Years ago, when we moved to our house, we had a front lawn. Slowly as the grass didn’t grow well, I began to plant flowers and bushes. Now there is no lawn just plants…a small herb garden, a blueberry patch, and lots of prairie plants…cone flowers, bee balm, and other plants whose names I have lost. It is a hodgepodge that has a certain beauty of abundance. But I’ve noticed that there are some plants that seem to be very pushy and if because they have been left on their own, they are taking over the entire garden. So, this year I decided that a little cultivation was in order…a little thinning and pruning and removing…allowing all the plants to have a bit of space…and putting in stone walkways.
And I find, as I work on the garden, I cultivate Wisdom. How is this so?
Well, first of all, Wisdom isn’t a thing. It isn’t something one can get or buy at a store or find on the internet. It isn’t information. It isn’t something one can hold on to or save or store away. And a garden isn’t a thing either. I can call it ‘my garden’ but it really doesn’t belong to me. I’m not in charge of what makes some plants thrive and others die out. The plants are gifts that for whatever reason have chosen to spend sometime in the front yard.
And so it is with Wisdom. I can call it ‘my wisdom’ but it doesn’t belong to me. It is a gift, a grace that can only be felt or known. Again, Wisdom is not a thing. It is a knowing, an understanding that I am not the doer. I cannot make Wisdom happen.
Back to the garden…this summer I’ve taken to heart the hard work required for cultivation and discipline.
The garden needs the discipline of order, transplanting tall plants further back and transplanting short plants in the front. The herb garden needs pruning. The Thyme is pushing against the Oregano and the chives want the entire garden. The garden needs walking space, so plants are not stepped on and can be carefully watered. To do this takes daily effort…careful attention to the transplanting and watering.
My mind, my thoughts, like the plants, need discipline or they run wild, are scattered not focused. My mind needs quiet places for silence and concentration. My thoughts need pruning…letting go of old worn out thoughts…remembering being teased because I loved my second-grade teacher…remembering being told I was cold and aloof by colleagues…remembering getting so angry when I was told my job was redundant. Future fears and worries also need pruning. The dandelions of ‘What-Ifs’ produce and multiply not leaving space for anything else.
When I cultivate the garden to make space for everything; when I cultivate my mind and thoughts there is space for everything. Wisdom is this space. It is this place without words. It is the inconceivable source that can’t be faced or turned away from.
And a bit more about Wisdom. I hope, as I walk on the still to be set-in pathways to ponder Sirach’s words:
Happy those who meditate on Wisdom, and fix their gaze on knowledge;
Who ponder her ways in their heart, and understand her paths;
Who pursue her like a scout, and watch at her entry way;
Who peep through her windows, and listen at her doors;
Who encamp near her house and fasten their tent pegs next to her walls;
Who pitch their tent beside her, and dwell in a good place;
Who build their nest in her leaves, and lodge in her branches;
Who take refuge from the heat in her shade and dwell in her home.
Author: Lao di Zhi Shakya
Zen Contemplative Priest of the Order of Hsu Yun
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