How a Garden is Like A Mind

This is a 50-pound cement unicorn I recently obtained. I love it.

This is a 50-pound cement unicorn I recently obtained. I love it.

I’ve been spending a lot of time in my porch garden recently. There are a few things I’ve been learning about, and yesterday it dawned on me that there was a blog worthy metaphor lingering there, ready to burst with the cosmos buds and nasturtium flowers.

It all started when I watched this little grey bug sitting on a stem of a morning glory. It was spitting little tiny drops of water over and over, they were falling to the ground. My curiosity was devouring. I looked at it for so long, trying to imagine what it would grow into. A gecko? I like geckos. But no, it had too many legs and a different type of personality. I held up random objects to catch the water it spat and examine it. I longed for a microscope.

I asked my Facebook friends and found it to be some type of aphid, which I should get rid of. Either with ladybugs or dish soap/water spray. I longed for ladybugs. Instead, I flicked him and his entire family off at every chance I got.

A few days later I saw a cluster of red ant-like scrawly things all clustered on a cosmos stem. I watched them, they didn’t seem nice. I did some googling and found them to be another type of non-desirable aphid. Apparently not dealing with them soon could mean trouble later. So I flicked them off.

Planting seeds is a commitment to having plants, which attract bugs. Some bugs are good for the plants, some bugs are bad for them. Knowing which is which can be useful because you can prevent a problem before it starts, sometimes, by flicking your fingers instead of having to spray your food and flowers with toxic things.

We plant all kinds of seeds. We may join a book club or reading group. We may buy a journal. We may throw away all of the sugar in our house and buy some flax oil. We make commitments to growing certain seeds in our life all the time.

But what about the bugs? We notice them when they are in full swing, don’t we? Some bugs can devour your entire porch garden and chomp on all the leaves right before your eyes, leaving you no option but to start over. Self-doubt can creep in to your budding writing group and tell you that you have no right to be there, you’re a crap writer and none of the other people like you anyway. Maybe it kills that plant in your life.

Unless you see it coming, identify it, and flick it off the stem before it has a chance to grow and eat all of your hard work.

Some bugs are good. Like ladybugs. And mud wasps. They eat the stuff you don’t want, the circle of life works in harmony with what you want on the tiny piece of the world you started relating with. Are there good bugs of the mind, too? Some people use affirmations. Some use meditation. Some use Yoga. We nurture these actions because we know that they tend to live off of and consume the small aphids of our minds- the doubts, the self-criticalness, the insecurity.

Just some thoughts on gardening and the mind. Hope everyone is well!

Do you have seeds that you plant in your life, do you enjoy the blossoms or fruit that they bring?

Do you have a garden, have you ever seen those little spitting bugs?

Do you have actions that you nurture in daily life to take care of the small little metaphorical aphids before they devour your entire garden?

 

Morning Intentions For Happiness…Right?

There are a lot of things we are supposed to do in the morning.

We should write down our dreams, eat good breakfasts, and stretch. We should get hydrated, go for a jog, and meditate. Depending on who you ask, you’re a fool if you leave out one or more of these.

But what about morning intentions? Are they useful? Are we all supposed to do them so that we can be happy, shiny people bubbling with cheer and healthy bank accounts and perfect relationships in no time at all?

Here I’m going to re-explore the question of happiness and how to find it through morning intentions. There are no solid answers to be found here, only some things that have been helping me to feel less crazy lately.
Happiness: Hmmmm….

I’ve been reading a great book about happiness recently called “The Happiness Trap.” Undoubtedly, it will show up in more than a few posts from here on in. The main thing I’m gaining from it is the acknowledgement that there are various definitions of “happy.”

A lot of times, we take the word to mean “a pleasurable feeling,” and we seek it out to no end, beating ourselves up if we can’t achieve it.

The other definition has to do with living a meaningful life. Living a life that is in line with your values, and that is fulfilling. Such a life will not always meet the expectation of a “pleasurable feeling”.

Even the healthiest long-term relationship is bound to have some ups and downs, and a healthy life is not going to be bliss and cheer every step of the way. Acknowledging this is important. My morning intentions are not for bliss; they are for living a life that feels real and friendly to the person living it.

Which Things Always Create A Desirable Feeling?

There are certain things that I do sometimes that never fail to lead to me feeling good. Some of these include:

  • Running with the dog.
  • Reading a fictional book for at least a half an hour.
  • Looking at the sky or a natural surrounding for a few minutes without thinking too much about it.
  • Drawing, doodling, creating art with colors on paper.
  • Making up ditties on the guitar for characters in my short stories to understand them better.
  • Cooking a nice meal.

These things generally never make me feel worse, or more stressed, or more anxious, or like I wasted time.  They are things I love, things that nourish me and help me to improve a skill that I value. The problem is, on most days I don’t have time for each and every one of them.

So sometimes, in the morning or during the heat of my workday, I will commit to one of them; and do an intention that way. Instead of a complex list of things that are supposed to bring me some type of happiness, I’ll pick something that is likely to lead to inspiration and a feeling of working with a fulfilling life.

 

Respecting the Uniqueness of Each Day with Morning Intentions

Each day is a unique conglomeration of factors. Sometimes you feel like you are getting sick. Other times, you feel on fire with creativity. Your hand might hurt from yesterday’s writing episode, or your legs might hurt from yesterday’s workout. On certain days, you are booked with plans and on others, your schedule is blissfully open.  This is important too, I think.

No intention is going to work every single day of the week.

Listen to your body, to your mind, to the mood it is in. Listen to the weather and your schedule. Think of an intention based on those things; give yourself room to notice what the day is saying.

If you wake up and feel like you are coming down with a cold and you notice that it is rainy and chilly, perhaps the nature walk intention is not the ideal one to commit to. Perhaps today is a good day for the hot tea and bath intention.

Keeping It Simple

Sometimes it’s fun to make an elaborate plan. Today after work I shall finish 2,000 more words of my short story and I shall also run three miles whilst creating a slow-cooked turkey dinner with herbs from my garden! Yes, a perfect day in paradise! But all of that can lead to some rushing, some frantic energy, and a whole lot of lack in the slow enjoyment department.

Keep it simple. Maybe one intention a day is good. Maybe your intention is about your health.  “Today, I will smoke one less cigarette than normal.” or, “Today, I will get a vegetable that I have not tried in a long time.” Something small, easy, doable. Or, something vague. “Today I will notice how my body feels after each meal.”

Forgiveness, Acceptance, and Compassion

I am trying to learn more about compassion and how to use it in relation to my own destructive emotions. So far, I know that one thing that truly seems to work for me and troublesome or “negative” emotions is to welcome them. That’s easier said than done.

But I feel a bit closer to acceptance after asking myself:

  • Where does this emotion affect my body?
  • How would I explain this feeling in my body?
  • How long has this feeling been happening?
  • How long will it happen, can I time it?
  • What is happening outside of this feeling?

These things are not directly accepting or welcoming a feeling, but they do encourage curiosity which lets me see the feeling in a way that is more useful than just fusing with it and letting it dominate my awareness.

Do you have feelings that can get in the way of your creativity, your writing, your music, your joy?

The Best Morning Intentions For Happiness

Having wide intentions, broad strokes of awareness, and many things to pick from can be a great way to have each day bring you to a more healthy relationship with yourself & your community. Or at least, they do that for me.

Don’t try to be too “happy” and don’t assume that others are feeling that way, either. Don’t try to make a million intentions that you’ll never keep up with, or stay too focused on getting excess money and a perfect relationship. Stay real, stay here, look at what is happening now. Find those things that always leave you in a better place and do one of them every so often with abandon.

The Science of Morning Intentions

This will be an upcoming topic for a post. I am going to do some research on various things, including priming, memory, and adrenaline.

 

Do you use morning intentions? Do you use them to try and attract more money, or a partner, or to get healthier? Or something else?

Do you find that having some type of intention can help you with your writing, such as a set goal for the amount of words to do in a day? (Especially now that NaNoWriMo is coming up…)

Or is the whole business of “intentions” some type of hippie crap that is best left to the vultures?

The Five-Minute Secret

Since it only takes a moment for your mood to shift, it’s amazing what you can accomplish in just five minutes!

I don’t know about you guys, but lately I am absolutely loaded with things to do! Working my own hours with my writing job means that I consistently have the “I should be working” feeling if I try to do anything else. Having a book to write leaves me with a little voice whispering “Stop neglecting me, I want to play!” Oddly enough, that’s also what my dog keeps saying. In my head.

Then there is hiking to be done, meditation to commit to, a yoga practice to maintain, and my physical health! Not to mention the songs I’m trying to write on guitar and the little garden I’m building up, my dog’s training classes, and this blog! Also, I want to get better at spinning fire poi. Endless loves of my life, these things, and yet sometimes an entire day will pass where all I do is one or two of them. I’ll think of them all, but my actual energy will not be spent on them.

This can lead me to feeling in a rather bad mood. You could easily look at me like I am crazy, since I make my own hours and can, at any point, decide to do my book or guitar or dog play time or anything. Yet it’s hard for me to get out of the funk of “I need to work-work-work” and “I need to only work on my book when I have a whole day to devote to it,” and yada yada yada.

What I realized today is that there is a magic secret to all of this.

Today when I woke up I realized that my moods were getting a bit powerful.  I set my little timer and meditated for five minutes. It was the first time in several months that I had done so. Then, when I brushed my teeth, I stretched more than usual. Pandora was playing Bob Dylan, and I danced. I pretended that I was spinning my fire poi, and tried to make sure that my feet reached every part of the floor at least once.

Then I took little breaks during my work day and recorded some versions of songs I was working on, and found websites that relate to this blog entry so that I could make the links more easily. Never taking more than five minutes to do any of these things.

Turns out, five minutes is a long time; and not only that, but there is a snowball effect when you start indulging in these lovely things!

If you care about how many calories can be burned in five minutes, there is a great chart on this link. You can see that five minutes of anything can burn up some of the calories you’ve eaten, which can feel great if you are looking to do that sort of thing.

For those of us that are avid anti-calorie counters, there are also immense benefits of five minutes of meditation. With such a short period of time, you are not going to be getting as much cumulative benefits as with a longer sit,but you are getting something; and something is better than nothing. You can reverse your stress response. For me, I notice that even after a five minute sit, my body feels more grounded and I am more likely to think before making snap reactions during the day.

Furthermore, there are benefits of five minutes of massage! Of course, it is great for someone else to do the massage; and ideal for it to be longer. But when is the last time you sat in a comfy position and rubbed the back of your head and neck for five minutes? It will help move your lymph, reduce your stress, prevent some trigger points from forming, and make you feel good.

The last thing I’ll discuss here is how great it is to spend five minutes outside. When you see the health benefits of spending five minutes outside, you will realize that it is one of the easiest things to do. I’m willing to bet that plenty of you guys are just like me in that you spend a lot of time doing what you have to do, a bunch of time doing what you want to do, and yet you still feel that there are things that you do not have time for.

I think that the five minute mark is a great one to work with. Anyone has time to put five minutes into a sitting meditation, or into a walk. And then, once you do one of those things that you know you need to do, you will end up doing more; I almost guarantee it!  At least, that is how it worked for me. The five minute snowball miracle.

What are some of the things that you wish you had more time for in your daily life? Are you ever surprised with how much you can accomplish in five minutes? I know I sure am!

Turn Around, Mister Cricket! You’re Free!

I’m experimenting with a shorter blog post this evening.

Last night, a giant black Texas cricket got into the apartment. It was sitting there on the carpet, possibly trying to not jump because it saw the dog drooling. I ran over with a cup and piece of paper- the sissy way of getting a non-stinging bug outside.

I heroically (in my mind) moved the thing to the porch, and closed the door as much as I could while still getting my arm outside, and knocked over the cup while whipping my hand back into the house as fast as possible. As you can imagine.

While I watched it through the door to witness its fate, I saw that it was stuck in the bottom of the side-turned cup. All it had to do was to turn around and get out, into the open air, the free night, the huge field below. But it was obsessed with the bottom of the glass; with looking out at the barrier, and freaking out about it; jumping and struggling against nothing.

Huh. I thought. How often am I in that same position, without realizing it?

That is, that my world all of a sudden feels restricted and insane (someone putting me in a sissy cup & paper concoction), and then feeling trapped when all I have to do is turn around?

I’m not one to believe in the big-dude-in-the-sky God, but I do believe in something. At least, something that can nudge things into one direction or another. I couldn’t control that cricket’s every move; but I could get him outside of my living room. And I’m not a God, but I am bigger than him.

And that leads me to wonder:

How often do I need to just turn around in order to see the  big open space, instead of assuming that the one barrier I see is the be-all-and-end-all of my freedom choices?

How often does a thing that acts as a trap in one situation turn into a simple shelter in another? What are the restraints that we get so used to, that we fail to even notice when they are gone?