Garden of The Mind

Bill Abbate
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What are the weeds of life? Much writing in the past puts forth the analogy of the mind and the garden. However, as we move further away from being an agrarian society, we lose touch with its meaning.

While everyone knows what a weed is, how many understand its application to our minds? Weeds are a nuisance to any gardener or farmer and an even more significant problem when planted in our minds. As weeds steal the nutrients from our gardens and farms' fertile soil, they steal nutrients from the fertile soil of our thoughts and, more importantly, our life.

"A garden is a grand teacher. It teaches patience and careful watchfulness; it teaches industry and thrift; above all it teaches entire trust." Gertrude Jekyll (1843-1932)

The weeds of life

To best understand the analogy of the weeds of life, let's go back to the basics. Think of our brains as fertile fields, especially the younger we are. A young mind is exceptionally fertile. Look at the enormous amount of learning the typical person does in their childhood. The majority of what we learn and who we become occurs in these formative years. As people age, their rate of learning declines.

You may have heard a recent graduate say they will never read another book! Sadly, there is some truth to this statement.

"Here are some heart wrenching statistics. 33% of high school graduates never read another book the rest of their lives and 42% of college grads never read another book after college. 70% of US adults have not been in a bookstore in the last five years and 80% of US families did not buy or read a book last year."

While some of us are lifelong learners, we must realize many people are not and will not keep their minds fertile to grow more knowledge. Unfortunately, weeds will still grow as they need little to sustain them, despite their love for fertile soil.

Gardening of the mind

The gardening process is simple, yet it requires hard work. The basic steps are to:

  1. Cultivate the soil, or in the case of a farmer, plow or till the land.
  2. Select the best seed and plant it.
  3. Water and fertilize the soil and seed.
  4. Keep weeds and pests to a minimum.
  5. Harvest at the right time.
"Without hard work, nothing grows but weeds." Gordon B. Hinckley (1910-2008)


As with soil, which you must cultivate before planting, the mind needs cultivation as well. The turning over of the soil so it can accept new seeds is part of the process.

In the case of the mind, opening it up to accept new information, becoming and staying curious about life, and learning new ideas are vital to providing fertile soil.

If you choose not to cultivate, you will be in no condition to take new seeds. The ground will harden, and only weeds will grow.

Seed and planting

With what are you seeding your mind? Are you using quality seed, such as reading good material and uncovering other perspectives to grow your knowledge?

Or are you using television and entertainment, essentially bubblegum for the brain, containing little or no seed of value but plenty of weeds and insects?

Watering and fertilizing

Are you caring for what you have planted? Are you monitoring the ground and seed growth by writing and engaging in conversation with others? Are you staying curious about life and learning? Are you seeking other opinions about what you are learning and growing in your mind?

Or are you not tending to things and allowing the weeds and insects to have their way with your mind?

Weeding and treating

Are you paying attention to the weeds and insects? Do you see them? Do you know what type they are and how to treat them?

Some easily recognizable weeds include:

  • Negative thoughts
  • Self-doubt and self-limiting beliefs
  • Unclear thinking
  • Deception, untruths, and lies
  • Unfounded fear
  • Lack of curiosity and interest
  • Addictions
  • Wrong influence by others

As suggested by Browne, call them by name and rip them out!

"The weeds keep multiplying in our garden, which is our mind ruled by fear. Rip them out and call them by name." Sylvia Browne (1936-2013)

It is best to keep the weeds and insects to a minimum, so nutrients and learning are not sapped and eaten away. By weeding and treating, you get the most from your brain's fertile soil. Identify all such things that take away from your vitality and life, and grow a good crop.

"Everyone knows that weeds eat out the life of the garden and of the productive fields. It's like that in the building and developing of character. No one knows our own faults and tendencies better than we do ourselves, so that it is up to each one of us to keep the weeds out, and to keep all growth vigorous and fruitful." George Matthew Adams (1878-1962)


As with anything you plant, it will eventually grow and require harvesting, or it will otherwise "wither on the vine."

What you harvest provides sustenance for your life and health. Similarly, you harvest what is grown in your mind, whether it is a good crop or filled with weeds. A good crop is required to benefit your life further, while weeds can choke out life. It's better to tend the weeds early, don't you think?

Final words

Upon the completion of the cycle of the gardening process, you start again. The ending of one cycle is the beginning of the next. This pattern continues through every life that is growing, and we know that if you stop growing, you start withering away.

To wrap up, I can think of no better quote on which to contemplate than this one by Dix:

"Your minds may now be likened to a garden, which will, if neglected, yield only weeds and thistles; but, if cultivated, will produce the most beautiful flowers, and the most delicious fruits." Dorothea Dix (1802-1887)

May you forever be a productive and fruitful gardener of your mind!

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Semi-Retired-Leadership/Executive Coach -Personal & Career Growth Expert -Editor and Leadership Writer at Illumination -Author

Richmond, VA

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