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Selective Watering

“Research increasingly shows that what is important doesn’t necessarily get our attention, but what gets our attention becomes important. This mirrors a concept in ancient Buddhist psychology that is often referred to as selective watering. In short, the mind contains a diverse variety of seeds: joy, integrity, anger, jealousy, greed, love, delusion, creativity, and so on. Buddhist psychology taught that we should think of ourselves as gardeners and our presence and attention as nourishment for the seeds. The seeds that we water are the seeds that grow. The seeds that grow shape the kind of person we become. In other words, the quality of our presence—its intensity and where we choose to channel it—determines the quality of our lives.” — Brad Stulberg, The Practice of Groundedness

We know intuitively to focus on what is important in our lives, but focus can be challenging in this hyper-distracting world. The thing is, most of that hyper-distraction is self-created. We layer on all manner of apps and channels on top of the minutes that matter, and each promises something more fascinating, perhaps, than the sometimes tedious business of becoming we’re currently engaged in. We simmer in the stew of our own distractions while time relentlessly boils away.

The concept of selective watering is a lovely way to consider what gets to grow in our lives and what we ought to let wither away. Writing this blog every day is selective watering, and so is my long-standing choice to eliminate broadcast news from my information diet. For each of us, our days begin with a series of habits selectively watered over time. We reinforce our identity as we follow through on these habits or eliminate others. Likewise, the beliefs we have about others are based as much on the way we look at the world, our biases, as they are from the acts of another. The seeds that we water are the seeds that grow.

Knowing this, we can quickly see the breadcrumbs that brought us to this place in our lives. We are what we’ve repeatedly done, to hijack Aristotle, and so here we are; all that and a bag of chips. Assessing our current state, we may love who we’ve become or find that shell rather hollow inside. Either is an incomplete assessment, for we remain a work in progress to the end of our days. And this is our call to action! Active living is deciding what happens next. We ought to be very selective in our watering.

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