There is no much point in gardening if we only ever walk through the garden looking out for potential problems. Apart from noticing what’s not going well, we also want to take the time to enjoy and appreciate the plants which are flourishing. Sometimes in our garden, or in our meditation, we can become fixated on real and potential problems. On the one hand, we’re not very good gardeners if we simply glide around from flower to flower, enjoying their beauty and ignoring the knee-high weeds almost overwhelming them. On the other hand, never making the time to ‘smell the roses’ seems to defeat the purpose of looking after a garden in the first place. Why have a garden if we’re never relaxed enough to enjoy and appreciate it?
Gardening is about our relationship to the garden – how much we notice, in what way we take care of it, whether we allow it to nourish us. In the same way, our life is also about the relationship we have with our life. To live is to be in relationship with everything around us, including our life. And this relationship depends a lot on what we choose to notice, and what we choose to ignore.
A good gardener will create the best possible conditions for the plants to flourish, and then be philosophical about the outcome. You might have spent weeks cultivating the soil, then bought a healthy-looking seedling, planted it in the right position in the garden, at the right time of year, and watered and fed it regularly, and still the plant might not survive a heatwave, or a hailstorm. Even professional gardeners have their fair share of failures. Sometimes, we might feel our meditation practice should be different, that we’ve worked hard enough to deserve a certain outcome. Just like the vagaries of the weather, the ever-changing conditions of our lives and our minds mean that no one can draw a clear line from A to B and tell you – ‘if you meditate in this way, for this long, then you will experience this’.
Still, we can enjoy being present in our meditation, just like we might enjoy wandering through a park or garden. The gardener and the plants are doing their best, as are we during meditation. No one can expect more of us, including ourselves.
Weekly practice idea:
Take ten minutes to walk through a garden or a park, and try to notice as many details as possible. Just noticing and being curious has a wonderful quality to it.