“I can’t decide,” said the young man pacing up and down. “It’s a jumble and I don’t even know if I trust myself. What should I do?”
The old man sat quietly looking down at the ground. After a pause he looked at the young man and replied, “That’s because you don’t know where to decide from.”
“What do you mean? How do I make a decision from somewhere? I just need to make up my mind.”
“So you decide with your mind? You think a decision!”
He reached down, took a pinch of soil and rubbed it between his fingers and looked at the young man with faded blue eyes.
“I’m a gardener and life is gardening. It’s not easy and it’s not simple—when you do it well, plants flourish—do it badly and they’ll die. That’s the natural order of things: do what the soil and plants require of you. Everything has its place.”
“What has that got to do with anything? I need advice, not a lecture on gardening.”
“You can’t think a plant to grow; you can’t think a decision. Our minds are wonderful tools but they are like spades, good for digging, turning over the soil, making it ready for planting. Tilling prepares the soil for new life—but that’s it. Cultivate your mind; don’t use it for deciding.”
“So thinking is useless?”
“Not useless—just untrustworthy. We tend to believe our thinking is always right—so naturally it’s mostly wrong. Trust what you think about a quarter of the time and you won’t be far off the mark.”
“Only 25%! If I can’t trust my mind, what can I trust—my feelings? They’re a mess—look where they’ve got me.”
“True, feelings push us into emotional briar patches, but the heart knows things the head doesn’t. Without feeling, life is bare and barren, like an unplanted seedbed. We need to set seeds in the soil with feeling—with love, yearning and hope. Of course some seeds are infertile, so expect your heart to be wrong about half the time. Still, that’s better than thinking.”
“That’s no use—only a 50/50 chance of being right! If I can’t trust my thinking or feelings, then I’m stuck—I’ve got nothing else.”
“Stop for a moment. Notice how you stand upright without falling over—your body’s pretty smart! Every cell in your body is alive and knows what it’s meant to do; your heart, your lungs and every neuron in the your brain has its own intelligence. If you ask, your physical self will do it’s best to help. Of course it gets confused, particularly if the heart and mind get in the way. Even so, you can rely on the body to help you about three quarters of the time. Not bad for a lump of clay.”
The young looking thoughtful. “I’m not used to listening to my body—I haven’t a clue how to do it.”
“When a seed sprouts, it pushes its roots deep into the earth. Like the seed you have to slow down, be quiet and tolerate the darkness of not knowing. Settle in, feel the aliveness in every part of you. Imagine something you enjoy, that you look forward to—it could be anything: ice cream, walking in nature or a cool breeze on a summer’s day. Feel the sensations of enjoyment, relaxation and rightness. That is your yes feeling.
Then imagine something uncomfortable or disgusting: feeling uptight, the smell of vomit, being stuck in cold pouring rain—take your choice. Again, note the sensation of discomfort and wrongness. That gives you a no.
Now you have a way to sense into a decision. Think about what you need to decide, hold it in your minds eye—notice how your body responds. Listen carefully to what it tries to tell you. You’ve learned the difference between yes and no, right and wrong—that’s all you need.”
After a silent pause, the young man said, “I’ll have to think about it. It’s not natural for me. My mind will get in the way, I know that could be a problem. But I could give it a try.”
“Of course there’s a way to know the right answer to your questions—but maybe that’s not for you.”
“What? You’re telling me there’s a way to be right all the time. I don’t believe that—you’re making fun of me.” He turned to walk away.
“Only real questions and maybe not always, but that’s because we get in our own way.”
“You’re serious aren’t you?” said the youth. “So tell me the secret of always being right—not that I believe it!”
The old man reached down and plucked a blade of grass. He rolled it back and forth in his fingers. “Once the roots are established, a plant sprouts upward; it grows towards the light, knows exactly where to go—no hesitation, no doubt.
We have the same ability. We know where the light is, how we are meant to grow. To truly know, we have to pay attention to the silent indications from our inner self. It takes stillness and silence to notice. Mostly, our hearts and minds make too much noise to even hear ourselves.”
The young man hesitated; this sounds like New Age nonsense, he thought. Still, he might as well hear the old man out. “OK, tell me more.”
“Are you sure?” responded the old man and waited.
“Yeh, all right. I’ll listen.”
“Good.” The old man smiled.