Dump the old videos, get out the watering can
January 02, 2008
My aunt and I are talking about all sorts of things and as always we gravitate to the ever-constant struggle—or maybe I should say mission—to be a better person, live a more authentic and therefore better life.
She passes along yet another tidbit when we get to the whole self-loathing subject. The tendency to be a little hard on ourselves for one reason or another. For crazy things like relaxing on the couch wrapped in a blanket while housework is left undone. For not being motivated to rip down wallpaper or remodel the bathroom on our one and only day off. For having a bad attitude and not being able to shake it. For being "too fat," or "not pretty enough" or having "no life" or being single, etc. etc. We talk about how these thoughts spiral into each other and gain enough power to suck us into the deep dark vortex otherwise known as depression.
She tells me of some advice she heard the other day and it hits a chord: "Don't side with the enemy."
It is my new mantra to stop what the Buddhists call "monkey mind"—the natural tendency we all have to worry about the future, regret the past, curse this or that about ourselves and just about everything else except think about and enjoy exactly what we have right NOW. This very second. Even if it is just the smooth feel of my grandmother's kitchen table top; the sharp-sweet scent of the cinnamon stick candle burning; the fuzzy warmth of the crazy oversized wool stockings that are flopping off my feet, the cool, buttery tang of chardonnay as it slides past my tongue and tingles down into my stomach.
When those negative, self-loathing thoughts—the enemy disguised as "me"—I will refuse to side with them.
This takes practice, I know. But for the new year I vow to engage in the practice. Why not?
Something I read long ago and think of from time to time helps bring this wise concept to life.
Instead of "siding with the enemy," which just makes it grow stronger, why not water the seed of good?
Sometimes it seems like a natural tendency to dig out all the bad, the hurt, the slights, the wounds and concentrate and comingle with the pain. Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh compares it to pulling out a nasty old video from the "basement" of our minds and replaying it over and over again. Why we tend to do this I don't exactly know. He points out that when we reach for it on the shelf, we should stop right there— "Don't side with the enemy"—and get out the watering can instead. Dump water on those seeds of joy that are all around us at any given moment. Help them grow into powerful plants that are simply too huge to ignore.
I like this concept, though it is something I have to remind myself of often. It's sometimes easier to sit in the dark replaying the nasty video over and over again. The thing is, it is not healing. It is perpetuating the hurt. Siding with the enemy.
So as another new year rolls around I'd like to water the seeds of good in me and everyone else, too. Here's how simple it is (written by Thich Nhat Hanh):
"The quality of our life depends on the quality of seeds in our store consciousness.
"We may be in the habit of manifesting seeds of anger, sorrow and fear in our mid consciousness; seeds of joy, happiness and peace may not sprout up much. To practice mindfulness means to recognize each seed as it comes up from the storehouse and to practice watering the most wholesome seeds whenever possible to help them grow stronger. During each moment that we are aware of something peaceful and beautiful, we water seeds of peace and beauty in us, and beautiful flowers bloom in our consciousness. The length of time we water a seed determines the strength of that seed...during that time other seeds, like fear and pain, will not be watered. We have to practice this way every day. Any seed that manifests in our mind consciousness always returns to our store consciousness stronger. If we water our wholesome seeds carefully, we can trust that our store consciousness will do the work of healing..."
I wish you all huge, bright beautiful life flowers every day of the new year.
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