Just as weeds are cleared from a garden or debris from a field enabling things to have room to grow, so it is within each of us. When we allow sadness, anger, resentment and other negative emotions to fill our emotional tank, there is no room for anything else. Negative emotions then grow some undesirable things: ulcers, headaches, stress, leading to more serious physical ailments.
It is a radical practice to ask, “Why is this being done for me?” instead of “Why is this being done to me?” But if we can bring ourselves to ask that radical question during times of discomfort, and sit with the situation in a lovingly detached way, the results are amazing.
When faced with hurtful events or people, we have the choice of anger or gratitude. Anger can be appropriate, but not when it rules our lives. A Holocaust survivor said they could choose between anger and gratitude. Gratitude may be almost impossible to access at first, but it will help us heal and move on as it did that survivor.
In removing ourselves from the victim role and taking on the role of the hero, we grow. The victim sits and cries. The hero takes action (even ones that may not look “right”). The saboteur places obstructions in the way. The hero removes them and keeps going. The orphan bemoans their aloneness. The hero finds family wherever they may be. The list goes on. It is remarkable what happens when we turn the dial from negative to positive.
Granted, there are times of grief, illness or disaster when it is appropriate to be upset, fearful, angry, sorrowful. Those are appropriate reactions and emotions. It is when those emotions take over our lives and we allow them to run us that the emotional body suffers.
There is no simple formula or timetable for removing patterns that can cause recurring problems. Everyone is different. Just as there are different pain, blood pressure and other medications, so there are different methods and time periods involved. Often it is not easy to see what is holding us back from growing. We become shortsighted and cannot see the total picture. When we can gain distance, we can see the “big picture” and gain insight. Then we can implement change.
It takes self-awareness, honesty, humility, willingness and reprogramming to begin to change. Destructive patterns can range from severe — drug use, alcohol abuse, physical violence — to subtle, almost imperceptible — procrastination, avoidance.
Forgiveness is an extremely powerful tool. A lot has been written about forgiveness. Many books and methods are out there. The important thing is to forgive. Forgiving does not mean to condone speech or actions perpetrated on us by others. It means to let go of whatever happened in the past so we can move on. The other person has. As long as we hold onto the hurt, we are a prisoner. We are not free.
Fear can rule our lives and render us helpless. It is particularly present in our modern culture. Advertisements, news and even the weather can feed fear. We can allow fear to rule us and cause us discomfort, even physical sickness. Fear is a tough one to conquer. It takes daily maintenance to keep fear at bay. One of the largest sources of fear is in making assumptions about a person, a situation, even an entire nation. Our imagination is a powerful thing that fuels thoughts and actions.
Reversing the effects of fear is not easy, but it can be done. It is helpful to have a spiritual practice in place, whether it be prayer, meditation, reading sacred texts or seeking support from a like-minded person. Being in nature, when possible, is another way to quiet the monkey mind.
In the end, we are the master gardeners. We pull the weeds of negative patterns, which do not serve us, revealing fertile ground for our dreams and lives. Just as it feels good to see a blooming garden, it feels good to free up emotional space in which to enjoy life and live it to the fullest.