For many years I have been teaching the concept that much like a garden we have outside, before we can plant anything and expect it to grow, we first have to remove all the old stuff, the trash and the things that are cluttering the soil. Today, as I was doing that exact literal thing in my backyard raking leaves and removing last years dead plants that were once so vibrant, I was reminded of the conversation I had this week with a group of men who have traumatic brain injures.
I teach this topic every March, regardless of who is in my classes because I think no matter who you are and what your life experience is, we all have something that is cluttering up our heart and therefore limiting the potential we have to grow. This might be something like fear, disappointment, regret, guilt, shame, resentment, anger or any other feeling and emotion that we have carried around for days or decades.
As I was guiding a meditation about visualizing a garden and seeing the old growth, the twigs and the trash, I asked them each to see a garden in their heart that may also have some things that could be getting in the way of growth.
I shared with my ‘frat house’ that they have fondly referred to themselves as, that I have some disappointment that is taking up space in my own heart. I carry it day after day, year after year and despite all my attempts to pull it out, it seems to have a root system that is deep and new shoots pop up and take over my heart at times.
As we had a discussion about this, they called me out on it and the wise man who developed a life changing brain tumor at age 23 gave me the best insight on how to manage all the little twigs and trash that take up space. He is turning 60 in a a few weeks and following his diagnosis while in his final year of college his life has been a series of assisted living settings and long term support. He lost his independence and so much more, and yet is so wise.
Are you ready for this? In my humbleness, I asked how does one remove all the “twigs and trash” from our hearts. I asked how do I remove the disappointment?
He shared that you can never fully rid of every twig or piece of trash that has landed in the garden, instead you have to learn to manage and grow around them.
Huh, I said.
Tell me more, I said.
He went on to say that the remnants of the the “twigs” and “trash” will likely always be there and sometimes they may stick out of the soil and poke you but our job is to plants things around them so the beauty takes over.
Again, I asked how.
The wise teacher said:
When we forgive ourselves and others we remove so much of the garbage that fills our heart. This removes resentment, bitterness, and what-if thinking. When we accept was IS we no longer grieve for what might have been which brings presence to growing today. And finally, when we focus on being grateful we see all that we have, not all that we do not have.
How’s that for insightful?
It’s not so much about removing the parts of our heart that impede growth, but rather moving them aside through forgiveness, acceptance and gratitude so that we make space for something far more amazing to grow.
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