There is a quote that I love: “Your mind is a garden; your thoughts are the seeds. You can grow flowers, or you can grow weeds.”
Gardening and growing things is in my blood. I grew up with parents who had green thumbs, and I was always surrounded by lush veggies, gorgeous flowers, and greenery. As an adult, I have created my own sanctuary. My garden is the place I’m most likely to lose track of time — pruning, plucking, pinching, and picking. With 18 varieties of fruits, a veggie garden, and more succulents than you can shake a stick at, it’s safe to say that my garden is my happy place.
When you are the gardener, you have control over what grows in your garden. Aside from the occasional volunteer tomato plant or other random thing that pops up from our compost, I know what I want to plant and when I want to plant it. I knew when we set out to revamp our entire backyard that we wanted to plant a variety of fruit trees. We were intentional and planned from the beginning. We planted things we like to eat and things that look beautiful. Some things worked the way we planned, and others needed to be modified.
The garden is also a perfect analogy for our minds. Be intentional and remove what you don’t want; keep what you do want. Water and fertilize what you really want to grow, and be strategic about where you put your attention. This is a concept called mind gardening, a proactive way of cultivating knowledge, ideas, and thinking in general. It’s very different from passive consumption. It’s a proactive creation, just like creating a garden.
If you know you want to be positive, then you can be intentional with your thoughts, actions, and deeds. It really is that simple. What you water grows. Where your mind goes, so do your actions. Here are a few ways to tend to your mind and start your own mind garden:
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Be still. Maybe you call it meditation, prayer, or just thinking. We are not human beings any longer. We are human doings. I find the most peace and quiet as well as great ideas when I stop and just “be” in the garden. It is then that I notice some new sprout, bug, flower, or fruit. Or I stumble across a thought or idea I want to talk about with a client. Spend just three minutes in your favorite cozy spot: Sit comfortably, set a timer, close your eyes, and breathe. As thoughts arise, just let them be — don’t judge, don’t resist, and don’t get mad. Just be and observe.
Do some weeding. Just like a garden, our houses and minds can become cluttered with old things and ideas. Your closet is not a hope chest. Hoping that those pants you last wore in high school may one day fit you again might just be the thing that is getting in the way of you becoming the new you. Additionally, holding on to old thoughts and beliefs will do the same. Same goes for people that drag you down. Letting go of negative people doesn’t mean that you don’t like them; it just means you love yourself more.
Shine the light. As Helen Keller said, “Keep your face to the sunshine, and you will never see a shadow.” A plant doesn’t grow in darkness. So shine a light on new ideas to explore. Trust your intuition and learn something new. The mental stimulation will help make new neural pathways and keep you sharp. With that said, don’t forget to turn the lights off. Not getting enough rest and sleep is not a badge of honor. It is just plain dumb. Research has shown that those who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to have memory issues, weakened immune systems, and increased risk of obesity diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease.
Fertilize. Nourish your body by eating the right foods at the right time. A little cake won’t kill you — but it’s not the best for you right before bed. Also, be mindful of how you fertilize your mind. Talk nicely to yourself. Affirmations are simple sentences that you say to yourself to think in a certain way. They can be a powerful force to help you grow or hold you back. Negative self-talk can be sneaky and fill in the silence if we aren’t careful. Statements like, “I am not a great writer” or “I am a slow reader” just become self-fulfilling prophecies. Don’t “should” on yourself: “You should read….,” “You should work out…,” etc. We might have laughed when Stuart Smalley said on SNL, “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me.” But it works if you are feeling down.
With summer just around the corner, now is a great time to plant your garden. The best time to plant an oak tree was yesterday. So, consider starting now by taking time to be still, do some weeding, shine some light, and fertilize. And if you want to follow our little patch of green goodness in the world and see what comes out of the ground in our neck of the woods, find us on Instagram @caputo_orchard.
Sara Caputo transforms how individuals, teams, and small businesses navigate workflow and increase workplace efficiency. Her work has been featured in Working Women, Success, and Forbes, as well as other national and regional publications. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.