This summer, my backyard patio was a constant source of stress. As the rains poured down in torrents day after day, the weeds climbed up through the paving stones and reached for the brilliant sun.
At first, I glanced at them askance, thinking, “I’ll wake up early and take care of those tomorrow, before it gets hot.”
There was always something more important going on in the morning, however–my sunrise yoga and meditation (yeah, sure); making breakfast (coffee), packing lunch for my son (he’ll be at camp, so I won’t see the stink face if I screw it up). And with the day full-speed ahead, weeding wasn’t even a thought.
But, the weeds were.
I never forgot about the weeds. I saw them when I opened the blinds first thing in the morning, and I watched them every time I passed the patio doors (which are on route from my studio and office to almost anywhere else in the house), until I closed the blinds before bed. No, I never forgot them.
I turned away from them, ignored them, made plans for them, pretended not to care about them…all the while my stomach did a little flip each time they proved to be taller, thicker, and multiplying. Some grew flowers. My patio became impressively verdant. It got to the point that I finally called a professional, who promised to eradicate them in a lasting way, by butane torch and bleach.
They were back within two weeks.
Finally, one Saturday morning, I just did it. I resolved to spend 20 minutes a day weeding, until I pulled up every single one of those suckers. With a pre-coffee grumble and still in my jammies, I went outside, grabbed a bucket, plopped down, and got started.
The morning was cool and peaceful, and the baby shoots released easily. As I gently worked out each one, the roots came up with fresh soil still clinging to them. Their leaves were so soft, stems so delicate. I felt almost apologetic, and I told them silently that they weren’t necessarily bad. They were quite beautiful, really. I just didn’t want them on my patio. As I lovingly tossed each tiny, tender plant into the bucket, I noticed I was in a yoga squat–the perfect hip opener and emotional release pose.
I now understand why gardeners seem so serene while they work.
It was no great leap to see the connection between weeds growing between the paving stones and all the unintended thoughts, assumptions, hurts, and worries that find root in my mind throughout each day. Looking around, I realized what anyone who has ever weeded already knows: I was going to have to keep up with this, because they would always take root. There are spores in the wind and rain! If attended to promptly, they would remain benign and easy to remove. And, like the thick, burnt stalks that still jutted up in places and had deep roots under the pavement stones, so, too, my resentments and attachments which I had let fester and become engrained: those would require extensive work to remove.
Sometimes I think of nothing at all while weeding, focusing on the motion of my body and the tiny differences in each plant. Often, in that mental quiet, revelations arise, connections are made, and emotions are allowed and respected. I always feel satisfied and at peace when I straighten up, see a circle of pristine patio around me, and go inside to start my day.
Eventually, it occurred to me how much those quiet, peaceful moments contrasted with my “regular” day, and I started to want that feeling more than once in a while. I also noticed how much clearer my thoughts were while weeding, and how accepting I felt of the “ugly” or “annoying” little weeds. In those moments, I was more forgiving and able to see a larger vista of experience (ie, the weeds were only unwanted on my patio, but were actually simply plants and possibly helpful and beautiful elsewhere).
the root chakra pause
Our first chakra, or Muladhara in sanskrit, is located at the base of the spine (more precisely at the perineum). In the simplest way, you can just become aware of this area at a pause in activity during a busy day. Muladhara’s element is earth, and it’s associated with the bones, legs, feet, and large intestine. So, instead of letting your mind rush around with worries and duties when you take a break–the opposite of a break, really, if your mind is still on overdrive–sit on your root chakra and feel your bones. If you happen to be standing, feel the solidity of your legs and plant your feet firmly on the ground.
This chakra’s color is red, so visualize all the life-sustaining red blood flowing through your veins. I like to imagine that network of arteries and veins branching down through the soil and deep into the Earth, connecting with its molten red core. I anchor myself, secure and steady, with the vast root system of an enormous old oak tree, and think about the energy of the Earth’s magnetic field flowing up and into my own core.
The human need fulfilled with the Muladhara, our center of Earthly manifestation, is to be. “I have the right to be here, the right to have.” Feel this with certainty. Notice how it feels to be and to have.
Inevitably, this calm will soon be wiggled through with nagging little weeds of doubt and worry! Think about weeding your garden with gentle, loving attention. Notice the irritations and where they lodge in your body. Envision yourself pulling them free like tender shoots, and then hold them away from you without judgment. Briefly take note of their character and quality, then mentally toss them aside. You can imagine these weeds harmlessly returning to the Earth, as natural vegetation more suitable elsewhere, perhaps, yet not needed in your carefully tended garden.
The image at the top of the page is “Muladhara” (Watercolor, pastels, ink, colored pencil and gouache on paper, 22 in X 22 in, 2018), one painting in a series of mandala making meditations. Learn more HERE.