"Hey, babe, take a walk on the wild side” - Lou Reed
I've been weeding the garden, burning dead roots and old plant material over the weekend. Removing weeds from the soil is the first necessary step in the preparation of planting a garden and essential for its maintenance. A garden needs space to grow, and its soil needs to be constantly weeded to preserve its vitality - nutrients and minerals - only for the desired herbs and vegetables.
While some weeds such as dandelions are very beneficial for the garden, by holding top-soil, pulling up water and nutrients, providing food, controlling insects and more, some weeds do not care too much about your gardening plans and, by their proud, robust and arrogant nature, take over your garden. We did justice to weeds in this article, in the current one we will mostly consider the interest of the garden herbs and vegetables, while keeping in mind that, as in most life circumstances, balance is everything!
How about the weeds of our inner garden, the psyche? In Chinese Medicine, the Heart is considered the Emperor organ, hosting Shen - translated as Spirit or Consciousness. The heart is the Gardner of the true self, of authenticity, naturally cutting non-essentials and preserving only what feeds our happiness: precisely peace and joy. When we truly listen to the heart, weeding becomes a clear choice: keeping only the thoughts and the emotions that generate peace and joy becomes a straight forward decision. Weeding non-self so we can plant new seeds in the garden of the true self is the job of the heart.
The herbs and the weeds
When the Emperor is not activated, we get entangled with spirit weeds, such as regret, sadness, anxiety, fear etc. I will call “primal mind” the activated status of the Emperor - that part of the psyche who orders the weeding. The primal mind is your embedded “shit detector”. Its ultimate goal is to shut down the chattering of the mind which drains the inner resources, ending up by changing the chemistry of the body, increasing cortisol levels, systolic pressure etc. The primal mind shows you how natural is to be immersed in bliss and abandon yourself to the ecstasy of the baseline of existence, to the joy of simple things, such as watching the night sky or taking your loved ones to a late night ice-cream or watermelon slice. I once visited Civitavecchia, a city just north of Rome. I was surprised to see watermelon restaurants everywhere. People would go out for a cold watermelon slice late at night. There were choices of prosciutto, cheese and arugula as garnish. But the center piece was the watermelon slice as a pretext for the joy of going out at midnight just to have a refreshing experience!
Coming along nicely!
Medicine is essentially about letting go. In Asian herbal pharmacopeias, the first categories are the diaphoretic (induce sweating) and purgative (induce pooping) herbs. Before anything, we first need to make sure the system can let go of the unnecessary. After a surgery, the first reassuring sign are urinating and pooping. The current conventional model of medicine mainly involves removing what does not belong to the body. Antibiotics and anti-you-name-it medication and herbs kill xenobiotics - what does not belong to our ecosystem. Even the approach of balancing the inner ecology with probiotics - we live in a dimension where everything eats or gets eaten - has as ultimate goal keeping in check unfriendly organisms, such as yeast and parasites, based on the philosophy that when the terrain changes, health changes. When we let go, we trust the wisdom of life itself to restore our balance and heal us.
The key element here is resistance. Just as the weeds grow deep in the soil and ballistic force is required to uproot them, so the habits and patterns of thinking run deeply within our psyche and it takes character to make mental space. The primal mind is the force of your character. It’s that “a man can be destroyed, but not defeated” that Hemingway talks about. Ultimately, it's not the depression or heartbreak that will ruin your day, but the inner resistance to change. The stubbornness, the calcification of the spirit will stop you from living a happy, peaceful life. Life is essentially in flux. Sacred living instructions from Dao De Jing (4th century BC) talk about flexibility around change as a defining element of life: “The living are soft and yielding/ the dead are rigid and stiff./ Living plants are flexible and tender;/ the dead are brittle and dry./ Those who/ are stiff and rigid/ are the disciples of death./ Those who are soft and yielding/ are the disciples of life./ The rigid and stiff will be broken./ The soft and yielding will overcome.” - chapter 76 of Dao De Jing.
We are living beings. To sustain life, we have to go with the direction of life and not against it. Life is currently defined by science as having the features of maintaining homeostasis, metabolism, growth, adaptation to the environment, response to stimuli and evolution. When we do things that fail to support these processes, we go against life. And there are consequences: decay, degeneration, and ultimately death.
Therefore, in anything you do, you should examine if you go with life or against it. Are you preserving homeostasis (stability of physiological processes)? Are you metabolizing well - absorbing and letting go of the waste at all levels - body, emotions and mind? Are you adapted to your environment and your current life situation? Do you evolve or allow yourself to be stuck? Then, after examining these questions, ask yourself what stops you from supporting life. Your life. And the answer is always: you yourself! Look straight to your weeds! You need character to pull out what is inauthentic, non life supporting. Ask yourself with honesty what needs to stay and what needs to go in order support the sacred life processes: homeostasis, metabolism, adaptation and evolution. Examine your resistance to change. Resistance usually comes from fear. Fear comes from disconnect. From lack of trust in an orderly, responsive universe, ready to hold you when you fall. From lack of belonging, or forgetting your life's purpose. How did we step into self forgetfulness? Noise. Mental pollution. Disempowering beliefs. Allowing weeds such as anger, frenzy, overthinking, sadness, jealousy, fear, resentfulness to take over the inner garden. Ultimately, lack (or deficiency) of character - and of humor too!
How to activate the primal mind? I always recommend folks to start with some good old biohacking. Biohacking is for the body what black humor is for the spirit (okay, they both start with “b”!). Biohacking efficiently kicks in the primal mind activation because it is an embodied approach so it’s naturally shutting off the chattering mind. There is no negotiation, no back and forth in intermittent fasting, cold showers, intense physical exercise, bees venom applications etc. You either do it or not. However, as much as it is an inner gym for the organs and the physical structure, it essentially represents an inner gym for the spirit, as it is an embodied challenge of limited beliefs. Just as meditation, it belongs to the family “top down” (mind over matter) approach in medicine. “Babying” yourself with prescriptions and therapies limits the primal mind, so “taking a walk on the wild side”, by yourself (with correct training or guidance), becomes imperative in those situations where the garden is overwhelmed with weeds. How wild is the wild side? Look for aliveness signs: redness, warmth, micro tears in tissues triggering the self-repair and self regulating body mechanisms. When you eat a raw onion, tearing and feeling the uprush of the blood flow into your capillaries, you are as animated as you can get. Cayenne pepper is life. A scuba class is life. When you truly live, you access the wonderment of the instantaneous present. At the core of the primal mind is that electric, hypersensitive aliveness, a primal mindset that cannot be engineered, only lived: the raw experience.
The snake is the purifier of the lawn pest, such as rats and spiders! According to Chinese herbal pharmacopeias, the right (very small) amount of snake venom will also take care of your inflammation and body aches!
Key words: weeding, psyche, Emperor, Shen/ consciousness, order, diaphoretic, purgative, resistance, habits, patterns, flexibility, life (homeostasis, metabolism, growth, adaptation to the environment, response to stimuli and evolution), character, biohacking, top down approach
Understanding these key words will guide you towards your primal mind.