At the moment I meditate like I take vitamin C – in emergencies only. OK, I’ve used that word lightly, but it’s true. I find myself caught in the habit of using the preventative as cure, which works to an extent, but prevention is better. My mother once told me of a tradition where you paid your doctor every month – unless you were ill. That was the month you didn’t pay, because you doctor had not done their job well enough. Now THAT would revolutionize the NHS (our beloved National Health Service here in the UK, which itself is becoming rather sick due to government spending cuts…).
There was a time, not so long past, when I had a very regular and treasured spiritual practice. I would meditate daily for an hour, with days off being a rare exception. And there was a time, not so long past, when my diet was more balanced, when I was more aware of what my body needed and where it could get it. I didn’t need vitamin supplements
Before beginning to teach on this one month intensive English Language Course, I felt a sore throat coming and my left ear had begun to complain with an inner pain that hinted at possible infection. I bought vitamin C supplements and slept for the afternoon. I was lucky, and whatever had threatened to pay me a visit decided not to stick around. I felt well the next day. I was grateful to my body, but it made me think.
This weekend I noticed my ‘being VS doing’ scale was feeling overwhelmingly tipped in doing’s favour, so I went to our Sanctuary here. This is a dedicated silent room, with a candle in the centre and chairs arranged in circles. I went into Sanctuary with the intention of catching up on some ‘being’ time.
Oh sweetheart, it doesn’t work like that. The vegetables I’m growing can’t be drowned in water one day and left thirsty for the next three. Little and often. My children’s novel won’t get written if I wait for those times when I have a whole weekend free. Little and often. My soul will not find its way closer to God if I think I can make up for regular daily practice by sitting with great intensity and purpose for, oh, a whole hour. My mind is like a well composted garden bed; it grows weeds with as much success as flowers and veg. If I weed it every day, the flowers will thrive. If I leave it too long, the weeds will have taken much of the nourishment for themselves, not to mention they’ll have grown tall and thick enough to hide the flowers completely. Weeds are powerful, believe me, I played tug of war with nettle roots recently and it was a closer run thing that I’d like to admit.
As I was weeding, liberating the spent daffodil bulbs from their cages of ground elder and nettle roots, my compassion began to grow for those thoughts, that light, that love and creativity that is missing out on my attention and energy, because the weeds of ‘To Do’ and ‘obligation’ have been allowed to grow out of control. When they reach this point of overwhelm, it’s already too late for ‘little and often’, and ‘one thing at a time’ must be engaged instead. To manage the overwhelm I have to focus on one task at a time, in order to be fed by the satisfaction of seeing something completed before digging for the energy to focus on the next.
I did spend a few precious moments with our sweet peas though, checking on their progress. When I saw how the delicate, finger like tendrils had perfectly and neatly curled themselves around the string of the rough frame I’d created for them, I was mesmerized. How do they know where the string is? How do they know they must wrap, and climb, and stretch towards the sun in order to flower and thrive? How many years, hundreds, thousands, of evolution has it taken to create this plant with such precision and perfection that it follows some divine inner instruction with such grace and lack of effort that we barely notice how clever it is?
How do I come to such a place of busyness that I believe I can catch up on my journey towards greater wakefulness by having a single hour of silence?
Writing this has brought me to humour, which has brought me to a more peaceful place, which has brought me to a willingness to accept what I already know – I have to give conscious attention to the important things ‘little and often’ or the unimportant things will grow to hide what really matters, and it will take much more time and effort to re-reveal those true priorities again.
Happy inner gardening folks🙂