Learning to Love Your Inner Weeds: Could You Accept Them Instead of Pull Them Out?

I love this time of year.  When I’m not working, you can find me in my garden.

This is the first year of a big project I like to call “Garden Overhaul!”….I planted a massive vegetable garden in an old plot that had never been touched and was full of weeds and dirt that was basically hard clay.  I now have plans to tear out much of my grass next year and cover my front yard with native water-saving plants, herbs, trees, and shrubs.  Big project, but big reward!  Talk about reaping what you sow 🙂  I can have the most stressful day in weeks, but the second I set foot in my garden all is calm.  It is truly my meditative oasis.

If you read my previous post about hail damage on my freshly planted garden, you know about the trials I’ve experienced (and any gardener does) in “letting go” of what I cannot control and embracing hope that my garden would be resilient…which it has been!  I love the metaphors that can be found between gardening and self-care, mindfulness, and acceptance.  I am putting together a Mindful Gardening Workshop this Saturday that will integrate so many of the concepts of weeding, planting seeds, nurturing, harvesting in gardening and also in our own lives.  I can’t wait!

While preparing for this workshop, I have been utilizing two wonderful books: The Art of Mindful Gardening: Sowing the Seeds of Meditation by Ark Redwood, and The Meditative Gardener: Cultivating Mindfulness of Body, Feelings, and Mind by Cheryl Wilfong.  Both are written by master gardeners and seasoned mindfulness practitioners and offer so much wisdom from buddhism, psychology and gardening about the natural healing tools available to us in our natural world.

I am now contemplating. . .

What Would It Be Like To Accept Our Inner Weeds Instead of Eradicate Them?

We all have those parts of ourselves that we would rather not spend too much time with — perhaps they are filled with pain, remorse, shame, guilt, or discomfort.  Or perhaps we just don’t know them very well and they seem dark, looming and scary.  These could be called our “Inner Weeds” and our first impulse could be to rip them out.  When looking at our garden, planted with beautiful herbs, colorful flowers and budding vegetables, it can be an unsightly eyesore to see weeds popping up and trying to push out our lovingly cultivated bounty.

I have spent hours pulling weeds out of my garden, and let me tell you — it feels good to get those buggers out!  It’s a therapeutic treat to yank out the “intruders” to my garden (though the are just as natural and organic as anything I have chosen to plant). . . .but they come back even if I pull them out.  It reminds me of that saying “what we resist, persists” . . .or, on the other side, “what we water, grows”.  When we water our garden, we inherently water the weeds in it as well.  Why fight them?

Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh says:

“There are already trees and flowers in our garden.  There may be some weeds too.  The gardener does not hate the weeds.  The good gardener knows how to use the weeds to fertilize the fruit and flowers.  The practice of mindfulness does not mean hating the imperfections in ourselves.  The practice is to attend to what causes us pain and suffering and use it as fertilizer to create the most beautiful garden possible. ”


This reminds me strongly of concepts of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, which borrows a piece from Buddhism that acknowledges that there will always be some form of suffering in life — but asks us how we choose to approach it.  Do we struggle against it and the emotions it brings and try to weed it out?  That is A LOT of effort.  Or do we work to accept it for what it is and let it help us fertilize the other parts of our garden — our life — as well?

Can you learn to love your inner weeds, the parts of yourself that you wish weren’t there, and which you are forever trying to pluck out?

Until we can accept their presence inside of ourselves and value them for what they are, they will continue to persist and cause us more pain and suffering.

We have a choice as to whether we water those seeds or not, the seeds that may grow into something we see as a weed.  But, if we don’t water those seeds at all we cannot just turn our backs on them because they are part of what makes us human, what makes us whole, and what makes us beautifully imperfect.  Just because we don’t want to water them doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

So, speaking without metaphor, I ask you now:

What parts of yourself do you try to pluck out, or turn a blind eye to?  The one who judges yourself and others?  The part who feels ‘not good enough’?  The part who feels jealousy of another?

For a moment, try to let yourself contact those parts of yourself that you have spent so many hours avoiding.  Try to let yourself offer that part kindness, understanding, and acceptance instead of avoidance or judgment.  Let it be.  Notice that even though that part is there, flowers can grow all around it.  Flowers that are joy, resiliency, creativity, intellect, and love may even thrive while co-existing with those “weeds” and it feels like so much less work to let them all live together.

Off I go into my garden.  Sure, I’ll pluck a few weeds.  But I’ll also notice them as a part of a bigger picture, that they are just as natural in my garden as the vegetables are, and that they do their part to make my garden a whole, messy, imperfect, and magical retreat for rejuvenation.