For me a key task in autumn is tidying the garden; dead-heading and cutting back spent growth. It’s a very satisfying job; easy to see where you’ve been, and everything looks so much neater and tidier. But I always feel loathe to pull up plants: the 3,000 foxgloves and aquilegias that have seeded themselves in every borders; and the clumps that have just grown too big for their allotted space – it seems such shame when they have put so much effort into establishing themselves.
But if I leave them the garden is going to begin to look unbalanced. The foxglove leaves will smother smaller plants, whilst other plants that may still be trying to establish themselves may be overshadowed by my burgeoning forest of aquilegias. So I need to bite the bullet and let some of these plants go in order to allow all the others to flourish. If I can do this in the garden, how can I apply these same principles in other areas of my life? After all, the ancient Chinese developed their model of Traditional Chinese Medicine through the observation of nature.
I’m not just talking about clearing out my wardrobe (although it is on my “to do” list)! I mean looking within myself. We all have things that we do, ways that we think, and responsibilities that we take on simply because that has always been our way, and sometimes also the way of those around us. But are these still the best way for us to think and act, or are they just a habit that we’ve never gone back to re-examine?
As our lives expand with maturity and new experiences, we take on so much more, and sometimes it pays to take stock of how much of our energy is taken up with sustaining old habits when really it is time to nurture new ones. Yet we are sometimes reticent about changing these. In fact we are often loath to even examine what are our attitudes and habits and where/what they stem from. Are they things we do simply because we were told to? Is it because that’s what our parents did? And are they still useful with our current lifestyles? Are there ways that we think about ourselves because of thins we were told, perhaps when we were impressionable or vulnerable? And this perception has stuck… is it helping us now? Does it make us happy? Or is this view of ourselves holding us back?
It is certainly a harder undertaking than digging out some errant plants in the garden. And it is likely to take us out of our comfort zone, and may well impact on other areas of our lives… but isn’t that what it’s about? So don’t just settle for the dead-heading – picking off the easy stuff that is clearly no longer needed. Go deeper, and examine your more deep-rooted habits and thought patterns. Letting go and embracing change allows our lives to flourish in wonderful new directions.