By Susan Munro
One of the big jobs needing constant care and attention at New Life is that of removing weeds. Due to the fertile, tropical climate of Northern Thailand (which to be fair, does produce spectacular fruit of every kind) weeds sprout up like… well, rather like weeds. At the morning meeting, there’s often-times cause for internal groaning due to finding oneself on the blackboard under the dreaded tag ‘agri’, which is largely about removing the more tenacious flora in our thriving gardens. Once donning gloves, work-clothes and stout boots, it’s time to get down and dirty. If you’re lucky, it will have just rained. If not, it’s time to grab the hoe. There was a time when a lot of the groaning was mine, but I have recently come to a kind of ‘pro-weed-pulling’ philosophy that I believe helps make that job just a little easier. This philosophy hinges on two points. Both of these see the weeds as a metaphor for our own personal growth.
- There is a great bit of information in the Awakening Hall that deals with just why we bother to clean daily surfaces that will quickly become messy again. It mentions the fact that cleaning is ‘an excellent lesson in impermanence… remember that the floor will be dirty again and that perfection is impossible – the only thing that is certain is that things will change.’ I think a lot our frustration relating to weeds is rooted in our belief that what we are doing is futile. Just what is the point if the place quickly gets in mess again? This is a metaphor for life – a practical reminder of our own impermanence, in everything that we do. Everything we do will pass away – and that is okay.
- On an emotionally-therapeutic note, like to see weeds as a kind of reverse puching-bag, great for removing anger, fear, frustration and so on. I imagine all of my flaws being pulled out of myself, one-by-one, with each stubborn weed. It’s great therapy – and I really feel like I’ve worked after, not just on the ground, but on myself, too. It’s possible to get quite involved in this practice, which is the essence of working meditation.
There is another, more practical reason, too: if we accept we are all connected and so have an influence on each other’s happiness and comfort it’s not difficult to see that it’s a good idea to shower frequently, especially because we are in a tropical climate. In the meantime, however short, we have a clean body, or to apply the analogy, a neat garden, or grime-free floor. To quote again from the Awakening Hall: ‘If you are finding the cleaning [or, in this case, weeding] pointless, remember that every daily task is important and that the work you are doing is improving the quality of life here for the community, helping them find piece of mind and tranquility.’
Susan is a writer, traveller and digital nomad. She blogs about her travels, mindfulness and creativity over at The Salient Script.