cherry tree

Weeds: of the garden, of the mind

New to gardening

Adam and I bought our first house last fall and inherited a beautiful garden from the previous owner. Seeing as how this is my very first garden to tend, I’m working on the advice of neighbors who point out weeds, a whispered request to the plants to tell me what they need, and a shaky faith that I couldn’t possibly kill the whole thing in one season.  

I find the weeds the easiest to get the hang of, and the pulling of said weeds ripe with meaning.  

My journey with weeds

I’ll spend an hour on a cluster of weeds that grow their roots so deep down my spade can’t reach. Digging in various positions–squatting, kneeling, sitting on the ground, standing and folding over–eventually my body starts to ache and I ignore the little stragglers I haven’t yet pulled, declaring the job well done.  

It’s not done though, is it? In fact, even if I get every last one of the visible weeds pulled, it’s still not done. They are going to come back. I know this already.  

Set on a weeding task in the garden, after an hour I have a hard time looking up. That is, I’ll be walking my detritus to the compost bin, feeling satisfied with my work, but I can’t seem to stop scanning the ground looking for (and always finding) more weeds. Stop. Stoop. Pull…Stop. Stoop. Pull. I realize: there is no end to this. This is a forever task.  

I don’t hate it.  

But I do cuss at them a lot, the little f*ers. 

Yoga: weeding the mind

Weeding my garden reminds me of the Yoga of weeding my mind. It’s a forever task. One might call it “a lifestyle.” The Yoga Sutras puts it pretty bluntly: 

“Practice becomes firmly established when it has been cultivated uninterruptedly and with devotion over a prolonged period of time.” Yoga Sutra 1.14 

So, Patanjali, you’re saying to do it constantly, really really care about doing it, and do it forever. (The commentary clarifies that a long time is actually multiple lifetimes unless you’re super duper devoted, so it’s really quite a long time. That fits “forever” for me.) 

Never-ending gardening

Well, isn’t it like weeding? I can’t expect myself to ever be done with weeding, yet I carry on with the stooping and pulling. Sure, there’s a break over the winter when nothing is growing, but I know the weeds will spring back up with more vigor than the rest of the garden as soon as they’re coaxed by a warm day. How can it be satisfying knowing there’s no end?  

I don’t know. Maybe because I see I’m making space in the soil for the non-weeds to grow. Maybe because I know some of these invasive weeds will take over in a big way if I don’t stay on top of them, and then they’ll be way harder to get out in the future. Maybe because I just like digging in the dirt.  

Never-ending Yoga

It’s like tending to my mind. Why do I try to feel better when I know that I’m guaranteed to feel crappy again? Why do I make any efforts to calm my thoughts when I know they won’t remain calm for long, unless I keep on with my efforts? Why do something I’ll never be able to retire from lest my mind get all weedy again, much faster than it got cleaned up?  

I don’t know. Maybe because it seems I make space for creativity to grow. Maybe because it gives me a sense of internal control that feels satisfying in a chaotic world that just keeps getting more chaotic. Maybe because I just like digging into my own dirt.  

Your lifestyle practice

Do you have a lifestyle practice you attend to? One that you know you have to stay on top of no matter what?

This kind of dedication is something remarkable. If you’re thinking right now “ugh, I hate it, I’m not dedicated to anything, it’s so hard,” I ask you to consider your hygiene routine. It’s likely you do something every single day that must be redone every single day or there will be consequences. Give yourself credit, and maybe add a small thing to your daily routine every once in a while. Establishing and developing your lifestyle, pulling the weeds one by one…forever.