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Mind the weeds

Unwanted plant grows in front of a mustard field

Unwanted plant grows in front of a mustard field

The Oxford dictionary defines the weed as a wild plant growing where it is not wanted and in competition with cultivated plants. Colloquially, “weed” refers to the marijuana plant, the cultivation and consumption of which is considered unhealthy and illegal in many parts of the world.

I am sure you have seen the cartoon of a woman exhausted after weeding her patch of lawn, turning around to find that the weeds have reappeared at the far end and are laughing at her predicament. That’s how weeds are — tenacious and unconquerable! If we adopt this characteristic of weeds and fashion our own work ethic accordingly, we would perhaps live our life like the weeds, with a “never say die” attitude.

Many of us live our lives with several “weeds” clouding our thoughts and emotions. One of the first weeds I can think of is prejudice. It takes root early in life because of social conditioning. We are prejudiced about people’s language, caste, colour, economic status, nationality, profession or occupation — any and all aspects of a person, group or community. Prejudices are often the result of someone else’s prejudices, experiences or imagination with no basis to substantiate it.

Fear is another crippling weed that immobilises us, often unnecessarily and unfortunately. Motivational speakers try to rid a person’s fear or phobia by putting them through a “walking on hot coals” kind of experience. There is little evidence to show the lasting impact of such experiments.

Fear is, and remains, a limiting emotion at the best of times. Franklin D. Roosevelt, in his inaugural speech in 1933, famously remarked, “The only thing to fear is fear itself.”

Depression is an all-encompassing, multi-dimensional weed that can plague a person for long periods of times. A feeling of helplessness due to factors seemingly beyond one’s control, is a weed that has afflicted many through the current pandemic. Expert help and sustained effort on the part of the afflicted person can help release him from the shackles of depression. Nothing is impossible, they say, and this weed too can be uprooted with perseverance.

Negativity grows like Lego blocks, one block upon another as a person goes through life and setbacks. It takes Herculean effort to follow the teachings of elders who tell us to remain detached from the results of our actions. Our job is to do the task at hand because that alone is within our control. Easier said than done as all of us know very well. To expect negative results or failure becomes a weed that clings to the walls of our mind like the poison ivy and reduces our efficiency, effectiveness and productivity. The only solution is to choose a fresh set of blocks in a new colour and start again.

Comfort zone

Inertia is another weed that puts us in a so-called comfort zone which only does harm and no good. The more you laze, the lazier you become. Get up and get going is the name of the game. It’s not as if inertia is prompted by difficult times. Not doing anything becomes what you do every day and then that becomes a difficult habit to shake off. A rolling stone may gather no moss, but a stationary stone does gather mass — either physically or mentally, because the muscles lose the capacity to move.

Procrastination is an insidiously crippling weed. You seem to be doing things but two weeks later, instead of right now. Delay leads to decay and defeat, like the frog in a vessel of water that is becoming gradually warmer. It’s sometimes too late to realise that it is too late! Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today, says the old adage. How true!

How does one de-weed oneself? It’s a lifelong process because mental weeds like the plant variety are very deep-rooted and tenacious. Good habits definitely help to keep the weeds at bay. Regular exercise will keep a person fit. A fit mind aids a fit body. Exercise releases endorphins which help to stem depression and negativity. Good reading is another remedy because if the mind has good inputs, the output will automatically be good. Audio books and videos are good substitutes, if books are not available. Seek good company, cultivate good hobbies and remain physically and mentally active. Just as stagnant waters encourage worms, an inactive mind invites trouble. An idle mind they say is a devil’s workshop. Look around and help people who are worse off than you are. Empathy soothes the troubled mind.

To quote Steve Maraboli, “Don’t let the tall weeds cast a shadow on the beautiful flowers in your garden.”

datar.himani@gmail.com


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Printable version | Aug 14, 2022 1:12:45 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/mind-the-weeds/article36789290.ece