Watering the good seeds

I have lately been suffering from a bunch of negativity. One thing I have learned from some of the more kindly Buddhist writers is that we can and must choose what we pay attention to. This includes the thoughts in our mind. Thich Nhat Hanh says that we should water our seeds carefully – the seeds of good crops get water, but the seeds of weeds should be left to dry out.

So my mind is full of weeds. It’s actually a good thing that I’m noticing this in fact. I’m sure I went along for years with grumbly complaining negative thoughts in my mind without noticing this.

A chief thing I mentally gripe about is other people. I often feel angry about my past, especially my childhood and young adulthood, and find myself mentally lambasting my mother or my father. Lately my mother is coming in for a good dose of mental calling to account.

On the one hand, it’s good to give an account to ourselves of our past, and realize some of the bad things that happened and our feelings about that. Bad things happened to me, and my parents were of no help. In fact, they set the scene where these things could happen, and provided a family culture where nothing could be expressed. Some damage they did to me on their own steam.

On the other hand, continually raging and griping internally about the past does no one any good. Especially me. I know that continual negative chatter takes my energy and darkens my outlook. Allowing it to go on also encourages more of the same.

From thoughts about my mother, I then move on to a friendship that is going badly. I recall all the negative aspects of this friend, the mean things she’s said to me, our many differences. I’ve been debating whether to call her, as she is going through a tough time right now, but I don’t call. And I go over my grudges in my mind again.

Before I know it, everyone in my life, past and present, who ever hurt me, is present in my mind and I’m mentally telling them where to go.

Ack! Enough. I need to stop doing this. One way is to recall the positive and dwell on that. For instance, my mother did provide me with a home, cooked many very good meals, tried to be a peacekeeper, and passed on her love of reading to me. Reading has stood me in very good stead in rough times as a way to escape and to change perspective.

My friend does have good qualities and we did spend many interesting times together, doing arty type things and discussing books, films and politics.

Almost anyone can be looked at in a positive light. Why should I clutter up my mind with the negative? I have a pre-disposition for doing that, as you may have discovered by following my blog. I analyze and tear things apart. There is a place for that, but I don’t want that to be the main part of my life.

The practice of watering the good seeds is a little tricky of course. Blindly suppressing the dark side of life is not a good thing to do. But Thich Nhat Hanh does not say to stomp out the weeds, to exterminate them with weed killer. No, they are allowed to be. But we do not water them, we do not encourage them to thrive and choke out the good.

That has been my philosophizing lately. I hate to be stuck in negative ruminations. I want and need to think about the good side of people and not the dark one. They’re both there. I want to acknowledge the dark but encourage the light.

  1. It's really simple Ellen – whatever you water grows and whatever you ignore dies.I can look out of my window and admire a winter sun in a cloudy sky and the way the light makes the clouds glow in an other-worldly way.I can also look out the same window and see leaves that need to be gathered up and a road that is too slippery and wet for me to take out and enjoy my car on.I can choose what I focus on. The more I look at the clouds and the sun today the more I'll be building a habit of seeing it in the future.There was a time when things were blackest for me when my goal was to find just one momentary and fleeting thing that was nice in my day. The first day that I recall succeeding in this was when a squirrel and I looked at each other in the park on the way to work. That was enough to remind me that not everything was black and I could find something if I just looked.The squirrel's views of this encounter are not known.The brain grows and changes whenever you do anything and since there is only so much space things that you don't do anymore are deleted to make space for other things that you now do. That's the science behind the watering seeds ideas.You can become whoever you want to be based on whatever it is that you do today and tomorrow and the day after that.

  2. Ellen said:

    Mike, I bet that squirrel's day improved dramatically after your shared moment… :-)Thanks for the explications.

  3. alice said:

    what a good analogy ellen. i must remember that. i do find in my calmer moments i can find a space where i can focus on pieces of information like this. yet when the snowballing effect of negativity takes over then it seems impossible to climb out.yet, when im immersed into something, when a good thing (in my mind a good thing) happens then i can skip over the bad. because all that matters is the fact that im happy. it is possible.maybe this is the time to change. and slowly you are finding your way forward. we all have a past, stuff that we feel that we didnt deserve ( and we probably dont), but now we can choose our own way forward. we can choose. thats why life is hard in the transitional part. hope the flus gone.xxx

  4. gniz said:

    Good stuff everyone's been saying on this topic.I think another key component of this (especially for people that are really critical of themselves) is simply not to beat yourself up.And don't beat yourself up because you just beat yourself up!! Sometimes the critical or negative thoughts will happen. Don't get down on yourself for this.It happens. Encouraging and being kind to yourself will allow you to be kind to others, both in your thinking and out in the world, imo.Great post Ellen.

  5. Nechtan said:

    Hi Ellen,It is a good sentiment and I think if you notice this in yourself its the first step to doing something about it. I for one can certainly relate to these thought patterns.I think we are easy to judge and then with that judgement filter thoughts to re-enforce that judgement. And that can be positive as well as negative though both detremental. For example I've known people in the past who I have really liked and despite other people telling me otherwise I would not give any negative thoughts time and only linger on the positives. Mostly its led to a big fall. I think we can be too easily swayed towards one judgement or the other. And I think that is the big problem. We have a need to categorise everything as either good or bad then stick to it.The little Buddhist teachings I have read do appear to me to be wise. Watering the good seeds is very good advice. Though maybe its more about giving every seed the same amount of water and therefore not giving any thought or thoughts a particular importance.All the bestNechtan

  6. Ellen said:

    Thanks for your thoughts everyone.@Alice – Times of transition are difficult, as the brain seems to want things to stay the same. Thanks for commenting.@Gniz – Yes, 'Don't beat yourself up' should be the mantra for personal growth I think. Hard to do (or don't i mean) if you're used to coming down hard on yourself. Thanks@Nechtan – Thanks Nechtan. I like the idea or not giving any particular thought great importance.

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