The Garden of the Mind

Bill Abbate

Did you know that 55% of American households have active gardens? Another 20% are planning a garden, and 67% of adults are growing or planning to grow edible plants!

Much of this growth is due to the Covid pandemic, with Millennials and Gen Xers taking up gardening in record numbers! Considering the desire to eat healthier, inflation, and the relative simplicity of gardening it makes sense.

But what about that other garden? The garden of the mind? While the personal development market continues to grow, it will reach only about $12 billion in the USA compared to more than $42 billion for Nursery and Garden store sales in 2022.

Imagine the tremendous productivity and lifestyle improvements lying dormant in the vast lands of our minds!

The fertile garden of the mind

Much writing in the past analogizes the garden and the mind. As we moved away from being an agrarian society, we lost touch with its meaning. That old analogy is coming back with the greatly renewed interest in gardening.

The ability of our minds to create is virtually limitless. Imagine having an endless field in which you can grow anything you wish. All that is needed is working the soil by opening the mind, planting and tending the seeds of learning, taking action, and keeping the weeds out.

“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)

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)

Let’s examine each step more closely.

Cultivation

Like soil, the mind needs cultivating before planting. Part of this process is opening the ground by turning it over so it can accept new seeds.

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

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

Seed and planting

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

Or are you using television and entertainment, essentially bubblegum for the brain, containing little seed 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 conversing with others? Are you staying curious about life and learning? Are you seeking other opinions about what you are growing in your mind?

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

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 and insects of the mind 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 below, rip them out and call them by name!

“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. You get the most from your brain’s fertile soil by weeding and treating regularly. Identify all the things that take away your vitality and life so that you can 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)

Harvesting

As with anything planted, it grows and requires harvesting. Otherwise, it “withers 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, while weeds choke it out. It’s better to tend the weeds early, don’t you think?

More about the weeds of life

While everyone knows what weeds are, how many understand weeds of the mind? 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.

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 that happens in childhood. Most 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.” Goodereader.com

While some of us are lifelong learners, we must realize many people are not and will not keep their minds fertile for growth. Unfortunately, weeds will still grow as they need little to sustain them, despite their love for fertile soil. Best do your weeding early and often!

Final thoughts

Upon completion of a cycle of gardening, you start again. The ending of one cycle is the beginning of the next. This pattern continues through every active and producing garden or mind. When you stop the activity of gardening, everything begins to wither away. The choice is ours to make — work our garden or let it be.

To wrap up, give some thought to the wisdom in this quote 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 in the most fertile soil ever created — 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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