Report From PIA – October 22
Sometimes we have to put time and effort into something knowing, or hoping at the very least, that it will pay off in the future. Parents will take this approach if they want their kids to be reasonable human beings, and gardeners come to embrace this methodology as well.
I went into the vegetable garden today and realized that it was really in my best interest to pull weeds. Yes, it’s nearly the end of October and I could leave them, knowing that the ground will get tilled in the spring. But these weeds were loaded with seeds. If I left them, I’d have hundreds of tiny, ticking time bombs in the soil, just waiting for the right combination of moisture and light so they can explode into weeds. Clearly, it’s one of those short-term pain for long-term gain kind of things.
How does this relate to being a parent? Well, as I was pulling those clumps of crabgrass and knotweed out, I started remembering what it was like when my kids were small. If you want your children to grow up to be well mannered, you have to put time and effort into it when they’re young.
“Don’t chew with your mouth open,” and “Use a fork, not your hands,” becomes a mantra at the dinner table. The three or four year old that you’re instructing is kind of cute when shoveling food in with the palm of a hand, and the open mouth chewing isn’t too annoying when the lips are so small. But a parent has to remember that a twenty year old with the same table manners will be judged far differently, and it’s really a kindness to teach them socially acceptable behavior, even when it’s a struggle.
It’s true that many spiritual traditions teach of the wisdom of being in the moment, and there is great insight there. But these same teachings also acknowledge that we live with paradox, and to be aware at all means to become very good at cultivating contradictions. At the same time as we aim to be fully present, we act in a way that will be of benefit in the future.
So I cleared part of the veggie garden today, knowing that today’s work will be of benefit in the future, occasionally thinking about the effort it takes to be a parent, and intermittently coming back to focus on what I was doing at that moment: the simple meditation of pulling weeds.