Monday, March 24, 2008

Observe, describe, participate

Many clients have told me that mine "must be a dream job, working with plants and flowers all day". True, I feel fortunate to have arrived at this place. For many years, I pursued a career in middle management with a chain of retail bookstores. While the company was progressive, environmentally aware, and offered excellent benefits, job related stress became so out of control, I found myself hospitalized. Quite simply, I had allowed the job and thoughts about the job to take over my body and mind. And one day, both "checked out".
My current employment as a horticulturalist offers me an opportunity to remain much more present and aware of the moment---ultimately, this moment is all we have. Reality is that we can't change the past, nor control the future. There is something to be said about hard physical work. My muscles ache, my middle-aged body complains and argues against it. My mind attempts to negotiate with "This is really hard, I'm tired" and "Oh, aphids again---what's the use" or "I can't wait to get home and take a hot bath". I observe my thoughts. I watch my steps as I navigate through the garden, so as not to misstep and crush the creeping geranium or the bellflower. I listen to the endless prattle of my monkey-like mind, chasing the next pretty thing that happens by. None of it changes the fact that this is my work now, that some of it is hard indeed, that I am sweating in 90 degree heat, that I'm being devoured by blood-thirsty mosquitos, that I am feeling angry about something my boss said this morning. It is what it is.
Yet the immediacy of it all, my hands in moist, fragrant soil, my aching joints, the aroma of phlox and lemon thyme, makes it all real and therefore, clean. The garden has no hidden agenda. For the first time in my life, I feel that I am carrying no baggage, no past or worries about the future.
This takes practice. Some days I am more effective than others. But what I am learning is that my thoughts, distracting as they can be, do not define me. I arrive every day and attend to the needs of the present moment. I can choose to respond rather than react. The true beauty of the garden is now, when the wind, sun, soil, and water are doing their jobs and I am doing mine.
I'm coming to understand that this is what it means to participate in life, to be a part of this huge, amazing world. You start by showing up.

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