Thoughts in your mind are like acorns. If you allow them to grow, then something that started off small and insignificant can turn into a giant oak tree, covering the whole of the mind.
I recently attended a 10-day silent meditation retreat. At the start of the retreat, a middle-aged man pulled up in a new Mercedes, wearing smart clothes and an expensive watch. I noticed him but didn’t speak to him. At the end of the 10 days of silence when we were allowed to interact with each other, I found myself talking to him. The 10 days of meditation revealed much to all those who took part.
He told me that when he was a child, he used to be silly and goof around a lot. His mother, a proper and respectable lady, used to tell him to “stop being silly, behave normally, what will people think of you?” etc. This was the acorn. He realised, after completing the meditation course, that he had spent his entire life worrying about what other people thought of him. He had studied hard in school so people wouldn’t think he was stupid. He attended a top university so his parents would be proud. He got a well-paying job and climbed the career ladder so others would speak well of him. He bought expensive possessions so he could appear to have value.
He realised, that his entire life, everything he had created and everything he had obtained, had not been because he wanted it, but simply because that small acorn, had grown and grown to become a giant oak within his mind.
If this experience sounds familiar, and you can’t see the wood from the trees, what can you do about it?
Photo by Jenna Beehuis
Meditation is the process of observing the nature of the mind. With practice, you’ll be able to take a step back from your thoughts and see them more clearly. You’ll be able to identify aspects of your identity and trace them back to where they started.
Imagine that your mind is a garden. It is overgrown, there are long grass and weeds covering the ground. Bushes and taller plants scattered throughout and then several large trees dominating the sky.
When you meditate, you are the gardener.
The first day that you get to work, it feels overwhelming. Every direction you look in, there is work to be done and so much to clear up. However, day by day you keep working, keep tidying little sections, keep pulling out the weeds. You realise that one of the large trees is not healthy. It has an infection which is damaging the health of the rest of the garden. This is a very large job, but again, day by day you get to work. Taking the tree down piece by piece until you remove the roots from the ground.
Photo by Enrique Ortega
When you have removed this large tree, the whole garden is filled with so much more light and space. You continue, spending some time each day, out in your garden, tidying and clearing. One day you realise that your garden is no longer this wild place, but is peaceful, light and tranquil. Your garden is now a place you enjoy visiting and spending time in.
Now, instead of big jobs and tasks, all you have to do is spend a small amount of time each day tending to your garden. When you see a little shoot of a plant coming through the earth, stop and think.
Is this a seed, or is this a weed? Is this something I want to grow, or something I want to remove?
Water a seed and pull out a weed.
Photo by Yusef Sanei
Meditation gives you the control and power to create the mind, and therefore the life, that you want to live.
We spend hours each week in the gym, cultivating our bodies. Years cultivating our careers. We shower each day to clean our bodies. Spend lots of money dressing our bodies. Yet we spend no time at all each day tending or cultivating our minds.
We spend 100% of our lives inside our heads. By spending just a few minutes each day cultivating our gardens, we can make them beautiful places to enjoy this journey of life.