“Digging deeper” – insights from the garden

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been spending about 2-4 hours a day clearing. It has mostly been a pleasure. Removing all the man-height overgrowth from unkempt spaces, opening up the gardens, opening into the forest, clearing, making space.

Naturally, I ended up having thoughts about the pleasure of this activity. Thoughts about the part of me that enjoys:

  • Making space
  • Removing clutter from a space
  • Transforming a full space into an emptier, freer space
  • Reducing the obscurity of an overgrown space into the clarity of an open space

I’m out there with cutters, secateurs, sheers (is that how it’s spelt?), saws, pruners… My attention is focussed, fixed on the objects immediately in front of my eyes. I’m cutting, dividing, separating, lifting, removing.

It’s mostly a physical pursuit and thus I’m in the body, the senses. Mostly I’m in the eyes, the arms. Nothing particularly delicate or intricate. I identify and select the object to be removed, I reach out, I cut, I move it aside, I move forward, on to the next object, then repeat.

It’s focussed awareness on a single activity. In this sense, it is certainly pre-meditative and very useful for quietening the mind and bringing about a state of focussed awareness and peace.

For me, the activity of clearing the land in this way has the effect of focussing and clearing my mind-space. Insights seem to flow more readily, not to mention an increased  sense of inner-space, relief, being at home internally.

Contemplating it, I probably prefer the above activity over the activity of planting, building or filling the gardens with things. Although I do enjoy that pursuit, it is less appealing to me.

Interpreting the above from an Ayurvedic viewpoint, one could say that I am showing an affinity for the process of:

  • Reducing matter from a gross to a subtle state, specifically:
  • Reducing the Earth Element (Prithivi Maha Bhuta) in order to increase the Space Element (Akasha Maha Bhuta)

This process requires the use of the Fire Element (Agni Maha Bhuta: principle of reductive transformation) which operates through or exemplifies qualities such as:

  • Heat (Ushna)
  • Sharpness (Tikshna)
  • Lightness (Laghu)
  • Fluid or radiating mobility (Drava/Sara)

Heat and sharpness relate to vision, focus, intensity. The lightness and steady mobility carry these qualities towards and into gross matter. The encounter results in a reduction of matter from gross to subtle. Agni or “Fire” always has a purifying or reducing nature.

Q: What is my relationship with the above? Do I like being in my Fire for the sake of it? Being in Fire always results in some form of reductive transformation, whether it be gross or subtle (physical or psychological).

A: Yes, I do. I do like that pursuit. I like the process of it (being the burning fire: being focussed, intent, purposeful, reductive, even a little destructive!) as much as I enjoy the result of it (being the limitless expansion: being in the space that is left: feeling the freeness, the limitlessness of space’s energy).

Interpretation: Alex loves being Fire and Space !

But there’s more. I also love:

  • Moving things about within a space
  • Moving myself within a space
  • Seeing space changing, morphing, things moving within a space

These all point to Wind (Vayu Maha Bhuta) in Ayurveda. This state of matter is:

  • Mobile (Chala)
  • Changeable (Chala)
  • Light (Laghu)
  • Erratic (Chala)
  • Dynamic (Chala)
  • Chaotic (Chala)
  • Unfocussed (Chala)
  • Dispersed (Chala)
  • Wandering (Chala)                 Chala as mobility has many faces !

Which is more important for me? Which do I have more affinity with? Which do I enjoy or need more? Which do I live for more? Which do I seek the most? To burn, to move, or to expand?

It depends. Perhaps Fire comes first, then Wind, then Space. I can’t really tell. They seem to fluctuate, they are in flux. Not being sure is a quality of Vayu (Chala again!)

If I stand back and observe from some distance, and observe over many years, it is possible to see which of these Elements or “States of Matter” means more to me and which matter less. A sort of profile appears. But it’s hard to pin down, to draw a final conclusion (in part due to the dominance of Wind, which is a hidden clue!)

Sometimes I identify more as Fire, other times as Wind. Space is definitely a forerunner. Other times I find strong bias towards Water and Earth (fluidity, cohesion, stability), though these vary also.

This degree of flux is OK. The longer I live with Ayurveda and its principles and practices, the more useful and enabling the whole thing becomes. In the early years, I was more interested in knowing what my types was, my Ayurvedic mind-body constitution (Prakriti). In recent years, I have relaxed around this “need to know my type”. Much could be said about this, such as the difference between true innate nature (Prakriti) and deviations from that nature (Vikriti) though I feel it is not quite the right time for me now.

What I have noticed, and what I wanted to point out, is that by reflecting “Ayurvedically” in the above sort of way, the wheels of life seem to turn more freely. The act of increasing awareness on one’s own inner mechanisms seems to instantly free the mechanisms in question.

Well, I guess I should also say that gardening continues to teach me as much about life as any of the books in my library!

Happy gardening 🙂

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