It goes without saying that digging in the dirt can be restorative – even playful. It brings us back to a time of “mud pies” and imaginary play. Opening our minds and our hearts by doing something so child-like is, without question, good for the soul. But as an adult, sometimes digging in the dirt becomes a chore.
Weeding: A contemplative, repetitive, mind-freeing task? Or a backbreaking, frustrating, time-consuming chore? I was faced with this question this weekend. I had allowed the weeds to take over all of my flowerbeds, by simply not getting out into the soil often enough this Spring. As a result, I was growing my own little plot of land perfect for Round-Up experiments. The weeds were everywhere. Some of them were just starting to poke through the soil, and others were fully-grown and flowering a mere foot above dry land! Ugh – what a chore. At least, that’s how I ended up looking at it.
When I first went into the garden, I was full of promise and hope. “Soil is good for the Soul,” I told myself. I was taking time out, without cell phones, TVs and other electronic devices, to return to nature and literally dig in the dirt. I was looking forward to my hours of contemplation and repetitive action – knowing that it would give my spirit time to pause and reflect, without conscious thought or ego-mind entering into the equation. I was actually excited about weeding. And then as the fifth hour started, and I realized I had barely made a dent…..my perspective changed.
My soul-enhancing task had turned into a nightmare chore. I had simply let it go too long. The weeds were too well established, and the process had become backbreaking. Soil was no longer good for my soul – it was challenging and depleting. It was annoying and frustrating. It was also, in a word, boring. Even with the best of intentions, I found myself smack-dab in the middle of a human experience with all the ego and emotions that go along with it. I was mad (that I didn’t have a lawn service this year), annoyed (at myself for letting it go too long), tired (it had already been 5 hours, with no end in sight), and frustrated (why the heck do weeds grow SO much faster than everything else?). I was bargaining with myself: “if I do 2 more feet, I can go out and get an ice cream cone.” Or “if I finish this area, I can take a break.” I was doing all the things you do to keep moving forward when all you want to do is stop. So, how did my contemplative mind turn into such a raw bed of emotions?
I think it’s possible (probable?) that I expected too much of myself and my soulful approach to weeding. There are times when it seems easy to forget that I am human as well as a soul. That although I can meditate, or read, or journal, or pause, or pray, or reflect, or…or….or, although I can do everything possible to find balance, peace and harmony in my daily life – I’m still human. And I will still find and experience my humanity in my daily existence. To try to push it aside and ignore or deny it (silencing it through all of the above methods) is not honoring myself. It is still a part of me – every day. So, yes, weeding for 5 hours is going to frustrate me. Doing anything for 5 hours, repetitively, will probably frustrate me. But it had to be done. And it’s ok to be frustrated, and it’s ok to feel annoyed and tired.
I think that’s a piece that is often missed: It’s ok to have feelings. It’s always ok to have feelings. We don’t need to meditate (or medicate) them away. Embrace them, honor them, validate them – and they will co-exist peacefully. Ignore them or deny them, and that’s when they turn into unhealthy behaviors and emotional reactions. That’s when we say things like, “I ran away with my feelings…” and that’s usually not good, or healthy.
In the end, it turned out that the soil was good for my soul – just not in the way I intended or expected. It taught me that sometimes freeing the mind can actually bring me more in touch with my human experience, which in turn allows for deeper understanding and connectedness. I also learned that weeding doesn’t have to be perfect, and that it was easier to grab a hoe and simply turn the soil, than it was to pluck each and every plant out from the root. In the end, I decided that feelings, and a few weeds, are ok.