I recently co-led a workshop called “Cultivating Gratitude” where I offered teachings on the yogic concept of pratipaksa bhavanam, which means cultivating the opposite. If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, you might want to take a quick moment to read this first, it’s a post where I offer more general information, textual analysis, and practice ideas (good stuff!).
While designing the “Cultivating Gratitude” workshop, I was really struck by the idea of cultivation, which is a farming word that has gained wider use. When you do a quick search for the word, you discover that its synonyms are words like till, plow, dig, hoe, farm, work, fertilize, mulch, and weed. I love this list because each word entails effort and intention. Cultivation then, can be understood as the putting forth of effort in an intentional direction.
Everyone who gardens understands that the gardener decides what stays and what goes. Which plants will you fertilize? Which plants will you weed out? Of course, consistency is paramount. If you stop paying attention, even for just a few days, the garden begins to decide what stays and what goes. The weeds can begin to take over and choke out the plants you’ve been trying to grow.
Life is exactly like this. Every single moment of the day we make decisions—some are little, some are big, many happen automatically, some happen with a lot of thought. But decisions are always being made. What would it feel like to think about our decisions a little like we would think about cultivating a garden?
The yogic texts actually use the metaphor of seeds a lot and in the context of our practice, the garden idea can be really useful.
Reflection Questions for Your Practice:
- What seeds are you choosing to water through your decisions, actions, and thoughts?
- What “plants” are you cultivating in your daily life and choices?
- What areas can you see that need a little (or a lot of) weeding?
- Are you paying attention to your “garden” on a regular basis? Just like the cultivation of a garden, the cultivation of a good life takes consistency. Every decision is linked to the next. Habits don’t just happen, we build and strengthen them.
- What are you building, strengthening, and cultivating in your life?
- How does reality line up with what you intend?
Think about it:
Your everyday decisions and actions will accumulate over the course of your life. This accumulation creates the shape and character of who you are always becoming. Decide and act with intention, openness, expectation, and love.
Remember that you are in charge. You get to decide what to cultivate in your life.
I would love to hear from you in the comments below! Does this metaphor make sense to you? Does it seem useful? What are you going to implement? What needs to be fertilized and watered in your life? What needs to be weeded out?