Learn how to live more peacefully



On fertile ground

Sometimes it seems like we read a book at just the right time in our lives, or hear someone say something which changes our perspective in a way which is very liberating, or a teacher comes along who changes the course of our life. It can feel like it was just ‘meant to be’, almost like the universe sent this into our lives because we were ready for it, but perhaps, if we’d come across the book or teacher twelve months earlier, we may have paid little attention to them. Yet every now and then the time is right for us, and the message, whatever it is, falls on fertile ground.

Our meditation practice can be like this – we may expect our meditation to be transformative and have an immediate effect, but perhaps the soil of our everyday life is quite depleted, and although we try hard, not much seems to be happening.

It could be that the hours surrounding the meditation are very busy and full of stress, and so the ‘seeds’ of meditation are not falling on fertile ground. However, what we are in fact doing during meditation is slowly improving the soil, so it becomes more fertile and receptive. The meditation may not be a seed growing straight away into a giant tree, but it might instead be the compost, sun and water which nourish our everyday life so that in the future, when seeds do fall into our lives, they can flourish and grow in a place which is supportive and allows the roots to develop. Roots have a symbiotic relationship with mycorrhizal fungi and other life forms which is incredibly complex. In the same way, meditation is not separate from the rest of our lives but deeply embedded and interdependent. And just like the effort of a farmer or gardener improving the soil takes many years and a lot of dedicated labour and patience before leading to a bumper crop, so the work of improving our inner soil through meditation requires patience and commitment, and a trust that a lot of beneficial effects are happening beneath the surface, where life forms interact and become more vibrant and more resilient, even though they are invisible to the eye.  

When plants grow too quickly, without a well-developed root system, they are easily toppled over by the first strong wind. In the same way, we can become excited about the promise of next new trend and practise it assiduously, only to watch it all fall in a heap at the first obstacle. While there is exciting research into the benefits of meditation, the everyday reality of an ongoing practice can feel quite mundane. Yet over time there might be an internal softening, an increased receptivity to the nourishing aspects of our lives. This usually takes place without much fanfare, but is still appreciated. Just like gardening, meditation is usually not very glamorous, but over time, our lives can become ‘fertile ground’ for growing the seeds of what we value.

Mindfulness practice:

Set aside ten to twenty minutes to journal on the question – what might it look like, to nourish the ‘inner soil’ in my life?

Anja Tanhane