” (thoughts). Your triggers get pulled and you are about to act in anger. Try to be open and recognize what’s there.
Breathe. Challenge thoughts that contain a “should”, “never”, “always”, “must” notion. They are signals of a mind trap. Because, if you are honest, does he really “never” listen to you? Is his intention really to defy you personally? Try to release negative thoughts. Commit to not acting or speaking out of anger, as it creates emotional distance. And the message you want to deliver will certainly not be heard or accepted.
Begin receiving true and beneficial thoughts. Maybe he simply did not hear you because he was too concentrated on the play? Look for positive alternatives to your automatic reaction. Remember the love and kindness that is the basis of your relationship. If he ignored you on purpose, then think of better ways to communicate, for example: “When you ignore me like this, then I feel really hurt and disrespected. Let’s have a talk about our way of being with each other when we are both calm again.”
Being with our mind is not easy and it needs practice to be able to do it. But with practice and with the openness to work with whatever is here, it is possible to create a beautiful and colourful garden of your mind and pull out the weeds whenever you see them.