Our mind is like a fertile earth; everything can grow in it. Like on an abandoned piece of land, all kinds of plants can grow and develop on it, from harmful and poisonous plants to beautiful flowers and succulent fruits. Our mind is often in the same situation. Our emotional state depends on the external events. One day we are joyful and hopeful, and the other day we are depressed and desperate. Even during the same day, we can experience happiness, then irritation, anger, boredom, anxiety, loneliness, etc. We are like this abandoned land where everything grows, without that we have anything to say about it.
The short term pleasure
Since we experience pain and pleasure, we try to control what is growing on our emotional land. But sometimes, the way we do it is not the best way. Without bringing our awareness to our inner experience, we develop some patterns pursuing immediate pleasures and avoiding pain. Paradoxically, that is the behavior that keeps us perpetually caught in the cycle of positive and destructive emotions. Our psyche resembles the one of a drug addict; if we have access to the substances and distractions we need, then we feel good; otherwise, we experience craving and suffering. And because we quickly get used to those sources of pleasures, we crave for more quantity and intensity, or we desire other things, without ever being totally content.
Our societies offer the ideal environment for such an endless race after pleasures. Consumption seems to be the answer to all our desires and all our problems. Keeping ourselves continually distracted this way actually takes us away from achieving lasting happiness.
Becoming a gardener
Lasting happiness means the continuous presence of a joyful and contentment feeling within us. This state of mind cannot be achieved if we continuously rely on exterior phenomena to feel happy or sad. Not only most of the exterior events are out of our control, but also many of the short term pleasures we pursue can bring us a good amount of suffering once the pleasurable experience is over.
The way to develop lasting happiness is to consider our mind like our garden, and to decide to not to let this garden abandoned for any kinds of plants to grow in it. In the same way that taking care of a garden is a daily activity, taking care of our mind has to be a daily practice.
What we have to do is to learn gardening. We have to develop our awareness to deeply observe the way our feelings arise and transform. When there is sadness or anger, we have to see and learn what are the factors that made those kinds of plants develop. More precisely, we have to see what kind of thoughts and circumstances made those negative emotions happen. Once we identify those elements, we have to see how to cut them. Once we cut the nutriments on those kinds of emotions, they will start to weaken and slowly disappear.
In the same way, we have to identify what are the situations and conditions that make us feel energetic and joyful in a very positive and healthy way. We have to see what kind of circumstances and thoughts make us develop lasting happiness.
Then, as we recognize those positive emotions as the plants we want to have in our garden, we have to nourish them and create them daily. We can train those emotions by creating the thoughts associated to them. Everyday, we can calm our mind, and try to generate positive thoughts. Even if we are in a bad mood, we have to practice calming our minds and generating positive thoughts.
It is mostly about gaining insight, and perseverance. Slowly but surely, we learn how to get rid of the negative feelings, and replace them by positive feelings. Soon, our garden becomes flourishing and wonderful, inspiring peace and kindness.