The world can be overwhelming. Just the management of our lives: keeping gas in the car, people fed, our jobs attended to, bills paid, taxes in, get to the doctor, mow the grass, rake the leaves, change the oil, the dentist, am I consuming enough Omega-3’s. And if that weren’t enough, we’ve got ISIS beheading people, Ebola terrifying people, Russia threatening, the environment deteriorating, pervasive sexual assault, and mean-spirited public discourse. Take a glance at all of this at once and it is a wonder any of us get out of bed in the morning. We are left feeling powerless. Where do we even begin? The feeling of powerlessness can be so huge that we end up doing nothing, further contributing to our feelings of being disempowered.
So what can we do? Marianne Williamson writes that “we’re all assigned a piece of the garden, a corner of the universe that is ours to transform. Our corner of the universe is our own life—our relationships, our home, our work, our current circumstances—exactly as they are.”
Where do we begin to tend our garden patch?
It’s always an inside job. If peace begins with me, it must begin in my own heart and mind. The thoughts I think matter. If I get caught up in stewing about what an egomaniac Vladimir Putin is, how like Hitler he seems, how narrow and narcissistic, I am contributing to the atmosphere of fear and distrust already polluting the world. I am living in fear, radiating it out into the larger world, disturbing the peace, so to speak. But if, instead, I choose to pray for and shine the light on Putin and on the Russian people, I contribute to the solution, adding to the healing of the world. Then, I’m radiating light and love all around. Perhaps it doesn’t change Vladimir’s mind today but I’m not living in fear and my loved ones aren’t exposed to my fear. I’ve changed something by tending my own little garden patch.
Yes, we are that powerful. I often encourage people to shine the pure, white light of love on others. This is a simple practice of visualizing a great column of light, pouring down over the head and body, around and through, the person. It actually does something, both when we receive this light for ourselves and when we shine it upon others. We do have the power to intervene, if we will but do it.
Transformation comes closer to home than Russia, too. We bring peace into our homes and workplaces when we focus on ourselves, our purpose, our business. When we relinquish the need to control, all kinds of magic is unleashed. Just think about the idea of transformation as tending the garden. We dig, we weed, we water. But the seeds must do the work.
Releasing the need to control others is a big part of this. One of my sons is a smoker. I’ve always hated smoking and educated my children from an early age about the health consequences of smoking. This is a kid who knows his stuff. And has since a small child. When he was four or five, I was taking both boys to the pediatrician’s office. There were three people standing outside the office building, workers on a smoke break, and he marched up to them and started explaining to them why they shouldn’t smoke. He knows. And yet he smokes. And I had to let that go. He has all the information he needs. He is making a choice and at this point it is none of my business. My choice is to not sacrifice my peace of mind by worrying about my son’s choice.
A friend of mine sent me this quote not long ago: “Worry is a prayer for chaos.” I love that. Worry is a prayer for chaos. If I choose to worry about my son smoking (and I am good at this), I will spin out an alternate story line that goes something like this: He’ll smoke for years, develop lung disease, throat disease, and gum disease, along with chronic sinus issues. After I spin out the details of that story (think lots of phlegm and cancer), my anxiety level will grow to such a degree that I will start looking for relief. In my search to get comfortable, I’ll start nagging him, mentioning his smoking every time I see him, which will (spinning out the story again here) affect our relationship, we’ll become alienated, he’ll avoid me, start using other substances, end up homeless and dead. Even if none of these things happen, I have plenty of chaos going on between my ears and am creating my own suffering.
Best to leave him alone. And leave me alone. I don’t have to DO anything. I shine the light on him each morning and go about my business. Which is to tend my garden today.
The older I get the less I think I can do. What I mean by this is that I am capable of many things, I write, I work with clients, I teach, I tend my home, nurture friendships, love people. But I used to think I could DO stuff. Like fix things. Fix things for people. I got way too much into other’s business. I used to offer advice. Or “intervene” on other people’s behalf. Do stuff like pay someone’s electric bill for them when they were struggling. Or feed people. Or come up with solutions (that they didn’t ask for) to problems. I tend to not DO stuff now. I like the idea of bearing witness. I listen. Sometimes I have to coach myself to listen, to shut up and just listen. I really understand problems but I don’t need to solve any of them. And in this quiet restraint, I allow others’ to have their own journey, instead of imposing my version of their journey upon them. I allow others to weed their garden. I’ve plenty of weeds of my own to work on.
I do want to say a little bit about energy here. We live by the energy we allow in. If I meditate, if I get outside, my spiritual energy will be more reliable, abundant and powerful than if I do not do these things. I am more likely to worry my way to chaos if I am not attentive to my own spiritual needs. This is a big part of tending my garden. I’ve got to let the light shine on it if I am to be able to do the tending. This love energy is a thing. When we sit in meditation together, I feel energy moving around and through us. It is the energy of divine love, available to all of us, if we will but pause and allow it in. This energy calms and heals us. It is the source of peace of mind and heart that I’ve been talking about tonight. It is real. The only thing that is, actually. So we turn first to it, the source of love, when we begin to tend our garden. The garden of our heart. The garden of our mind.