The definition of a weed is a plant in the wrong place.
Weeds are the negative thoughts that creep into our mind, causing havoc in our garden.
In some circumstances, that weed may be a useful plant, beneficial to human and garden alike — as long as it doesn’t get out of control. At other times it steals nutrients and crowds out the good plants, sometimes spreading fungus and diseases that damage our beloved flora. Sometimes the weed seeds contaminate an otherwise healthy harvest.
Similarly, some negative thoughts are there to protect us from harm, to reduce risk. At other times, our mind weeds steal our precious time and take up too much headroom, they spread fear and worry and feelings of inadequacy. Sometimes they encourage us to self-sabotage by whispering that we don’t deserve success, that we aren’t capable of doing what needs to be done.
Weeds stunt the growth of the more desirable species. They can have nasty thorns or prickles that hurt and prevent us from enjoying the rest of the garden.
Our mind weeds impede our success, steal our happiness, prevent us from moving forward and rob us of joy. Our mind weeds keep us in a state of fear and uncertainty, poisoning us with negative self-talk and stunting our personal and professional growth.
The great news is that our mind, just like our garden, is under OUR control.
We choose the plants for the garden, we choose the thoughts for the mind.
And when unwelcome weeds pop up we deal with them, just as we can with those weeds of the mind.
Weeds aren’t invited into the garden, we don’t purposefully choose negative thoughts …. Yet both creep in.
Weeds have many ways of infiltrating our garden
Weed seeds remain dormant in the soil, just waiting for the right conditions.
Animals and birds can carry weed seeds to your garden in either their coat or poop.
The wind can blow weed seeds in, which then land and germinate.
There is no escaping weeds — our garden is under constant attack.
The weeds of the mind too, can come from so many times and places.
Some dis-empowering thoughts are programmed into us from childhood. Our parents do the best they can but no one gets everything right. Parents can put weeds in our mind with comments like ‘Lucky you are pretty, because you aren’t very smart’ or ‘Nobody in our family ever amounted to anything’.
Some thoughts come from our time at school — kids can be cruel and tease anyone they perceive as ‘different’. Taunts of ‘fat’, ‘weird’ or ‘dumb’ can haunt us. One thoughtless comment from a teacher can shape how we feel about ourselves for a long time.
Society itself heaps expectations on us — defined gender roles, getting married and having children, working in certain occupations, keeping a stiff upper lip and not letting the world see you are falling apart — all these set up beliefs in our head.
The pressure to conform can be strong, even though it goes against the grain of who we are, who want to be.
Weeds quickly populate uncultivated ground
Bare soil is a fertile place where weeds grow fast and strong — they have little competition from the desirable species we want in our garden.
Negative thoughts, fears and worries multiply easily in a mind that hasn’t cultivated a garden of positive thoughts. A mind that hasn’t had much personal development is space where fears and worries easily take root.
Our first line of defence against weeds of the mind is MINDFULNESS — awareness of what we let into our mind, consciously cultivating positive thoughts.
Some weeds are too big to handle alone
Some weeds are big and tough and mighty difficult to remove when you let them grow for too long. Recently we had a huge sward of green panic amongst our agapanthus and groundcover. It was taller than me, and determined to stay. I tried to pull it out — it hurt my hands. I tried to dig it out but didn’t have the right tools.
It took me a while to realise that I couldn’t get rid of this weed on my own — so I asked for help. My partner and a friend dug at it from either side and after some sweating and swearing they pulled that huge clump of grass out and I put it in the compost.
Some negative thoughts are persistent and ingrained — having been repeated so often they have their own neural pathways. These are the huge weeds of the mind — the ones you have trouble battling on your own. Be brave and humble enough to ask for help, from family, friends or professionals eg a therapist, mindfulness coach, psychologist etc.
Plant more beautiful plants so they out-compete the weeds
The more densely populated your garden is with useful and attractive plants, the less space there is for weeds.
It’s the same with our thinking — lots of positive thoughts help to push out the negative thoughts and make it less likely they can return.
Positive thoughts can take the form of affirmations, prayer, listening to uplifting speakers, reading good books, watching inspirational media and very importantly, our self-talk.
What we feed our mind is so important. Our actions come from our thoughts; our thoughts come from our beliefs. What beliefs are we feeding ourselves?
Are we surrounding ourselves with true friends who want the best for us, or dealing with toxic relationships that drag us down? Are you building a peaceful garden for your mind or polluting it with harmful weeds?
Our mind tends to hang onto and remember negative things far more easily than positive things so help tip the balance in the favour of good as often as possible.
When you have the choice of taking a comment as a compliment or a criticism, take it as a compliment whenever possible.
Keep growing the garden of your mind by rejecting those things that make you feel bad about yourself, and embracing more of those that make you feel positive.
Weeding is an ongoing process.
As every gardener knows you can’t just weed once and it’s done forever. No — you weed and sometimes the same weeds need to be dealt with again and again. Sometimes you get rid of one type of weed only to have another take its place.
Our thoughts are the same. Fears, negative self-talk and old beliefs aren’t routed out on the first attempt. We must be vigilant about weeding out those debilitating thoughts from our mind on a REGULAR basis.
We need to be careful too of what new thoughts enter our mind. If someone criticises you, don’t automatically take on board what they are saying — examine the criticism dispassionately and CHOOSE to either reject if you don’t feel the criticism is valid, or act on it if you feel it’s warranted.
Be careful too that what you are taking as criticism isn’t merely a statement of fact. If someone says ‘You are so tall!’ don’t assume it’s a criticism and slouch down. They may be wishing that they were tall too. Be proud of your height, stand straight and say ‘I know! It’s so great to reach the top shelf easily!’.
Weeding is an integral part of gardening
The importance of weeding is undeniable in the process of creating a beautiful, productive garden.
Being MINDFULL, being aware of what thoughts we allow to rule our behaviour is similarly integral to how our life is shaped, to our achieving our own version of success, to BEING who we want to be.
Be kind to yourself and weed your mind regularly — create a beautiful garden of the mind that brings you peace, happiness and success.