Weeding through the Garden of my Life

woman gardening
I have just returned from a delightful visit to my sister’s farm in upstate New York.  I so enjoy spending time with her.  I also enjoy communing with nature in the space she has created for peace and reflection on her farm. Her farm rests along the river and in the backdrop are rolling, green, lush tree-covered hills. It is a gorgeous setting.
Yesterday, which was my third and last day of weeding her many flower and vegetable gardens, I found myself suddenly feeling that I was in a hurry to “finish the work.”  The urgent feeling I was sensing was rather… well… silly.  My sister had set no expectations of what I would “do” while I was visiting her.  I had no plans of what I would “help” her with before I arrived.  She had no expectations at all. I had thought that I also had no expectations at all when I arrived to her farm.  However, all of a sudden at 3:00 p.m. of my last day visiting her, I began to feel as if I was in a hurry to finish weeding the bed I had been working on.   The bed I was engaged in de-weeding was about a 25-foot by10-foot shrub, tree, rock, and flower garden in the front of her 8-acre property.  It was a beautifully designed bed and because her business is landscaping, it had become quite overgrown given that she and all her assistants were quite busy tending to others’ gardens since this was indeed their high season.
In an unconscious response to the urgency I felt within, I found myself literally hacking away at large weeds.  The mindful practice of removing weeds one at a time in the days prior began to be taken over by this manic urgent hacking.  And just when I thought I had reached a new form of efficiency of cleaning away the large weeds, I would notice as I cleared them from the ground beneath me – that all I had really done was partially remove them – leaving remnants of the larger weeds behind and exposing smaller weeds that had taken up residence beneath the large weeds.  I hadn’t even touched the smaller weeds.

In desperation, I glanced up and scanned the garden to see that while I had made progress that I could detect, I had so much more work to do if I were to finish the entire garden within the time frame I was visiting my sister. Furthermore, I felt a twinge of pain as I glanced back to see what I had cleared three days prior to notice that a few weeds had apparently recovered from my earlier cleaning.  I either didn’t see them when I first weeded that spot or they returned nourished by the rains we had experienced in day two of my visit.

The entire process of this urgent manic movement may have lasted only a few moments. I don’t really know how much time lapsed.  All I know is that I was aware of the moment that I went from peaceful, contemplative weeding to urgent, aggressive hacking; hacking that created no additional effectiveness in the actual removal of weeds.  I also was aware of my movement back to slow, contemplative weeding.

After observing this entire cycle of activity, I laid down my farm tools, removed my soil and weed-stained work gloves, picked up my bottle of water that rested beside me, and simply began to laugh at myself.  The string of moments where I experienced the cycle of calm to frantic to calm weeding was so reflective of the way I live my life.

I enter into each day choosing not to have expectations for the weeds I will remove from my life or expectations for how I will grow.  The people I interact with often have no expectations for me to overcome specific barriers or challenges either.  Yet, at some point, I take on expectations and those expectations cause me to feel a sense of urgency – almost panic – and most certainly stress.  In the moment of stress, I decide to actively engaging in “doing” something that will “get rid of” something that does not serve me or “bring in” something that I feel I desperately need. I push, and shove, and pull, and move… only to find that I really haven’t removed any of the weeds in my life at all.  And just when I think I did, all I really have done is exposed all the little weeds that were residing underneath the big leaf I may have been able to forcefully strip away.

And so it goes… the work of removing the weeds in my sister’s garden is exactly like the process of removing the weeds in the garden of my life.  It is an intentional, contemplative process where more gets done when careful attention is paid to what is right before me.  The more I make expectations about where I should be in my life or what I should be accomplishing in the clearing of my garden, the more stress I feel, the more frantic I become, and the less effective and efficient I am at simply living in peace.

As I sat back on my haunches and drank a sip of water, I looked around the vast garden.  It was true that weeds were growing in the places I attended to earlier.  This was no doubt symbolic of areas in my life where I thought I had cleared out junk only to realize that the rains and showers of life and cased some cleared weeds to re-appear.  Looking ahead to what I had left to weed – holy Moses – there was a lot of visible work to do.  And I was sure that there were even more unseen weeds residing underneath the weeds that I could readily see.   There was no use in putting a time frame of expectation around how quickly I could get through those weeds.  I was either going to get through them before my time with my sister ended or I wasn’t.  All I could do was move thoughtfully, reflectively one weed at a time and trust that I would accomplish exactly what I was meant to in the time that remained.


Please click here to read more articles by Marilee Bresciani.

Marilee J. Bresciani, Ph.D., is a professor of higher education and the Founder of Rushing to Yoga Foundation. Her now more than 24 years of professional work has been committed to changing the way that America talks about quality of higher education. In order to keep from going crazy about trying to get the American public to care about what students are actually learning and how they are developing, rather than other indicators that have nothing to do with that, she has engaged in yoga, meditation, and self-referral. Marilee’s mantra is “I teach what I need to learn.”

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.


  1. Really loved the way you compared the weeding of a garden to weeding through the garden of life! 🙂 Excellent article – really created a picture story in my head while I was reading it!

  2. I read your article and it was really helpful. I’m so glad you shared that wisdom with us! Thanks for giving me the advice on how to weed. It’s so important sometimes to just let things go and move on, especially when they don’t seem like “good times”. The weeds will grow back stronger if they’re not dealt with right away. I want to thank you again for this great blog post!

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