· Mindful gardener,Barbara Kingsolver,Transformation,Practice,Cultivation

“I can clear the brush from a neglected part of the garden, working slowly until it comes to me that here is one small place I can make right for my family. I can plant something as an act of faith in time itself, a vow that we will sure enough have a fall and a winter this year, to be followed again by spring. This is not an end itself, but a beginning.” – Barbara Kingsolver


A garden doesn’t happen quickly. As a good gardener we plant seeds and gently nurture them and water them, protecting these little treasures from the elements until they grow to maturity. It is a daily practice. It would be a bit odd to plant them one day and come back the next, shouting and stamping the soil berating them because the blooms are not yet apparent. So to with cultivating a more alive and conscious approach to our lives, it is a daily practice. It takes time and consistent effort to build a positive and rewarding life that truly matters - to us. The effort is worth it when the buds do start to appear. Sometimes I glimpse a better version of me, I see her out the corner of my eye and it is thrilling, like spotting a shy and elusive animal in the wild. So exhilarating is it that I am addicted to this rollercoaster, breathless feeling that gives me the strength required to commit deeper to it. This is priority #1 for me. I know this is the most important thing and all else will flow from it. This is for me, but I hope that it also makes me a nicer human being to be around for everyone.

The seeds I am daily cultivating are:

  • self compassion and loving kindness to others – and a generosity of spirit;
  • permission to stop and just be, rather than always doing;
  • to hold the good and the bad moments, as there will always be both;
  • gratitude for what happens and all that I have;
  • to follow my purpose, not what is expected of me. 

These are a means not an end. They are a way of being, not a physical concept as such. Although a fridge magnet, it is also true, that it is genuinely about the journey not the destination. Whatever that journey is, and wherever we’re going - which very often is destination unknown to us. The ‘J’ word – we’re all on one! As Ella Maillart said, “It is always our own self that we find at the end of the journey. The sooner we face that self, the better.” Why I had to have a physical breakdown - or a bitchslap from the Universe as I heard someone describe it - to sit up and take notice is frankly ridiculous, but I have reached a point of total acceptance and extreme gratitude to it for shaking me awake to what’s really important in life, my life.

Rest a while and marinate in positive moments, celebrate them, learn from them, translate them into actual long term change rather than just a pleasant thing that happened. I am trying to maximise positive experiences, however small. Being present and mindful can bring great clarity of purpose, and knowledge which can be translated into the right action. I am human, I am fallible and I am making plenty of mistakes but no more will I allow them to discourage me for long. All failure is teaching us a message if we can allow ourselves to feel the pain and learn from it.

Interestingly I had a moment recently where an innocent comment from somebody cut straight through and triggered painfully one of the ‘saboteurs’ that I now know that I have, that can pop up and ruin moments for me. If I let them! I had given out some little gifts that I had made and the comment – as well as thank you – was “you must have too much time on your hands”. I felt my face redden and the shame rising in me, without knowing it she had triggered the ‘overachieving’ saboteur that dwells within me. That strong impulse to be busy as a badge of honour, to overachieve to show how important I am, instead of containing my own self worth. My red face was a red flag. I stumbled, made a poor joke and sat down, my mind racing. But, and here is the thing I am joyful about right now, I recognised it for what it was. Since starting on this awakening path and practising this daily, I could recognise it and have absolute clarity about what was going on. This gave me the information that meant that I did not overreact as I might have done in the past, either projecting outwards or more often, hurting and berating myself at length with my negative thoughts about it – I’m nobody, everyone else is important but I am not doing enough and so on ad nauseum, making myself feel dreadful in the process. This time I stopped, saw it for what it was, felt the pain of it (which I’ll admit was intense at the time), smiled to it and was kind to myself until the pain naturally went away. Wow! Simple yet profound. 

Simple in theory, not so easy in practice, but this example just shows it is worth it. The practicing pays off. It is a path, a way that I am committed to. I have no idea where it is heading, there will undoubtedly be boggy ground, steep stony terrain as well as plenty of deserts where I will get lost, thinking I’m sure I’ve been this way before but, I also know that I will enjoy the multitude of flowers opening and blossoming of all varieties, as well as appreciating the views and the landscape along the way. Hold on to your hats, it’s gonna be a thrilling ride! Look forward to meeting up with you at the oases and resting spots along the way.

An interesting and funny footnote to this blog post is that since I drafted it my saboteurs have been triggered again, this time by a workman who visited our house and made the comment on looking at my garden: "Oh so you're not a gardener then." Still got some work to do then eh?! :-)

Wishing you well 'til we meet here again. Clare x

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