Have you ever felt regret at a choice you’ve made? Or anger at yourself for that relationship? Conversation? Purchase? Meal? Do you wish that you could erase that moment or decision? There are always lessons in those moments. Sometimes they are harder to swallow than others.
Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist monk and teacher, shows how the mind is like a field, where every kind of seed is planted–seeds of suffering, anger, happiness and peace. The quality of life depends on the quality of the seeds. By learning how to water seeds of joy and transform seeds of suffering, then you are creating space for understanding, love, and compassion to flower.
That sounds so good. But how do you do it? Here are a few of my favorite short meditations from his book, Taming the Tiger Within: Meditations on Transforming Difficult Emotions
1. If positive seeds are watered in a person’s life, it is partly because of luck and partly because of effort.
2. Inside every one of us is a garden, and every practitioner has to go back to their garden and take care of it. Maybe in the past you left it untended for a long time. You should know exactly what is going on in your own garden, and try to put everything in order. Restore the beauty; restore the harmony in your garden. If it is well tended, many people will enjoy your garden.
3. Compassion is a beautiful flower born of understanding. When you get angry with someone, practice breathing in and out mindfully. Look deeply into the situation to see the true nature of your own and the other person’s suffering, and you will be liberated.
4. Mindfulness means to be present, to be aware of what is going on. The energy is very crucial for the practice. The energy of mindfulness is like a big brother or sister, holding a young one in her arms, taking good care of the suffering child, which is our anger, despair or jealousy.
So whether you want to think about any negative emotion as a seed in a garden or a sibling or even a baby, you can work to be compassionate toward yourself and others. One time, I read that those negative seeds, like garbage, could be turned into compost which helps to tend your healthy garden. This helped me to accept my negative feelings and not just push them down with thoughts of gratitude. Once someone shared this insight as well: resentment is like taking poison yourself, then expecting the other person to die. Whoa.
The other approach I have learned is to name your negative emotion, whether it’s anxiety, fear, jealousy, anger or depression. Mine is named Matilda. I actually like the name Matilda. When she pops up, she’s wearing a light blue house dress with white polka dots and big black men’s wingtips with white socks. When I’m under stress, I see her coming. She just wants to squat inside me like a toad and take over. So I can tell her, “I see you, Mattie, thanks for reminding me to stick up for myself. You know what, have a seat in this corner of my heart. I know you want to fight for me. Let me take a moment to figure out how handle this one.” I know that I’m taking a risk in inviting you to think of your heart as a garden or a host to any number of characters, but let’s face it, we have all kinds of thoughts and emotions running through us every day. Why not try something new to help you navigate when the waters get choppy, or the garden gets weedy or a lady in a blue polka dot house dress shows up?