The first gardener thinks this a jolly good idea. So they decide to get all the little jobs out of the way first, and then they will allow themselves a few moments of peace in their garden. After all, the lawn does need mowing, the flowers could do with a good watering, the leaves need raking, the bushes need pruning, the path needs sweeping … Of course, it takes up all of their free time just to get a fraction of those “little jobs” out of the way. Their work is never finished, so they never get to have a few minutes of peace. (Have you ever noticed that in our culture, the only people who “rest in peace” are found in the cemetery?)
The second gardener thinks they are much smarter than the first. They put away the rakes and the watering cans and sit out in the garden reading a magazine—probably with big, glossy pictures of nature. But that’s enjoying your magazine, not finding peace in your garden.
The third gardener puts away all the gardening tools, all the magazines, newspapers, and radios, and just sits in the peace of their garden—for about two seconds! Then they start thinking: “That lawn really needs mowing. And those bushes should be pruned soon. If I don’t water those flowers within a few days they may die. And maybe a nice gardenia would go well in that corner. Yes! With one of those ornamental birdbaths in front. I could pick one up at the nursery …” That is enjoying thinking and planning. Again, there is no peace of mind there.
Now the fourth gardener, the wise one, considers, “I’ve worked long enough, now is the time to enjoy the fruit of my work, to listen for the peace. So even though the lawn needs mowing and the leaves need raking and blah! blah! blah! — not now.” This way, we find the wisdom to enjoy the garden even though it’s not perfect. Perhaps there’s an old Japanese monk hiding behind one of the bushes ready to jump out and tell us that our messy old garden really is perfect.
Indeed, if we look at the work we have already done instead of focusing on the work that remains, we might understand that what’s done has been finished. But if we focus exclusively on the faults, on the things that need to be fixed, as in the case of my brick wall in my monastery, we will never know peace.
The wise gardener enjoys their fifteen minutes of peace in the perfect imperfection of nature, not thinking, not planning, and not feeling guilty. We all deserve to get away and have some peace; and others deserve the peace of us getting out of their way! Then, after getting our crucial, life-saving fifteen minutes of peace “out of its way,” we carry on with our gardening duties.
When we understand how to find such peace in our garden, we will know how to find peace anytime, anywhere. Especially, we will know how to find peace in the garden of our heart, even though at times we might think that it’s such a mess, with so much to be done.
-- Ajahn Brahm