Thursday, September 19, 2013

Harvest Time

It's the harvest moon, so named for it's temporal location on the calendar - when the harvest in many areas is most plentiful.  Brings the Neil Young song, Harvest Moon, to mind.....  I digress.  Yes, there are plenty of local harvested delights available now.  Maybe some from your own garden?  We all understand the process, in spring or late winter, we plant a seed or a root or a seedling. We then tend it all spring and summer with watering, weeding, and fertilizing.  There will, after an appropriate time for this plant, be fruit - perhaps the true fruit of the tomato, maybe the root of a carrot, the seed pods of the string bean, or the leaves of the kale plant.  What we sow, we reap, as the old saying goes.

But this progression also plays out throughout life.  When I began my days in the mental health profession, I worked exclusively with women.  Women who were addicted to substances, diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder or other anxiety/depressive disorders, and mandated to be in treatment for these conditions.  Not a great scenario for success.  After my 3rd year or so, I found myself disheartened as I saw women returning who had previously completed or quit treatment.  It was a cycle with very few actually getting themselves out.  I still can count on my 2 hands the number of women who went through that program in 8 years and did so successfully.  The rest are still struggling and some are gone from this earth.

Geez, I began to think, how do I continue to have any motivation or hope for what I am trying to help these women do?  At that same time, I saw something and I read something, can't tell you what either was, because I don't remember, but I know they both sent the message - plant the seeds, water, fertilize, do what you can to tend, but that is the extent of my responsibility.  All I can do for others is tend to what is positive and healthy in their gardens and stop tending to the negative.  The true work of the garden within is then theirs to do.

For one's self the analogy plays out well and is now backed up by science.  Neuro-science is now proving that what you tend in the garden of your mind gets stronger and grows.  This means that what you spend time on is what your brain becomes best at doing.  Spend time complaining?  The brain gets good at complaining.  Spend time practicing the piano?  The brain gets better and better.  Spend time looking around at the greatness and wonder of life?  The brain sees more and more of that.  What we sow, what we tend, we reap.

Start paying attention to what you are planting in your life.  If you want happiness, stop looking for all that sucks in the world, stop complaining, stop playing the victim and start looking for happiness, start feeling grateful for small things, start being a survivor.  If you want peace, cultivate peace through meditation or prayer.  Decide what it is you want to harvest, plant it, and tend it.  Catch yourself tending the weeds and the poisonous plants and stop.  This might take some time.  It's a habit the brain has grown used to.  We might unconsciously find ourselves out there in the weed patch and need to pull back.  Every time you switch from behaviors and thoughts you don't want to those you do want, you are tending your new garden and in time, it will grow stronger and you will reap your intended harvest.

Happy harvest!

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