My garden just gave me a lesson about what I choose to focus on. Normally, I love to garden. Digging in the dirt, planting, dividing, watering, feeding, weeding (yes, even weeding) becomes almost meditative. My mind is silenced by nature and all her beauty.
Yet, something happened the other day: I did not see the beauty, I saw the imperfections.
Earlier, I had sent an email to our local horticultural society. In previous years, I had thought of joining their open garden parade, but I would stop myself saying, “Maybe next year when this area fills in more” or “Oh, I can’t this year, the brutal winter killed…”. But this time I said to myself, “Enough with the excuses. It is beautiful as it is.”
“My green thumb came only as a result of the mistakes I made while learning to see things from the plant’s point of view.” — H. Fred Dale
I thought what motivated me to join the parade was my love of gardening (with a wee-bit of pride mixed in), but it did not take long for my ego to take over.
Instead of weeding in silence that day, my mind was crowded with thoughts, knowing that someone would be coming to view my garden. The closer I looked, the less I liked. I saw the curled leaves of the dogwood, attacked by aphids. I saw the perennial that was flopped over and needed staking. Halfway through weeding, I caught myself thinking, “Maybe I should just call and cancel.”
And then in hit me. I had just taken the joy out of being in my garden. Only hours before, I had been focused on its beauty, now all I could see were the imperfections. My garden was just as beautiful as it was that morning, but I failed to see it.
“The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
It made me stop and think for a moment. How often do I take the pleasure out of doing something, by wrapping my ego around it in some way? How often do I lose the joy, by focusing on the end result?
“Things won are done, joy’s soul lies in the doing” — William Shakespeare.
We live in such a driven society: to be the best, to achieve, to be recognized. The message is “succeed and you will feel great.” But if we are not grounded, we become like gas tanks with holes. We get filled up with praise and recognition, but moments later it leaks out and we are left searching for ways to fill ourselves up again.
Yet shouldn’t we fill ourselves up through the joy of doing?
Kids know how to do this.They are absorbed in the sheer joy of what they are doing, not in the outcome. They only become burdened by “is it good enough?” when we adults start attaching praise (or no praise) to the end result. Then the shift starts to happen: it becomes less about the joy of doing and more about the rush of pride at being acknowledged.
“Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it.” – Greg Anderson
Yet what if we could unhook ourselves from this conditioning? What if we could bring the joy back? What if we could turn around with a pair of scissors and cut the threads that tie us to the outcome?
We can. The present moment comes with the pause we need to decide. Our ego might make the decision for us in that first moment, but we are still given choices in the next moment and the moment after that.
“Life gives you plenty of time to do whatever you want to do if you stay in the present moment.” — Deepak Chopra
In my garden the other day, I missed the first moment and let my ego take over. I missed many moments after that and my weeding became filled with judgements. It was the absurdity of cancelling that finally shook me out of it, and I was able to find my way back to the beauty of my garden.
The present moment gives us so many chances to break out of old patterns and create new ones. We do not need to be perfect either: miss the first one, catch the second. But the key is, to catch one. Be present enough to catch it.
“What matters is to live in the present, live now, for every moment is now. It is your thoughts and acts of the moment that create your future. The outline of your future path already exists, for you created its pattern by your past. But even that outline can change, and will change, depending on your own thoughts and actions as each new day dawns and then dies away again.” — Sathya Sai Baba
To us all finding our inner joy in the now.