Digging in Dirt

On Fear – “When you walk toward light, you have to forget the darkness. In darkness you can’t see what you’re doing, and ego is just like darkness. It is a total cloud in which you are very limited, and you won’t make it anywhere. When you are brilliant, you are flexible, smiling and everything is just all right.
— Yogi Bhajan

I love to dig in dirt.  A happy day finds me barefoot in the garden, weeding and connecting with earth energy.  I’m replenished by greenery, birds, worms and insects in the quiet of my healing sanctuary.  The dirt is rich and dark and gathers in my fingers and toes.  With rosy cheeks, I’m breathing and at peace.  The hours pass by.  I have a satisfied tiredness – the kind that makes for a good night’s sleep. 

But gardening has a way of mirroring what’s going on in my life.  As I have become more aware of my fear and the desire to release it, I see the process made literal in the flower bed as I try to clear out an invasive species – Goutweed – or Aegopodium podagraria - from my garden.  

Goutweed ( Aegopodium podagraria)  Illustration from  Otto Wilhelm Thomé 's  Flora von Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz  (1885)

Goutweed (Aegopodium podagraria) Illustration from Otto Wilhelm Thomé's Flora von Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz (1885)

Goutweed is very hard to control or eradicate.  It has been banned in many states.  The roots extend in the earth and the plant spreads by seed, as well.  So it travels both above and below the surface. Above the surface, the fully formed flower resembles Queen Anne’s lace.  Eliminating this weed requires discipline, focus, patience and a long term commitment.  It requires covering all the greenery with weighted down cardboard or plastic for a few months or digging up an entire flower bed – literally recovering all plant life because the goutweed wraps its delicate roots around other plant roots.  Gentle fingers remove each tender but powerful goutweed root, placing them in a plastic bag where they will have no oxygen or light – to extinguish them.  And the desired plants shouldn’t be placed back into the soil, until it’s clear that they are free of the gout root.  If any bit is left, the plant will grow back and continue choking out other plants. The roots run along the rock foundation of my antique farmhouse.  They nestle into the cracks, extending deep in the root chakra. I had to let them remain.  If I dug deeper, I would have risked the stability of the old foundation itself, teaching me that some of our emotions are too deeply ingrained to release on first try – they can’t be excavated all at once.  Some of them aren’t ready to be released and for now, we let them rest and keep an eye on them.  That’s the best we can do.  It can take many lifetimes to heal.  I accept that some of those white strands are too deep to get to right now.  

Some attack goutweed with toxic chemicals, for a quicker, easier fix, which is absolutely not an option for mother earth and her creatures.  Harsh “quick fix” strategies meant to eliminate a negative vibration avoid the longer commitment that’s required – the commitment that is the journey.  It may address the surface issue – but the deep roots remain and the soil is harmed - harmed for all life. 

Facing fear is a mandatory step on the path towards healing and freedom.   I’ve been pondering my fear and cataloging its leaves, roots and flowers.  My surface flowers are a startle response, anger, worrying and pushing through life, rather than allowing it to unfold organically. I tend to jump before I feel the fear – knowing it’s there and not letting it stop me – and I keep ahead of it.  Fear challenges my calm and makes me action oriented, pushing for more, even when I don’t know what I’m going after or where I’m going.  I tend to jump before the plan is fully crafted and figure it out in the air.  The flower of fear can be attractive – physically and mentally strong, committed, hard- working and ambitious.   But by closely studying the plant and looking past its big blossoms, we see a delicate bud underneath – the bud of vulnerability, patience and quiet humility.   A bud with a rare, subtle fragrance that can be nurtured.  This growing bud when opened attracts others, buzzing bees, dragon flies and hummingbirds.  They take in its aroma, sample its nectar and spread it to other plants.  The larger blossom is wilting and ready to drop to the earth, exhausted by its weight. 

Two years into my daily Kundalini practice, I realized that fear isn’t an occasional emotion – it’s my resting state.  Fear has been in my belly forever – it’s all I’ve ever known.  It’s in my seed.  Shallow breathing, nightmares, intensity, strength and worry have always been there – invasive.  It’s wrapped around my roots and it shows up both above and below my surface. 

But there is something very satisfying about this quest of eliminating the goutweed – and my fear.  After digging up the plants in a flower bed and setting them aside and removing, what I believe to be, all the goutweed, I scoop up rich beautiful soil that is free of surface greenery, dump it over and sure enough – there are some more white, slender roots of the gout weed, revealed from beneath.  So even if they don’t show on the surface anymore – through breathing, through slower response and increased awareness, they may remain deep down in the unconscious – beneath the soil – sending little shoots out.  Little shoots that can bear leaves and poke through the surface, under the right conditions – conditions like exhaustion, overwork and stress.   I gently remove the strands of roots and take another scoop of soil, seeking more hidden vibrations.  I lovingly take them apart and find worms and other interesting artifacts to ponder in the process.  Eventually, my sore back tells me it’s time to take a break.  Shavasana.  Relaxation. Rest.   I look at the pile of the white root strands and think about good versus evil.  Why is this invasive species in existence? Why are they designed to prosper – at the expense of other plants?  Is there a lesson of intention when choosing plants? Did i get in my own way by introducing too many things at once? Is there a lesson in slowing down to sift through soil? Is digging in the dirt an exercise in helping me move my own invasive roots and energy? 

Some of my favorite plants had to be sacrificed because they were tightly connected to the goutweed.  The goutweed clung to them and wouldn’t let go – so they had to go too.  I couldn’t put them back into the soil because of what they carried.  For eradicating my own fear, I had to sacrifice certain connected activities that are wrapped around the root of fear.  I don’t’ drink alcohol because it weakens my resolve and gives fear a voice.  I make sure I get enough sleep and take breaks from work – because exhaustion and stress are oxygen for fear’s root. I avoid negative energy, because it disrupts my own.  I learn to say no in honor of the delicate, powerful bud not yet bloomed. 

Fear comes to me in dreams – common themes are an animal chasing me or being out of control, driving a car.  Next time though, I’m intent on not running from the bear.  I will turn around and open my arms up wide and say – “Take me beast – I’m all yours.”  And in the car dream – I won’t search for the breaks and I’ll let go of the wheel.  I need to fall into my fear. I need to let it take over – and then release it. 

I’ll get there slowly, removing slender root by root, sifting through the richness of the dark soil and giving thanks for its life.  I’ll breathe in the sweet smells of earth, exhale debris back to the planet. And I’ll patiently witness the slow blossoming of the vulnerable, powerful, flower bud.

Post note: I finished this blog post on Thursday and went to Maine for the weekend, where i was an “island critter”, walked barefoot in mud, field and rocks, gazed at flowers and sea life and birds, paddled, ate pancakes and laughed with my friends. We got back last night. I had an early morning dream. In the dream, I reached another dimension of reality - with a “whoosh”. I was doing backward somersaults in the atmosphere. I was in control of my dream. I heard the Beatles. I chose to crash into a solid surface in front of me and my “self” shattered into pure energy. It felt good. Love Janet

The process of growth through Kundalini Yoga is a natural unfolding of your own nature. The blocks to that growth are your attachments to the familiarity of the past, and your fear of the expanded Self. As you practice Kundalini Yoga you will grow. Like a snake you will need to shed old skins to be more of who you are
— Yoga Bhajan