Updated: Mar 29, 2021
The first time the voices talked to me about this metaphor and it actually stuck was in relation to courage. I was upset because I had become uncomfortably aware of the fact that my life was driven by fear. Everything I did or didn’t do was based on what I could or couldn’t do because I was too afraid. There had been a time, I recalled when I had been afraid but had forced myself to do things anyway—that hadn’t provided much of a solution though, it created a lot of pain. So I had stopped forcing myself into my terror and the fear had begun to encroach more on my daily life.
I was scared all the time. I sat in my bedroom terrified of getting up and going to the kitchen. I didn’t even know why that scared me, but it did. I laid down and was terrified of having to get up and at the same time was terrified of time ticking past me while I wasted my life. All around me, no matter what I did I found fear and it had crept up so that I almost couldn’t move anymore at all.
What am I going to do? I thought, running straight into it had left me in pain and ignoring it had allowed it to take over my life. There has to be some other way to approach this, something I can’t see from here.
It wasn’t an overnight thing. I worked at it for months—trying new approaches, thinking about fear, and more so about courage. What was courage? It was the ability to feel the fear and not let it stop you. Fear was going to come up, but I didn’t want it to stop me. I didn’t want it to be the dictator in my life.
“How do I do this?” I asked.
The voices gave me an image.
“Think of yourself like a patch of dirt” they told me, “A patch of soil that is ready to grow whatever is planted in it. If you don’t plant anything in this dirt then the weeds will grow naturally in it. Weeds aren’t good or bad, but they are not things you have chosen and whatever grows will be dependent on what is around you. You have been around fear a lot and the seeds of it have grown in this soil for many years. Each time a plant grows it creates seeds of its own and the numbers multiply. Now the weeds of fear have grown over that entire patch of soil. Your whole life is covered in this thorny plant. That’s why you feel like you are constantly getting pricked with terror.”
“Okay, so I have all this fear, but when I try to pull it out it hurts and it grows back so quickly that it seems impossible.”
“If you keep only clearing the ground you leave it open for more weeds to grow. One way to stop this pattern is to start planting new seeds. Instead of just facing fears or working past them you need to plant other seeds. At first it won’t look like much but in time they will grow and as they grow they will take up space so that fear can’t grow there anymore. Eventually they will even sprout their own seeds and then grow more and what might start invisibly in one corner of the soil will eventually out grow and over take this entire patch of fear.”
When they said this I understood, but I also didn’t understand.
I started trying to plant new seeds and also trying to clear up old fears, but it continued to feel overwhelming. Still, I tried because I knew that like a seed there are things that start off tiny and invisible under ground that in time can grown into a tree.
If I just keep going a little at a time, if I keep planting new seeds and keep clearing out old fears I will eventually have a garden instead of a weed patch. What started off as many months of seeing almost no difference suddenly shifted to small sprouts and then before I knew it life had changed. It felt like it happened overnight but also over a really long extended period of time and then the seed metaphor made much more sense.
Change can happen in big and small ways, but deep, long-lasting change often starts really small. Creating a life long change of energy begins with tiny adjustments that are not likely to be noticed and that you often won’t get credit or recognition for. These can be things like thinking differently or focusing on something positive instead of negative. They can be things like saying hi or smiling when you normally wouldn’t. It’s small and if you say it out loud people might laugh, but if you keep doing it over and over and you keep feeding the energy of it then it starts to become a pattern and that pattern grows. What started off on choosing to think more positively one time becomes recognizing the beautiful aspects of every day and then to building a solid foundation of resilience so that even when things don’t go the way you expect you are able to find solutions and adapt. Smiling and saying hi goes from a couple small actions to a pattern that allows other people to see you as sympathetic and friendly. It makes them feel safer talking to you and makes you feel more connected and confident. Eventually it grows into the ability to develop friendships and sense of unity with others. At first it looks like absolutely nothing but over time it expands and eventually this new energy, pattern, or action starts to play a defining role in your life.
Like a garden these principles grow faster and more easily once they are established. There is less weed maintenance when there are beds of flowers and trees to fill the space in the soil, but you can still choose to change the plants whenever you want.
This is similar to managing the dominant energies in our lives. We plant seeds and give them time to grow and after a while we can choose to plant new seeds but as long as we are making the choice, we have a say in what is growing. When we stop making those choices we allow whatever wants to come in and fill the space to come in, and often that can include things like fear, anger, and discouragement.
It isn’t necessary to tend to this garden, but recognize that if you choose not to then you are at the mercy of whatever takes root within it and remember that it represents your life. So re-directing your life involves being aware of what is growing and what you are continuing to plant and then making adjustments so that you are planting the kinds of plants you actually want to have grow there.
It’s okay if it takes time. It’s okay that weeds still sprout, but over time it gets easier and the plants you choose to continue to plant grow stronger and take up more space and life becomes what you decide to make it instead of a war against thorny weeds that you can never seem to out-work.
The metaphor helped me a lot, but I realize it is still very abstract so if you would find it helpful to have some more practical tips or pragmatic steps to take to grow seeds leave a comment and I’ll try to address it either here or on youtube.
Thank you for reading.
Have a great day.