While gardening the other day, I was struck by how much we need to be simultaneously gentle and creative with plants, just as we must be in life. One of my friends created a compassion garden on her back deck with her daughters. They went to the nursery together, bought a big planter, and selected a palate of flowers. The idea was that they would plant a new flower in the container every time someone did something kind for someone else in the family to demonstrate appreciation. It would act as a wonderful reminder for the whole family to show how compassion grows.
When cultivating our best intentions in our mind’s garden, we must practice compassion. Likewise, a successful garden requires daily love and care. Most of us have had an incredible idea that we started growing only to get hard on ourselves when it didn't prosper as quickly as we wanted, or we've succumbed to procrastination and never even got started.
A compassion garden is a great reminder of how compassion grows and what the practice of compassion requires from us daily. We can also strengthen compassion’s power by practicing the following:
1. Make quiet time to really unplug from external distraction. Take a digital detox one day per week by avoiding your smartphone, computer and TV.
2. Make self-care a priority, whether by taking a yoga class, sitting and reading a book, or going for a run, walk, bike ride or hike.
3. Check in with your heart about the quality of your life and if your intentions are making you feel more or less in alignment.
4. Maintain simple, clear intentions. If you make them too hard or complicated you won't keep up. Instead, show yourself compassion and set the steps towards meeting your intention that make it easier for you to achieve.
5. Allow your progress to continue even if you're making only millimeter progression. Creativity needs space and time but also continuous care and feeding. Even a small carrot requires 60-75 days to grow a little at a time.
6. Drop the judgment. Stop criticizing others. Resist the urge to judge the peripheral people, like celebrities.
It’s never too late to apply these lessons to our life. Why not create a compassion garden at your workplace and try this idea at home as well. What works in the garden will also work in the garden of our hearts. You can also create a bulletin board where you post compassionate phrases or feelings, or drawings inspired by compassion, whatever helps to show you the beauty this compassion creates (which we can feel inside when we practice true compassion, but why not benefit visually as well?). Nurture gratitude, love and kindness for all by weeding out the negative. Love yourself, love your day, love your life!