You close your eyes, take a deep breath, and everything is still for just a moment. As your environment collapses into emptiness and your thoughts grow absent with the void, your focus shifts towards a blooming rosebud in front of you.
Each and every petal hangs freely, seducing your gaze and forcing your focus upon its beautiful, velvety texture. The air is crisp as your nose fills with the fresh scents of hibiscus and lavender. Upon inspecting the blooming flower at a finer level, you imagine each petal bringing you a new piece of wisdom. Like the most artistic fortune cookie you’ve ever seen, every petal on the flower holds an answer which offers a vague promise of a brighter tomorrow. The answers given are unclear, but with every breath you feel more and more willing to dive into the unknown.
This is the “secret garden” I’ve grown for myself; a special place only to be used when I need to collect my thoughts and escape for a while. It’s my own personal sensory deprivation tank that I’ve managed to bury deep within my mind.
Over the course of our lives, we begin to cultivate and craft a garden inside of ourselves which mirrors and reflects our internal state. A reference of our ability to cooperate with external stimuli, this garden becomes saturated through emotional and spiritual prosperity. Conversely, we find our garden disparate as a result of overall emotional and spiritual poverty.
Alan Watts, a British-American philosopher, has been one of the biggest influences in the ways I learn to handle my daily life and grow my garden. In Alan’s talk titled “How To Get Out Of Your Own Way”, he describes many ways in which we watch our lives unfold before us. Near perfectly, he describes the way in which we attempt to be one step ahead of the game, even within our own mental fortress.
“You start by watching all your thoughts, very carefully. Watching your feelings, watching your emotions. You begin to build up a sense of separation between the watcher and what is watched. So that you are no longer carried away by your own stream of consciousness. You remain the witness, impassively, impartially. Suspending judgement and watching it all go on. That seems to be something like progress. At least you’re taking an objective view of what’s going on. You’re beginning to be in a position to control it… But just wait a minute! Who is this self behind the self , the watching self? Can you watch that one?”
— Alan Watts
When I first heard him speak those exact words, I couldn’t help but to think of the garden inside my own mind.
Often times we feel the need to react to a situation, foregoing the proper response and acting impulsively. This is because we feel as if a lack of intense reaction is weakness which can be both dissected and perpetuated.
Through many meditations I found that my peaceful moments were the rain, drizzling down from the sky in an effort to bless the garden with proper nutrients and life. The obsessive observance of myself became the sun, allowing my introspective thoughts to bloom into radiant ideas and accomplishments . Both the peaceful moments of clarity and the observance of my own morality and ethics were necessary to promote equilibrium within my own personal garden.
The reason you want to be better is the reason why you aren’t. Shall I put it like that? We aren’t better because we want to be. Because the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
If you say you want to improve then you ought to know what’s good for you, but obviously you don’t. If you did, you would simply improve.
— Alan Watts
If we allow the rain to drown our garden, flooding our lives with too much “quiet” and complacency, then the life within us drowns and we become burdened by a sort of apathy. Should we accept a hyper-observant nature and allow our gardens to burn, we will have overstepped our own boundaries and given up part of ourselves in order to balance an external event.
We will never truly know what “better” is, nor will we ever be able to make a perfectly informed decision. For every good deed there are equal acts of violence.
We cannot control the excessive heat society brings to our garden in the same way we cannot control the hypocrisy of a peacefully anxious mind. We can, however, control the times in which we allow the sunshine and rainstorms in. It is up to us to tend to our garden, watering the flowers just as often as we let the sunshine inside the greenhouse. Just as our minds desire stimulation and relaxation, so too does our garden require proper balance throughout our lives.
Whether you’ve observed yourself a million times or you’ve completely let go of any particular process at all, it’s up to you to sow the seed which grows towards tomorrow. Allow the rain to saturate your soil and the sun to become a catalyst of growth. Only through intense introspective thought and reflection can we decide if our morality holds true virtue or if our garden falls to an extreme end of the spectrum. Through a lifetime of tilling the soil, planting our seeds, and monitoring the weather, we begin to understand the thoughts we produce and the reasons behind them.
Through focus and discipline our garden begins to flourish, if not wildly then only for a moment. It’s critical that we learn to cherish every glimpse of sunshine and every stretch of rain. While the flowers may only bloom once a year, the blooming fields of purples, yellows, reds, and oranges bring forth the hope that one day our minds may become the oasis they were meant to be.