Pulling Weeds and Planting Flowers

3794656925_fc8192cefb_zImagine your very own, private flower garden with the most beautiful of your favorite flowers.  See it in your head.  Mine is full of sunflowers. If you don’t weed your garden regularly, crabgrass and all kinds of unwelcome volunteer plants will sprout up. Without any maintenance, the weeds will eventually take over choking out the flowers.

Your mind is much like this garden.  With practice, you can learn to take care of your mental sanctuary by pulling weeds and planting flowers in the garden of your mind.

In his book, Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom, Rick Hanson writes:

To gradually replace negative implicit memories with positive ones, just make the positive aspects prominent and relatively intense in the foreground of your awareness while simultaneously placing the negative material in the background.  Imagine that the positive contents of your awareness are sinking down into old wounds, soothing chafed and bruised places like a warm golden salve, filling up hollows, slowly replacing negative feelings and beliefs with positive ones.

You know that pesky, ongoing, negative mental chatter made up of your subconscious thoughts, beliefs, and feelings? While some is material from the present and some from the recent past, most of this noise is derived from the implicit and explicit memories of childhood.  Hanson suggests first becoming aware of and familiar with the “usual suspects” that cause recurring upsets and problems.  In keeping with the garden analogy, find the root of the weed.  Once you do, infuse positive material, the weed killer, into it.

The point is not to resist painful memories and experiences and grasp at pleasant ones because this leads to its own kind of suffering. The goal is to pair negative material with and eventually replace it with positive emotions and perspectives, the blooming flowers, in our mental garden.

For example, if not feeling good enough is one of your common negative themes, when this thought shows up, consciously recall a specific time when you felt more than good enough.  Really recall the feeling of it.  Give the experience the power of language and verbalize it or journal about it.  Make it into an affirmation.  Do this a couple more times in the following hour  and repeatedly when you find the “not good enough” feeling coming through.

Scientific evidence shows that a negative memories are especially vulnerable to being changed after being recalled.

For me, my most troublesome weed a general fear of the future and dread of the unknown. Can I handle it?  How will it turn out? What if the worst happens? When these anxiety-producing thoughts start appearing, I remind myself that I have recovered from a serious brain injury with no professional guidance by sheer determination and tenacity.   If I can do that, I can handle anything and know that I will figure it out.  And you know what?  I really believe that!

You can pull weeds and plant flowers in your mind anywhere at any time. With repetition, over time, through neuroplasticity, the ability of the brain to change structure and function based on input, this practice will actually change your brain building new pathways.

Here’s to us growing beautiful gardens!

image source:  https://www.flickr.com/photos/sakeeb/

  • http://upfromsplat.com Ande Waggener

    I love the garden and weed analogy. Growing new flowers that dominate the garden so much that the weeds are choked out makes so much more sense than leaving the ground bare and running out pulling up weeds all the time, which is what we do when we are constantly ferreting out bad memories and beliefs. Thanks for reminding me to water my flowers! :)

    • Debbie Hampton

      Hiya Ande! What kind of flowers are in your garden? I, too, love the mental image of a flower garden, and tending to it. I can almost smell them and hear the bees and feel the sunshine. I guess, just like the real thing, they have to have a little rain and cloudy skies at times too.

  • Judy M. Hampton

    How powerful! Good exercise to utilize on a daily basis. Now I know why you love sunflowers in your environment. Love you, Mom

    • http://www.brainfsa.com Nora Henderson

      I absolutely love this. Great exercise.

    • Debbie Hampton

      I find little tricks like this so handy to use. Each one of us has to find what works and feels right to us. Thank goodness, there is plenty to choose from.

    • Debbie Hampton

      I thought you would especially like this one since you are so fond of and know so much about flowers. Remember the daisy visualization you came up with? You can grow a whole garden with many varieties in your mind too!

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  • charlie engle

    You put beautiful words to your feelings. You have had a real impact on me and the way I view my problems. There is a saying I have always loved, “you have to give “it” away if you hope to keep “it”. You have a gift for helping others see more clearly and I think you understand that you help yourself the most when you help others.
    Thanks for helping me.

    • Debbie Hampton

      Charlie, thanks so much for the kind words and right backatcha! It is a mutual admiration society. I learn so much from your example and the way in which you live your life and approach your challenges.

      I think you live by the saying that you quote. I know we have both had some very public, major mess ups. Might as well make the healing very public to and share the “how,” huh?

  • http://newlifestartshere.wordpress.com Stephen

    Hi Debbie. Great advice and insights. I had a similar theme in one of my posts back in November – ‘Keep your subconscious free from weeds’ (catchy title, eh?). I believe absolutely in persistence/ practice and the power of Now. As I said back then, ‘dig out the weeds, throw on some fertiliser feed and don’t forget the bird netting’. You take care, now. Stephen

  • Debbie Hampton

    Thanks for stopping by, Stephen. I like what you say in your blog about how we were all born rich, but that we have lost or forgotten it.

    I think that, through the process of “planting flowers and pulling weeds” we look for and create the good an reclaim our wealth. True wealth is in the mind.

    Check out Stephen’s blog

  • Sandra Lee

    This is a fabulous metaphor. This particular quote from Rick Hanson is so inspiring! I need to get that book! I do bathe my brain in golden, healing light at least once a day. I bet more would be even better. I love your approach to the best possible brain. It’s a joy to know you.

    • Debbie Hampton

      You will love this book. It is just the perfect combination of science and spirituality that I know you will appreciate. The visualization of his quote gives me the feeling of being filled with warm honey. Thank you for all your support!

  • http://www.peakperformanceblog.com Tony Piparo

    I think we’re on the same wavelength. Love the analogy. I love all sorts of flowers.

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  • http://www.abundancetapestry.com Evelyn Lim

    Hello Debbie, I came over from Stephen’s site. I love the metaphor of trees, weeding and gardening. It reminds me of Thich Nhat Hanh’s work. As a Buddhist monk, he loves to teach about the mind using simple ideas.

    “The mind can go in a thousand directions, but on this beautiful path, I walk in peace. With each step, the wind blows. With each step, a flower blooms.” – Thich Nhat Hanh


    • Debbie Hampton

      Evelyn, thanks for stopping by and commenting. Love the Thich Nhat Hanh quote!

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  • http://floristinkl.com Alex@florist kl (40%)

    Great post! I love all kind of flowers & simply enjoyed reading your post! I love the metaphor of trees, weeding and gardening :) Keep up the good work :)

    • Debbie Hampton

      Alex, thank you for stopping by and commenting. Nature has so much beauty and so much to teach us if we will let it.

  • http://alwayswell.wordpress.com Sandra / Always Well Within

    I love this idea of infusing positive material into negative mind sets and thus transforming them! This is remarkable to know:
    Scientific evidence shows that negative memory is especially vulnerable to being changed after it is recalled.”

    • Debbie Hampton

      It is wonderful that science is validating and giving credibility to a lot of the “new age” positive practices. Many people still really need that. All I need is the evidence that it works in my own life. Got it!

  • jen bovim

    Debbie, it’s a powerful metaphor and reminds me of the equally powerful but less graphic report in Jill Bolte Taylor’s book, “My Stroke of Insight” in which she refers to the CHOICE she exercised in her recovery process of discouraging patterns of thinking that brought her nothing but discomfort. It took me way too many years to realise that I had such a choice. Somehow, I had come to believe that the negative thoughts my mind threw up always needed to be taken seriously. Disastrous!

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