3794656925_fc8192cefb_zImagine your very own, private flower garden brimming with the brightest, most beautiful of your favorite flowers. See it in your mind. Mine is full of happy yellow sunflowers. If you don’t weed your garden regularly, crabgrass and all kinds of unwelcome weeds will sprout up. Without any maintenance, the weeds will hungrily take over choking out all the beautiful flowers.

Your mind is like a garden. With regular practice, you can learn to take care of your mental sanctuary by pulling weeds and planting flowers in the garden of your mind. In his book, Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom, Rick Hanson writes:

To gradually replace negative implicit memories with positive ones, just make the positive aspects prominent and relatively intense in the foreground of your awareness while simultaneously placing the negative material in the background.  Imagine that the positive contents of your awareness are sinking down into old wounds, soothing chafed and bruised places like a warm golden salve, filling up hollows, slowly replacing negative feelings and beliefs with positive ones.

You know that pesky, ongoing, negative mental chatter made up of your subconscious thoughts, beliefs, and feelings? While some of the material is from the present and some from the recent past, most of this background noise is made up of implicit and explicit memories of childhood. Hanson suggests that we become aware of and familiar with our “usual suspects” or the recurring thoughts that cause upsets and problems for us. To continue with the garden analogy, you have to find the root of the weed.  Once you do, you need to infuse positive material, the weed killer, onto it.

You don’t want to resist painful memories and experiences while grasping at more pleasant ones because this practice will only lead to its own kind of suffering. The goal is to pair and eventually replace the negative material with more positive emotions and perspectives, the blooming flowers in your mental garden.

How To Plant Flowers In Your Mind

For example, if not feeling good enough is one of your common negative themes, when this thought shows up, consciously recall a specific time when you felt more than good enough. Really remember the feeling of it. Give the experience the power of language and verbalize it or journal about it.  Make it into an affirmation.  Do this a couple more times in the following hour and every time you’re aware of the “not good enough” feeling showing up. Scientific studies show that negative memories are especially vulnerable to being changed after they’re recalled.

For me, my most troublesome weed is a general fear of the future and dread of the unknown. Can I handle it?  How will it turn out? “(Whatever “it” is.) What if the worst happens? When these anxious thoughts pop into my head, I remind myself that I have recovered from a serious brain injury with no professional guidance by sheer determination and tenacity. If I can do that, I can handle most anything that life throws at me. I know that I’ll figure it out.

And you know what? I really do believe that!

You can pull weeds and plant flowers in your mind anywhere at any time. Over time, through neuroplasticity, the ability of your brain to change its structure and function based on your repeated behaviors, emotions, and thoughts, this practice will actually change your brain building new more positive pathways — and some beautiful gardens!

image source:  https://www.flickr.com/photos/sakeeb/

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  1. Ande Waggener Reply

    I love the garden and weed analogy. Growing new flowers that dominate the garden so much that the weeds are choked out makes so much more sense than leaving the ground bare and running out pulling up weeds all the time, which is what we do when we are constantly ferreting out bad memories and beliefs. Thanks for reminding me to water my flowers! 🙂

    • Debbie Hampton Reply

      Hiya Ande! What kind of flowers are in your garden? I, too, love the mental image of a flower garden, and tending to it. I can almost smell them and hear the bees and feel the sunshine. I guess, just like the real thing, they have to have a little rain and cloudy skies at times too.

  2. Judy M. Hampton Reply

    How powerful! Good exercise to utilize on a daily basis. Now I know why you love sunflowers in your environment. Love you, Mom

    • Debbie Hampton Reply

      I find little tricks like this so handy to use. Each one of us has to find what works and feels right to us. Thank goodness, there is plenty to choose from.

    • Debbie Hampton Reply

      I thought you would especially like this one since you are so fond of and know so much about flowers. Remember the daisy visualization you came up with? You can grow a whole garden with many varieties in your mind too!

  3. charlie engle Reply

    You put beautiful words to your feelings. You have had a real impact on me and the way I view my problems. There is a saying I have always loved, “you have to give “it” away if you hope to keep “it”. You have a gift for helping others see more clearly and I think you understand that you help yourself the most when you help others.
    Thanks for helping me.

    • Debbie Hampton Reply

      Charlie, thanks so much for the kind words and right backatcha! It is a mutual admiration society. I learn so much from your example and the way in which you live your life and approach your challenges.

      I think you live by the saying that you quote. I know we have both had some very public, major mess ups. Might as well make the healing very public to and share the “how,” huh?

  4. Hi Debbie. Great advice and insights. I had a similar theme in one of my posts back in November – ‘Keep your subconscious free from weeds’ (catchy title, eh?). I believe absolutely in persistence/ practice and the power of Now. As I said back then, ‘dig out the weeds, throw on some fertiliser feed and don’t forget the bird netting’. You take care, now. Stephen

  5. Debbie,
    This is a fabulous metaphor. This particular quote from Rick Hanson is so inspiring! I need to get that book! I do bathe my brain in golden, healing light at least once a day. I bet more would be even better. I love your approach to the best possible brain. It’s a joy to know you.

    • Debbie Hampton Reply

      You will love this book. It is just the perfect combination of science and spirituality that I know you will appreciate. The visualization of his quote gives me the feeling of being filled with warm honey. Thank you for all your support!

  6. Hello Debbie, I came over from Stephen’s site. I love the metaphor of trees, weeding and gardening. It reminds me of Thich Nhat Hanh’s work. As a Buddhist monk, he loves to teach about the mind using simple ideas.

    “The mind can go in a thousand directions, but on this beautiful path, I walk in peace. With each step, the wind blows. With each step, a flower blooms.” – Thich Nhat Hanh


    • Debbie Hampton Reply

      Evelyn, thanks for stopping by and commenting. Love the Thich Nhat Hanh quote!

  7. Alex@florist kl (40%) Reply

    Great post! I love all kind of flowers & simply enjoyed reading your post! I love the metaphor of trees, weeding and gardening 🙂 Keep up the good work 🙂

    • Debbie Hampton Reply

      Alex, thank you for stopping by and commenting. Nature has so much beauty and so much to teach us if we will let it.

  8. I love this idea of infusing positive material into negative mind sets and thus transforming them! This is remarkable to know:
    Scientific evidence shows that negative memory is especially vulnerable to being changed after it is recalled.”

    • Debbie Hampton Reply

      It is wonderful that science is validating and giving credibility to a lot of the “new age” positive practices. Many people still really need that. All I need is the evidence that it works in my own life. Got it!

  9. Debbie, it’s a powerful metaphor and reminds me of the equally powerful but less graphic report in Jill Bolte Taylor’s book, “My Stroke of Insight” in which she refers to the CHOICE she exercised in her recovery process of discouraging patterns of thinking that brought her nothing but discomfort. It took me way too many years to realise that I had such a choice. Somehow, I had come to believe that the negative thoughts my mind threw up always needed to be taken seriously. Disastrous!

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