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What is it for?
Weeding the Garden of the Mind
March 2009


By Joanne Sales

A friend of mine moved to the Yukon a few years ago - to get away from her weeds. But alas, she found weeds up there too (somebody else’s weeds), so she came back to her own garden and started weeding.

The weed she was running from is quite beautiful - morning glory. I found a few morning glory roots once and let them go. A couple years later, I was spending many days each year yanking morning glory down from the bushes. When I first found those innocent looking roots, I just didn’t know.

The simplest definition of a weed is a plant you don’t want. Many weeds start out as somebody’s flower (like morning glory and Scotch broom), but alas, soon they take off like wild fire with no respect or concern for the other plants around it. The weeds we need to watch out for are invaders, dominators, colonizers, who come uninvited and take over the playground.

This is weed season. While we’re weeding the garden, we may as well tend to our minds as well. How do we determine which thoughts and attitudes are weeds, and which ones will bear good fruit?
A meditation teacher told her students: If a negative thought comes up, just pretend it belongs to the guy behind you. Funny…yet good advice.

Negative thoughts do spread and we don’t have to freak out every time they show up. They will show up! Good “mind” gardeners will just pull them out like …you guessed it, like weeds, and move on to tend the plants they want to grow.

I don’t know the names of most of the weeds in my garden. Some of them I like. But if they don’t pass the purpose test, they have to go. What is this garden plot for? If the answer is to grow squash, then the comfrey has to go.

“What is it for?”

Wendell Berry - farmer, activist, and writer - wrote a book titled, “What Are People For?”, which points out the tragedy of economic systems that reduce people to consumers. Dumbing down a population really serves no one’s long-term well-being.

“What is it for?” It’s a dangerous question, and when you ask it, be prepared for a bar room brawl.
“What are forests for?” “What are animals and farms for?” “What are children for?”

With your highly creative mind (whose purpose it is to figure these things out), I’m sure you can see the potential for flare-ups on these issues. When we ask, “What is it for?”, it becomes clear that there are higher and lesser uses of everything. Sometimes the highest use of something is not to use it at all, but to protect and nourish it, and let it do its own thing.

Nevertheless, in the privacy of our own minds, it’s a good question to ask - especially when we are trying to figure out what whether something is a weed or a winner - something we want to protect and nourish (like children), something we want to use (like a field to feed the community), or something we want to remove (like recycled anger.) And sometimes to protect the one, we have to remove the other (to protect the field, we have to remove the Scotch broom). How we see something’s purpose will actually determine what we see, as well as how we relate to it or use it.

We have to be careful “using” things. It’s quite upsetting to us humans to believe that we are being used - as it should be, for we are here for our own purpose, which is.... which is... which is a good question.

What is our human life for?

To have fun, gather toys, dominate, endure? To give, heal, love, grow, awaken?

Just like in everything else, we can perceive a lower and higher purpose. And the weeding continues.