Weeding The Garden/Doing The Math

I was browsing in one of my favorite metaphysical bookstores not long ago and came across a section of tools and supplies for banishing unwanted experiences, relationships, etc.. There were spell books and crystals and herbs and instructions for ridding oneself of everything from big bad debt to big bad loser boyfriends to big bad habits.

They were fun to look through but for some reason they weren’t really calling out to me and as I was leaving the store I started wondering about the whole idea of trying to remove or erase things that I don’t want from my life. Does it work? How does it work? So I asked The Shower Team to talk to me about subtraction.

This is one of the ways that you are often at cross purposes with yourself. Your efforts to banish what you do not want, to extract or subtract from your experience the things that do not please you, most of your attempts to eliminate or to remove what troubles or worries or discourages or frustrates you . . . generally do not succeed because you are essentially trying to go against the natural order of things. In other words, in your determined or desperate or diligent or frantic actions to be rid of something that displeases you or that feels bad, all you are really doing is giving it the attention it needs to grow.

It is as if you were setting out to clear your garden of the pesky weeds choking the beautiful flowers or fruits that you’re trying to grow, and then unintentionally spraying weed food all over the place . . . growing the very thing you want to stamp out.

Rarely do your efforts to subtract something from your experience succeed, because the very act of focusing on what you wish to eliminate in order to banish it, typically only serves to activate it further. The more you work and struggle to subtract the undesirables, the more of them you usually get.

So what to do? The answer is to add value rather than to try to subtract liabilities. Most professional helpers will tell you that it is virtually impossible to remove destructive behavior or a bad habit by “just saying no” or trying not to do it. Rather it is critical to add something to one’s experience that offers an alternative way of receiving what is desired, of feeling the way that one wants to feel.

The very best approach—the only truly effective approach—to ridding yourself of something you do not want, is to shift your focus in the direction of more of the things that you do want. As you begin to fill your attention with ideas and objects and thoughts that delight you or encourage you or comfort you or inspire you or soothe you . . . there will be less and less attention placed on the things that worry or frustrate or discourage you.

The best possible ingredient to add to this process is, as we have said many times, appreciation. It is the perfect plant food. It is life-giving sunlight and sweet nurturing moisture and tender, loving, skillful care all rolled up in one powerful garden tool. It is the magic you are always seeking. It is the rain dance and the rich soil that yields the very best that you want. It is always the correct means to your desired end.

Begin to make appreciation your process, your technique, your tool. Make appreciation your priority. Add appreciation to the top of your To Do list . . . Introduce it into your weedy garden, and what you will notice is that the weeds will slowly begin to wither and fade from sheer neglect . . . that as you tend more and more to the flowers or fruits or vegetables that please you . . . as you give them what they need to grow . . . as you take pleasure in their blooming and ripening . . . as you enjoy the perfect timing of nature’s cycles in yielding to you what you have planted and tended to . . . the weeds that once worried you so will be barely a memory . . . You will understand how the process works and with practice you will become the patient and confident and competent gardener that it is your wish to be.


I’m about as much of a gardener as I am a cook—although I did once keep an African violet alive in my apartment for three years. I may not know nothin’ ‘bout no weeding, Miss Scarlett, but I do know about the frustrations of trying to banish thoughts or feelings, much less experiences that I know I don’t want. It’s been one of my best recipes for failure.

It also doesn’t help that math was always one of my worst subjects. At least we’re not talking long division. Still, the idea of adding to rather than taking away carries a certain logic that even my relatively unmathematical mind can grasp. The more good stuff I add to the mix, the less room for the bad stuff there will be . . . or the better I feel, the better I’ll feel . . . It’s almost enough to make me want to get out my garden mitts. . . and definitely enough to leave me feeling, for the moment, and in addition, complete.

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About Dan

Published novelist, poety, essayist, photographer and college educator. Visit me at www.firstadream.com.

Posted on August 16, 2007, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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