For most of us, gardens are where flowers, herbs and trees grow. Each garden reveals something about its owner - their ideas, creativity, and care, or the lack of them. There is, however, another type of garden that is invisible to the eyes, yet reveals all those characteristics and much more. It has its own labyrinth – once lost inside, it is difficult to get out. This is the garden of thoughts.
Thought keeps the mind active, wondering, thinking, remembering, worrying….. like bindweed, it can spread fast. Left unattended, they can take over the whole garden. Plant a negative thought in the mind and negativity expands into strong, prickly thorns that can hurt and injure its owner as well as those who come into contact with them. As time goes by, these thoughts blossom into a world of our unique creation where we live, believe and are absorbed in it. Meanwhile the roots grow stronger and deeper into the ground - forming our perception and habit.
However, our choice of thoughts are not always accurate but subject to trial and error. People may not be amused by our funny jokes. An angry thought may seem temporarily attractive – with its vibrant, fiery colour, giving us a bit of excitement and instant satisfaction but with poisonous and damaging effects. Some plants are persistent, hardy and difficult to get rid of. What’s more, the garden sometimes suffers from unwelcome guests of pests and weeds. We need to attend to it regularly to keep it in good order. Likewise our thoughts.
With the aid of words, thought flows swiftly into the past and future. Memories become alive. Without words, communication doesn’t go far. I know this well because years ago, while taking my neurobiology exams for my Masters degree, my verbal memory temporarily came to a halt. This may have to do with menopause, hormones, blood flow, sleep deprivation or who knows what? Despite knowing answers to the exam questions, only images - picture after picture of experiments appeared in my head. To my horror, there were no words to describe them. Luckily, an hour later, my verbal memory came flooding back and I was able to complete my exam.
Words of thought can be expressed through written and spoken language or kept alive in a pensive mode. We think a lot more when we don’t do the talking. We give words meanings and become affected by them. When it comes to anniversaries, festive seasons, New Year or Valentine’s, feelings of sadness or loneliness may be felt much more so than ever. This is because we create thoughts, expecting these days to be filled with happiness and find ourselves falling into the trap of lacking or not getting enough. What’s more, we are ready to defend our words or ideas and argue with those who disagree with them or ignoring them while we are talking. You said this, I said that. Add the words ‘I, me, mine’ and ‘you’ to the thought equations and the words start to have more impact and personal meaning.
Sometimes we can’t even stand our own thoughts and want to get rid of them, particularly when they get stuck on the same track, repeating themselves and causing stress. When that happens, we tend to think more, trying to resolve it. But we cannot use thought to weed out thought. Take a lesson from nature. If you observe a pot plant and do nothing whatsoever to nurture it, it will soon wither and die. Likewise, our thoughts. There is no need to get rid of them, just observe. You will notice that there are thoughts, the one watching those thoughts, the emotions that arise from those thoughts and the ceasing of thoughts – known as letting go. This letting go comes naturally, independent of ‘I’ getting involved. Seeing the arising and ceasing of this thought process is empowering. Letting go this way helps the mind to return to balance, free from cognitive weeds and pests, allowing our garden to flourish at its best - at peace and in harmony.