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How weeding can increase mindfulness

How weeding can increase mindfulness

I have a lot of weeding to do in the summer; sometimes it feels like a full-time job. We have an extensive alpine garden and sometimes I can get obsessive about it. This type of thinking doesn’t help me because if you know anything about gardening weeding is often a never-ending task.

I read last week that it is important to focus on the individual tasks in the moment and not on thinking about having it all finished. When I think about having all the weeds gone in the garden I get stressed. The book I was reading is A Liberated Mind: How to Pivot Toward What Matters by Steven C. Hayes.

The author says that when we focus on one aspect at a time we are tapping into our intrinsic or internal motivation, but focusing on having it all finished is extrinsic or external motivation. So focusing on the individual task in the moment of weeding helps with mindfulness but thinking or in my case stressing about having it all done doesn’t help because of its external or performance focus. 

I have also learned from experienced gardeners about the importance of leaving some of the weeds, which means purposely planning for an imperfect garden. We are human and imperfect and philosophically maybe our gardens should be a reflection of this. It is easier to obtain and live with an imperfect garden and maybe even inhumane to expect ourselves to attain a perfect garden.

When one looks deeper into mindfulness, non-duality comes into play. Embracing both the “good” and the “bad”, so it makes sense that leaving some weeds and focusing on the task of being in the moment when weeding will help us carry out the tasks of gardening in a calmer and more peaceful way.  

Maybe there are positives about weeds that we didn’t realize. What could they be? A friend said, “If the weeds couldn’t grow neither would the desirable plants.”  Here are some positive qualities of weeds: they help fertilize the soil, increase moisture, serve as a living mulch, repel pests, and even attract insects and bugs that your main crops can take advantage of. Non-duality asks us to accept the negatives, not repelling what is a natural part of life leading to increased peace of mind.  

You can catch me practicing this as I weed my back garden and the unhelpful thoughts in my mind. 

"You should rather be grateful for the weeds you have in your mind because eventually, they will enrich your practice."  Shunryu Suzuki

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