“If you look deeply at a flower, at its freshness and its beauty,
you will see that there is also compost in it, made of garbage.
The gardener had the skill to transform this garbage into compost,
and with this compost, he made a flower grow.”
~ from “You Are Here” by Thich Nhat Hanh
Did Thay (I like to call him that, because that’s what his followers and friends call him, and when he speaks to my soul, I feel him like a friend) say this just for me? Did he see my life and speak it just for my soul to remember it is simply growing?
I’ve been struggling the last couple weeks, just sitting here looking at the latest pile of garbage I’ve been handed, wondering what to do with it. I am always the first to damn the obstacles in my life, no matter how well I know better. I look at them, yell at them, curse at them, shake my finger at them, and then I curl up in a ball and pout ‘til they go away.
“You are a gardener, and you have in your hands the power to transform garbage into flowers, into fruit, into vegetables.
You don’t throw anything away, because you are not afraid of garbage.
Your hands are capable of transforming it into flowers, or lettuce, or cucumbers.”
~ from “You Are Here” by Thich Nhat Hanh
I think this may be the most beautiful analogy I have ever heard for how I have felt these last few years. I’ve been handed so much garbage. Sometimes I have to sit and look at the garbage for a long time before I remember my ability to turn it into flowers again.
I’ve had to work very hard at reminding myself that I am the gardener. It is so much easier to play the helpless victim, whining, “Poor little me!” in the corner.
It is remembering our power that is so hard. Being willing to step into it, own it, and wield it like a sword, because the Earth was created for us to live fully in it. We are not born to breed a small, pinched existence. Our purpose in this life is to remember our inherent nature as limitless beings.
Thich Nhat Hanh goes on to speak of how flowers and garbage are both organic in nature, that we should not condemn the garbage (anger, fear, sorrow) because it exists in us in the same way love and compassion do.
He’s so right – it’s when we create this duality in ourselves of things we are “for” or “against,” that we create suffering. I look at obstacles and feel against them, and then I reject them, repel them, do whatever I can to make them go away, or pretend they’re not there. That creates my suffering, because I’m living in a constant state of not accepting ALL of what I’m feeling. I don’t like feeling angry and sad so I condemn those feelings. I forget that, as the gardener, it is my job to transform those “garbage” feelings into fruits or flowers. I forget that I know very well, just how to do that – I have, after all, had lots of practice!
The truth is, our anger and sorrow are equally a part of us. They are not ugly or even “good” or “bad.” They are simply the garbage, waiting to be transformed into flowers. They are the necessary compost to our inner garden.
Thay’s teachings on compassion towards our “garbage” have been the most transformative tools for my grief and pain. He teaches us to simply look at the garbage with eyes of compassion. It’s amazing how this simple practice has transformed me out of the pent-up swells of anger, into a place of peace, even as I’m still riding out my hurricanes. I take a moment to go within, and in the stillness and silence, I look at my pain and acknowledge it, softly. Immediately, it begins to break down, just as garbage breaks down into compost.
For the last week or so, I’ve been curled up in that ball cursing the latest obstacles in my life as this recession hands me more lemons upon lemons. Thay’s words today reminded me that I am the gardener, and I’ve already turned so much garbage into abundant corn rows of lilies and blooms!
I have to laugh at it a little because, really, for all the garbage in my compost pile, I’ve got an arboretum of copiously fragrant flowers coming, folks!
I know you have suffering, anger, hurt and sorrow in your heart, my friend. I hope you can look at them today with eyes of compassion, and remember their beautiful place in the fields of your soul.
That’s why you are here, because you wanted to remind yourself that you are the gardener, too.