• Sam O'Sullivan

Weeding the mind


While spending lots of time on my computer this week, I felt like I was watching my wellbeing being depleted. Kind of like a character’s life in a game gradually moving towards zero. It was pretty obvious what was causing the issue, so I decided to spend a day in the garden with my good mate Dave. As I gardened, I immediately felt a revitalizing boost to my wellbeing. I also reflected deeply on how the garden ecosystem is not so different to the mind.


We’re doing a massive reset on the hot house here at Piwakawaka Farm, so we decided to turn the soil. This isn’t something you want to do often, because you massively disturb the life in the soil (from the microrganism’s perspective, it’s like a cyclone meets an earthquake meets a tsunami!). What you want to do is keep building life by adding compost, especially as you harvest the yummy veggies that have sucked up the nutrients. The handy thing about soil after it has been turned is that pulling weeds is super easy!


I decided to begin my day in the hothouse with weeding, as I find that it’s a nice way to settle my mind and get into the gardening mindset. As I weeded, I immediately began to think about the similarities between garden ecosystems and our mental ecosystems. The most important thing about weeding is to be able to identify a weed which, for this context, is essentially an unhelpful plant . By pulling out plants you don’t want, the plants you do want to grow get the sunlight and nutrients they need. This is no different to the mind. The key is to understand what thoughts, beliefs, and behaviours you need to pull, so you can plant the ones that give you the nutrients you need for wellbeing. You don’t even need to pull all the weeds! In time the veges, or healthy aspects of your mind and identity, begin to shade out those more unhelpful parts. Weeds will always be there. The key is awareness and understanding.


I then started to think about individual weeds. I was mainly focusing on pulling onion weed, buttercup, doc, and thistle. Onion weed looks a little like spring onion or chives, but don’t be deceived — they are much thicker when they’re small. Some of our thoughts are similar; they seem like they are right and healthy on first impressions. Often thoughts serve to protect our ego, especially in conflicts, but to find resolution we need to own our stuff and take a hit to our pride. Buttercup is pretty easy to pull when it’s small, but as it gets bigger the roots spread, and it becomes very difficult to deal with. This is no different to our thoughts and actions — we need to stop ourselves from going down unhelpful paths before it gets unnecessarily challenging to change direction.


Doc has a very thick root for such a small plant. You’ve got to ensure to get the entire root, or it grows back. This is similar to our psychological problems; we’ve got to get to the root of them and make sure we don’t leave any of the root behind, or the problem may come back. Finally, I considered the ominous and prickly thistle. It has a delicate root that grows deeply into the soil. Successfully pulling a thistle is very rewarding, but you have to take your time, loosen the surrounding soil, and pull very gently. Thistles remind me of our traumas — their roots are deep, and they’re so easy to trigger if you don’t approach them with care. Sometimes you need a skilled hand to show you how to pull them.


I recommend getting your hands into the soil the next time you find yourself getting consumed by weeds… I mean negative thoughts. Plant some nice veges, pull those suckers, and soon the garden of your mind will be flourishing, and beautiful to behold.

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