The soil in my vegetable garden needs time to recover between cycles of growth, to rest and regain its nutrition so new plants can grow strong and healthy. To be at its best, it needs good compost added from time to time. If I only ever extracted the nutrition by planting one crop after another, adding no compost or anything to replenish its health, the soil would get tired. Eventually it would no longer be healthy soil. It would just be dirt, too spent and too empty to give plants what they need. I’ve seen this happen, both in my own gardening spaces and in spaces where nothing grows because the soil is dead. My garden’s soil has never died completely, but there have been times, even from one year to the next, when the plants had little vigor because I hadn’t treated the soil well.
I have learned how to create the compost that will keep my soil healthy. I know what to add to a composting bin, and I know that composting takes time. When I add spent flowers, weeds, vegetable trimmings, and used coffee grounds to my rotating compost bin, I know they are not waste, and I make sure they are not wasted.
Then I give them time. Every few days I roll the bin to mix the compost. What happens in that bin is too slow and too microscopic for me to be able to see it, yet I know it’s working. When I open the bin and see dark, healthy, beautiful compost, I know that it is ready to be given to the garden. It will make the soil strong and fully healthy again, ready to give me beautiful and nourishing food.
Like the soil in my garden, I need time to recover my strength from time to time. My mental and emotional compost uses unwanted ideas and feelings that have cluttered my mind like weeds, the less useful trimmings I’ve let go from ideas that still have some value, and concepts from which I’ve extracted the flavor and nutrition. I let all of those go into the bin that will become my heart/mind compost, anticipating the renewal that will make the soil of my internal garden strong.
This kind of composting happens during meditation, reflection, sitting in stillness, or walking without earbuds or agenda. It is about going within, of turning over the contents of my mind and my heart. Sometimes I actively think, sometimes I contemplate, but most of the time I just need to let it be for a time. Those are the most productive periods: no thinking, just being, neutrally observing how my internal state is changing from fatigue and fog to clarity and motivation the way the content of my compost bin changes from scraps to richness.
What happens in those times is usually below the level of consciousness, just as in garden composting. This is not wasted time; it is as essential to my personal composting as it is to garden composting.
When the time comes to re-engage with people, to write an article, lead a group, or have a one-on-one conversation, I am ready in the garden of my self, as my vegetable garden is ready with the compost dug back into it. I draw on the fresh energy that comes out of that mental and emotional composting. It nourishes and strengthens my presence and my voice as I bring forth the fruit of ideas that I hope will nourish others too.