She’s sitting on the bench by the dinning table, hair a little messy, lots of missing teeth, a crazy wide spread of artist markers – a hundred and twenty colors and shades, to be exact. She’s working on an elephant. Fifteen shades of gray. Muse-struck.
“Mama?” her eyes are focused on the curving lines of her elephant trunk.
“Yes, my love.”
“I have all these bad thoughts in my head.” The trunk she’s working on is playfully spraying water upwards.
My seven year old is discovering the workings of her mind.
“Yeah,” I say. “You’ve been having some lately, haven’t you?”
She’s trying to figure things out in there.
“Do you want to tell me what kinds of bad thoughts?”
The elephant’s legs are standing in shallow, cool, refreshing water.
Lots of fears come up at this age. There’s a lot to work through and lots to figure out. She’s playing with her own edge inside her head. Setting boundaries for herself. Then crossing them.
We talk about those fears for a little bit, gray pen coloring the elephant’s body.
“Let’s think of something you can do when these thoughts come up.” I suggest.
“Like chanting a Ganesha mantra?” she asks as she works through the elephant’s ear.
“That’s a great idea.” I love that it came from her.
I have all these tools, but I don’t want to impose my ways on my children. I never know how much to share with them, and how much space to leave for them to discover on their own. I want to be helpful, and I want to respect their own ways. In general, my approach is to have my practices around – available, but not fed to them, sparking curiosity, so that they can come to it if/when they’re interested.
She closes her eyes and chants: “Aum Gum Ganapataye Namaha.” Chin up and a big toothless smile.
After a while she opens her eyes and says: “I feel better.” But after a few minutes she says: “But I still have some bad thoughts. What else can I do, mama?”
We talk about how it’s natural to have all kinds of thoughts in our heads. She knows about respecting all of our feelings and thoughts. She loves the phrase: “Don’t believe everything you think.” She’s learning about complexity.
So then I tell her that she can imagine that her mind is a garden. She loves that idea. And I say that she can picture Ganehsa in there with her. Her smile grows. Now she’s excited and amused because we imagine big Ganesha watering the garden with a little watering can. Pretty quickly his trunk is spraying water all over the garden. She’s laughing because now she’s drenched. This is awesome. “Does your garden need a little weeding?” I ask. “Oh yeah!” Ganesha and her start to pull out the weeds. “What if those weeds are your bad thoughts?” I suggest.
This really speaks to her. I can see her imagining. It’s making her giggle. She’s describing the way Ganesha and her are working together.
“You can also plant the seeds of thoughts you want to grow.” I offer. Her eyes grow big at this idea.
I go to the kitchen to unload the dishwasher.
“It’s working!” She calls over from the dining room.
A little while later she’s working on a Ganesha drawing. “Now I’m even more scared. Ganehsa is planting the weeds, mama.” She says, half frustrated, half amused.
“That’s amazing!” I say. “You know, sometimes Ganesha is the one putting the obstacles there.”
She’s perplexed. “Why???” She asks, kinda horrified at the thought that he would do such a thing. “He’s not mean! Why is he putting the obstacles?”
“What do you think?” I ask. “Why would he do that?”
“Well, maybe he just doesn’t know. Maybe I need to teach him.” She suggests, as she works on a Ganesha trunk irrigation system.
Last night, bedtime was shitty. I was so annoyed. I lost my patience. I raised my voice. There were tears. Lots of tears. And even though we worked through it – apologies and hugs and kisses and all, I was still really sad afterwards. Feeling guilty and beating myself up. Playing my bad temper, ungraceful reaction over and over in my head.
Knowing that doing that helps nothing and no on, I chanted “Aum Gum Ganapataye Namaha” as I cleaned the kitchen, and did a little weeding with Ganesha.
Ganesha puts the obstacles there because this is how we grow. We fill our heads with knots to untangle. We fill our lives with puzzles to solve. We strengthen and expand by moving through challenges. We find closed doors so that we can figure out how to open them and move into new territories in our lives.
Working on our tendencies really is like gardening. Weeding. Planting. Watering. Giving enough room for the wild to flow through it – not too domesticated, respectful of the way that nature runs it. And not letting it be taken over by overgrown, unwanted weeds.
And as we grow, we can maybe also discover places that are safe for the weeds to grow wild and free, and figure out how to turn them into allies.
Now I’d LOVE to know what you’re working with these days. Write down three of the main weeds in the garden of your life – what do you always have to keep coming back to and uproot? And then write down three of the seeds you’re planting in it this season – what do you want to grow in your life? Comment here and let me know. I’ll be cheering for you as I water my own garden.
And if you find this helpful or moving in any way, please share it with your peeps.
Lot’s of love,