I have a hunch that, if I could ever get quiet and free for a moment from my negativity, I might get a gift from God.
John Cleese, Professor At Large: The Cornell Years
I discovered this quote in an excerpt from John Cleese’s new book1 in the latestHarpers Magazine. It’s a wonderful and delightful short sermon about the importance of looking after your garden – your mind – in order to find peace and build a connection to God. It is a fitting metaphor and one everyone can relate to.
Tending the garden of its weeds is a constant struggle. The best way to tackle it is to get into the habit of pulling the weeds on a regular basis before they overrun the garden. The same goes for our minds. It is easy to let the negative thoughts and the negativity of the world overwhelm our mind, leaving us in a fog. In this age of Trump and the constantly on media, the more stressful workplaces, and financial situations, this is becoming quite the challenge.
I fully admit to have been caught in the weeds growing in my mind the past few months. A month of smoke in the valley ruining the latter half of summer, an incredibly busy schedule with work, and a few quick ailments, all combined to set me back. I found myself becoming complacent at home, unmotivated to do much at all besides scrolling social media and YouTube, and thinking about myself and the world in mainly negative ways. The wakeup call for me was my weekend away in Regina over Thanksgiving.
It was the first time in awhile where I felt somewhat free with my mind. That seems strange to write when I was just saying how most of my spare time was scrolling through social media. I was using social media as a distraction, an excuse to not do all the things I should do or have wanted to do. It was too easy to look out the window, see it cloudy and rainy, and decide to just stay home, but not do any cleaning up.
In Regina, there was an emphasis on family with my time. Visiting with my sister Friday night, connecting with family members almost all day Saturday and Sunday, and then an early departure on Monday back home. The flights from Kelowna to Regina and back gave me a lot more time to think about things. I couldn’t rely on social media to distract me anymore, I had to focus on what was in front of me and what was to come in the near future.
I came back with the understanding that nothing was going to grow in my garden unless I took care of it properly. That meant not avoiding the work in front of me and planning properly for the work ahead. The remainder of October has been spent thinking and planning about the things I need to accomplish in the short-term to make the long-term goals happen. Setting a timeline for the managing broker’s course, setting up my task manager app to outline the writing I want to accomplish this month, and scheduling days off for myself to get out and discover.
That last item has been more important than I realized.
I have always enjoyed going for walks or hikes, finding new areas to explore, and not worry about anything. A few weekends ago, I took a whole Saturday off to explore, taking a trip up to Adam’s River to catch the end of the Pacific salmon run. Apart from exploring an incredibly beautiful area, it allowed me a full day away from social media, TV, and work to be at peace with my mind and body. The only time my phone came out of my pocket that day was to share a few quick photos of where I was to friends and Instagram.
After that day, I was sold. I needed to do it again: at least a few days a month of nothing. Just me, going out somewhere, exploring. That one day was incredibly valuable to my mental health, my creativity, and pushed me to keep trying out different things with my photography. It made me want to write pieces that compelled the reader to re-read a section again. It made me want to take photographs that weren’t just a pretty image, but made someone want to lean in, to zoom, to discover the little intricacies of the photograph.
That day made me want to really live the phrase that I have used as a slogan on social media: trying to find beauty in the abstractions of the world.
John Cleese spoke of trying to find the peace of mind to connect with God; I think finding a peace of mind will allow a person to be better connected with themselves and their goals. The noise of the world can drown out who a person is and block them from achieving what they want or need. We need to find ways to escape the noise, and find the quiet spaces to allow ourselves to grow our wonderful gardens to their full potential.
Putting the phone away to explore outside is going to be the main way in how I find the quiet. I know I will have to find better ways to silence the social media to help me stay focused. Finding that bit of quiet is a starting point in my maintenance plan to keep my garden growing.
- Which I promptly ordered, of course. ↩