I have an allotment. I got one because I wanted to have that connection to nature, I wanted to experience planting seeds and seeing them grow into something we can eat or take medicinally and share that with my daughter, because everyday I used to walk past the allotment gates and spy in on this secret garden which seemed so far away from the busy street and cars and buses, and when I looked at it, my head seemed to rest upon the green grass and open space and my thoughts relaxed.
The reality of getting the allotment though has been different. Although all those intentions remain true it has soon become another thing to do, a pressure, a responsibility, where I worry about what my allotment neighbour’s will think when I don’t get there and I let the grass grow too high.
When I go there I don’t see the new life building its energy into buds, or hear the buzzing of the bees and the reassuring tinkering of forks on soil in the distance and the beauty of the chaos of the allotment, sprinkled with flowers, watering cans, mulching materials and different veg and fruit plants at differing growth stages.
I only look at my plot and see what hasn’t been done. I compare it to everyone else’s and I chastise myself for not getting the flowers in on my plot again, and I look at what other people have managed to do and berate myself for not being able to do what they can do and I get irritable at my daughter, out of frustration, when she’s moaning or she needs my attention and I just want to get on, get the seeds in, get the grass cut! And then I feel another layer of frustration because I’m not just able to enjoy it, I judge myself –‘I’m an uptight mother’ and I feel guilty that I can’t just let my daughter experience it without me shouting at her to get off the plants, and I dislike myself and I think .
”You know what ….I’m going to give it up!”
Then later that day I get to go there on my own, as dusk is setting and the energy of the garden is settling down and the sun isn’t so hot, making me sweat, and my thoughts can relax and I think what is pushing me to give it up? Is it because I am unable to reach the goal in my head, because I feel uncomfortable with the way I am getting there, because I can not handle the pressure I am putting upon myself? And then the thought occurs to me that perhaps my allotment, as well as being all those things I outlined above, could also be a place to practice something about my relationship to doing.
For various reasons in my life at the moment I have come to experience the effects of pressure. I realise that this pressure is not actually coming from things around me; the allotment, my work, my family (even though sometimes it may feel like this). It is a pressure that only one person is building up in my head, like a pressure cooker about to go off, and that person is me.
It can come from a sense that I’ve got to get this done, a time pressure. It presses down, it presses in, feels a little anxious, a tight stomach, holding, builds energy, focuses, drives action. Sometimes there is a deadline but sometimes it is purely self made, a habit, a taught sense of how it needs to be done and when.
And when these feelings get too much, they lead me to want to give things up, in a big energetic purge. Sometimes there are things to give up, to make space, re-prioritise but the key ones the responsibilities that fulfill me; my daughter, my husband, my work as a herbalist, my religion, these are not things I want to give up!
But what I do want to give up is the effort. Not the effort of action, as action can be effortless and bring great results but the effort of these pressures, of ideas I have built up in my head, what I think others want of me, of what I think it means to be a mother, a wife, a muslim, a herbalist, my own self made up pressure which stops me from seeing the beauty in the everyday, of experiencing the truth in the moment, ease, grace, love; what people around me truly want from me – perhaps nothing more than me being me.
And I wonder have I begun to associate my sense of existence in relation to these feelings of effort? As I look at this more, I realise that I have a deep rooted feeling that if I did nothing, stood for nothing, worked at nothing I feel I would not be enough. That the miracle of my life, my existence alone, would not stand for something.
I am not enough.
Why do I feel like this? How I can find some rest? I don’t mean stopping doing everything, giving everything up. I don’t want to give up the allotment knowing what pleasure it can bring, the connection to the earth, the grounding. But how can I do it and rest at the same time?
How can I rest in action?
How can I try to finish something without the edge of doing making me taught and unable to encounter anything else that is showing itself to me? (like my 4 year old daughter, who got up whilst I was writing this, and is showing me something she made and interrupting me with the plate of beads she is giving me for breakfast), how can I experience the joy of this and keep writing?
I just did, so I know its possible. I just forget. I get lost in my need for that sense of completion, to finish something. And of course we sometimes just need to get the washing up done – its true, but this need, this tension, this pressure is blinkering. In my life it becomes a series of needs piling up, till I can not look at anything in the house without seeing another ‘need’ to be completed and I can’t see beyond this to the matter, the light on the wall, the bird hopping on the tree. Perhaps it comes from a sense that if I don’t keep that tension taught I will let it all go, it will collapse around me, the sky will fall in. I am that tension and without it I don’t know who I am.
And I know its all life, it’s a juggle we are not perfect. I know at times we live in this tension and at times we come out of it and get clarity but this article is written because I believe wholeheartedly that we can rest in prayer and the plants will grow and I want to experience more of this.
I believe and have experienced that if I can let the moment tell me who I am rather than forcing my idea of who I am on the moment then the moment can bare its own unprescribed happiness upon me.
Because when I experience the pressure, of being who I think I’m meant to be, lifting, the world opens up to me and grace comes down and shows me who I am in its entirety, in its enormity, in its magnitude.
When my daughter was born did I look at her and ask her to justify her existence? No she was the entirety of all that I know life to be and she just was and together we were.
And I would like to invite more of this into my life.
Of course our creative urge drives us and this is an important aspect of ourselves but how can we let our creative drive initiate, set intentions, invite in what we want and then allow ourselves to let go, give up control, rest whilst doing? Like a car that drives itself, going where we want it to go but with less effort so that we are able to sit back and enjoy the view.
And even, perhaps, check what is driving that urge and see if we are still interested in the motivation behind it. What are we praying for?
We can’t make ourselves gentle but I know that my stress, my pressure , my sense of inadequacy makes me the opposite of gentle. And when I sit with my pressure, love it, release it, let myself off the hook, see it for what it is and not as who I am, then a sense of ease, acceptance and allowance lets me touch my daughters hand gently and I loose the scalding.
And I would like a bit more of this space, this ease, this rest in prayer. So I would like to make my allotment not my practice ground, as this suggests too much effort, more an open ground where even, never going there, becomes an option. And in that space and ease I offer myself, I trust that growth will occur and life will thrive.
And if I can leave with a prayer it is to pray that I am reminded always that if I did nothing I would be everything and existence alone is a miracle. I rest my dears in prayer.