Raw, idiom, 14a: in the natural, uncultivated, or unrefined state: nature in the raw.

I've spent a serious chunk of life sitting at my computer overlooking my courtyard garden, windows flung open, the past few days. (This lush secret spot of green is the sole reason I pay waaaay too much for my otherwise-average little 1920s flat. But in the springtime, it feels so worth every penny.) Writing like a banshee, revisiting new and old projects, enjoying the way the rush of the fresh air and the lightening sky infuse my words, and marveling over and over, of course, at the fact that February here in SF looks like blue sky and balmy breezes and mad sun on my face.

I'll take it.

Point of all that is, between chapters I find my mind constantly drawn right out the window into that garden. Plotting new window boxes, watching the little brown field mouse zip along the fence post, wondering when the apricot blossoms will begin to appear. So this morning when I read this little gem of a piece from Tricycle, it felt close.
If you’re out watering your flower garden by hand, you naturally concentrate the flow of water to benefit your beautiful flowers. If there’s an area of weeds, you don’t waste water there. As best you can, you avoid watering the weeds.

It’s the same with your consciousness. You can learn to selectively water the positive seeds and flowers in you by attending to them. There are enough weeds. You don’t have to encourage them.
Really quite obvious, yeah? The piece goes on to simply, lovingly remind you that yes, you have a choice, and no, you don't have to let the "weeds" of your thoughts "colonize your consciousness." (I love that the writer uses "colonize." Rushes me right back to Audre Lorde and Alice Walker and Adrienne Rich and all of those feisty, fiery women writers.)

But, really. You can practice this. The thing I've learned about yoga and mindfulness, well, the one among many, is that our mental and emotional states are really just a matter of choosing. Choosing whether to dwell on the awful, to get lost in the potentially real, to spin out on fear-driven possibilities instead of noticing the lilt of the voice speaking next to you, the sashay of the person walking across the street in front of you, the way the sky shifts at 6:05 as you walk down Van Ness in the midst of the Monday evening commute. You can choose. It's quite simple, and reasonable, and obvious. And yet so fucking difficult.

I've been making a conscientious effort to skip the cabs and walk more again lately, blessed as I am to live smack in the middle of this oh-so-walkable city, and it's been powerful the way that practice alone, that moving meditation, can shift a day. 30 minutes' in the sun, watching, listening, paying attention, turning the phone off, stashing it away, committing to even just that brief time in your body listening to the rhythm of your breath and letting it match the rhythm of your feet and noticing, really noticing, the wind on your face or the way the sun falls at a different angle at this time of day or the peeling paint on the sign for that dry cleaner's shop, well, it's as much a meditation as anything else. And I find that it shifts my mind, my day, my entire way of being.

Surround yourselves with people who are willing to practice seeing the flowers instead of the weeds. It sounds doofy, Pollyanna-ish, perkily annoying. But I don't mean it in some sappy faux-smiley Hallmark kind of way. I mean, be real, be honest, be sad, be fearful, be frightened, be all of those things that make you really fully human, and then meander through the weedy garden that is your mind-state and notice the blooms, notice the field mouse, and instead of fearing the blooms for their allergy-rich pollen or decrying the mouse for being a creepy four-legged-creature in your space, notice them, watch them, love them, affirm that they're living creatures trying to exist, be, breathe in this sometimes not-so-friendly world. And then create the kind of sangha that fills your life with people who encourage and echo that practice themselves.

Make the choice. To leave ten minutes early, and skip the frenzied cab ride, which will leave you in a frenzied heart-state, which will set your day onto a frenzied path, which will stick with you all frenzied day long. You slow down, and see the world, ugly and not, with new beginner's eyes, as if it's the first time you're seeing any of it: garden, weeds, flowers, wrought-iron balcony, scribbled graffiti, corporate dude in an expensive suit standing in line at the Indian curry truck in the Financial District over the lunch hour.

Let it be new. Let your eyes be open. Let them draw to the blooms instead of the bruises. And then watch your day change.

[And hey, that there, to the right? That's my view out the window. My vines. My palm. Love.]

Water the Flowers, Not the Weeds (Tricycle)


kamala said…
ohhh, yummy delicious men in fancy italian wool suits in the fd, oh la la....oh, back on subject. remembering my time living totally alone on the northern coast, in environmental pristine paradise, but in my own hell-ish because, as i discovered, the mind, in isolation tends to spiral towards doubt if not mindfully inspired by other beings....and how i loved my ocean and really understood how the sun traveled the horizon line throughout the seasons, but without another being to share this with, it didn't mean as much, not that i desire a singular relationship, but that i want to meaningfully connect to many for a few minutes and dance on and maybe a few for a longer time....and being back in this urban jungle of sf, and the noises and smells and lights and tenderloin, just freaking constantly in awe of human creation, like your writings....i feel so inspired and bigger than my spirit alone. thanks for dropping that stone in my pool. hope these lines ramble on~
Rach said…
Lovely Kamala: yes, absolutely, yes.

I, too, for a very long time thought the reality of a life spent in my own private Walden a la Henry David Thoreau or the incredible nature/philosophy writer Annie Dillard would be my haven of choice. And then you get there in the silence and the beauty - as you've so perfectly noted - and realize that you've brought all your loves and hates, stories and concepts, memories and hopes for the future along in your (increasingly busy) mind. You've nailed it. So we find the silence and the stillness in that midst of that urban jungle....

Thanks for reading. And thanks for your big heart and fiery mind.

Rachel I had posted this back in 2011. Love that your words can continue to guide & inspire all these years later.

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