by Lisa Ernst
Over time, if we don’t cultivate awareness through a consistent mindfulness and meditation practice, our minds may become cluttered like a junkyard. Maybe long ago the junkyard was just a pretty field in the country surrounded by trees, grass, and flowers in the spring. Then gradually we began to collect old thoughts, like tarnished, broken down cars. If we grow too accustomed to them, we may even cling to them like ancient treasures.
Slowly they begin to rust and old fluids leak into the ground, polluting the soil so that nothing can grow. But we may not even notice until the day we decide to plant a garden. Taking a fresh view of the yard, all we can see is junk from one end to the other: not one spot for planting
 With this perspective we have to take a closer look at our collection of old thoughts and beliefs, to find a way to make space for a garden. But how? It’s not as simple as doing a quick clean up and replacing all the old rotting cars we’ve accumulated for years or decades with a nourishing vegetable garden. We have to start with what we’ve already got—to take time and really see the junk in the yard, to spend time with it, to live there for while. Not to drink the contaminated water in the ground, but to make our way through the clutter, to see each and every thing we’ve clung to and refused to let go.
The amazing thing about this practice is that we don’t need to make an aggressive project of clearing out the junkyard, even if we’re totally surrounded. Once we begin the practice of genuinely seeing our mess, but not adding to it, the debris begins clearing out on its own. Soon there’s a little spot for a garden, and new plants grow that nourish us. Pretty soon the field has more open patches as the junk inhabits a smaller space. Some debris is still there, and that’s ok. We don’t have to have to clear the entire yard to begin growing our garden. Even if we’re still left with some old hardware, we may appreciate the patterns and colors of the rust, and we may find uses for the old tires. Perhaps a tree swing would be nice, just over the garden.
A bird in a secluded grove sings like a flute.
Willows sway gracefully with their golden threads.
The mountain valley grows the quieter as the clouds return.
A breeze brings along the fragrance of the apricot flowers.
For a whole day I have sat here encompassed by peace,
Till my mind is cleansed in and out of all cares and idle thoughts.
I wish to tell you how I feel, but words fail me.
If you come to this grove, we can compare notes.
Ch’an master Fa-yen