Here in Louisiana, our summers are hot. It’s usually humid, often rainy and the only way to escape the summer heat is to do what most of the natives do—stay indoors in the air-conditioning and wait for winter.
If you’re going to do yard work, it’s best to do it early in the day. So this morning, before the sun was barely awake, I got up and headed out into my front yard to pull weeds.
Unlike many of my friends, I don’t find gardening or weed pulling therapeutic. I usually find it frustrating and have a hard time suffering the labor, the heat and the inevitable tug-of-war with deep rooted weeds that always cling to what they know.
No, yard work is not therapeutic for me. It is a chore, plain and simple.
Yet this morning, I experienced a little shift as I began to pull at the weeds with my bare hands. I noticed how some of the weeds clung so tightly to their spot in the dirt and it got me thinking.
It got me thinking about how often we cling to “what we know.” How stubbornly we fight to stay rooted in the same spot, even when our inner voice is telling us it is time for change.
It made me think how often we cling to bad habits or to bad jobs or to old beliefs because we don’t know better, or because it’s often easier than doing the hard, dirty inner work. So we unwittingly let weeds grow in our soul’s garden and destroy what is beautiful. We let them infiltrate our sacred spaces and take hold of us.
And when we don’t take the time to do our work, to clean up our gardens, to unearth the bad habits, limited beliefs, unspoken traumas or betrayals, they grow into ugly weeds that choke out our light.
I thought about all of this as I knelt in the dirt and pulled at scattered, stubborn weeds. I battled weeds that were buried so deep I think they led straight to the Underworld and back.
Dirty and sweaty, I pulled and pulled. And then I began to name them.Fear. Sorrow. Uncertainty.
I pulled harder and watched them begin to unravel. Judgment. Righteousness. Stubborness. They didn’t go without a fight and they called upon their wicked insect friends, angry wasps hidden in nearby bushes, for back-up. But I kept pulling.
I realized that weeding is like doing our inner work. It’s important to get down and dirty sometimes, to dig deep to find the places where the weeds are growing and pull them out one by one at the roots.
Often we discover that the weeds are interconnected and they snake throughout the garden and one pull turns into another and another until the entire garden is being unearthed. But it’s the only way to really get to the root of everything. Spiritual work, soul work is hard, dirty work.
Now how we choose to do the work–if we indeed make the choice– is completely personal. Just as I prefer to garden without gloves so I can feel the dirt and go deeper, others like to do it a more refined or practical way and wear gloves.
I know the tools that work for me….prayer, inspirational books, poetry, meditation, journaling, service to others. Some might use different tools.In the end, the tools you use don’t matter much. It’s more important that you do the work.
Knee deep in dirt and mud, I discovered gardening–while not therapeutic for me–could be a spiritual practice instead.