We can only plant seeds we have inherited from our ancestors, grandparents, parents, or society in the garden of our own life. These can be seeds of all kinds, both good and bad, as Thich Nhat Hanh notes. They can be seeds of joy, peace, and happiness, as well as seeds of sorrow, anger, and even hatred. What is needed, he says, is the practice of mindful living to help us separate the healthy seeds from the unhealthy seeds.
Planting healthy seeds is like having an antibody to a virus already in our bloodstream; when something unhealthy enters our bloodstream, our body reacts and antibodies come and surround it, take care of it, and transform it. This is also true with psychological seeds, as it is with spiritual seeds. If we plant wholesome, healing seeds, they will overcome the unhealthy seeds.
Planting only healthy seeds is critical to our spiritual well being; what we plant, we cultivate and reap the benefits of. Healthy seeds are antidotes to any unhealthy seeds that might try to gain traction in our lives. “To succeed, we need to cultivate a good reserve of refreshing seeds,” Thich Nhat Hanh says.
The spiritual heritage we can draw from is so rich and vast, but because we live in a world characterized by the clash of opposites, planting only healthy seeds can be quite daunting. Our task could be somewhat simplified if we consciously choose to plant only what we love in the garden of our lives.
This is because we become what we give our time to, as is illustrated in various scriptures: “All that we are arises with our thoughts. Speak or act with a pure mind and heart and happiness will follow you” (Buddhism). Or, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Christianity).
What leads us forward and what shapes our destiny is what we love. We gain courage from what we love. Healthy growth requires removing anything that gets in the way of what we love. But cultivating what we do love is even more important. We cultivate to build the refreshing reserve that always protects us.
Many paths can lead us to the heart of our spiritual heritage, to the ageless wisdom that contains the essential principles, qualities, and attributes for spiritual growth. These are universal. Spiritual truth does not vary, in essence, from one religion to another because, at their origin, they have a common source.
This understanding can be seen in various spiritual traditions: “Many are the paths of men, but they all in the end come to Me” (Hinduism). “In the world there are many different roads, but the destination is the same” (Confucianism). “There are as many ways to God as souls; as many as the breaths of Adam’s sons” (Islam).
The scriptures of all the religions can guide us to get in touch with our true nature and with our Creator. Each tradition has similar principles, values, virtues, and spiritual qualities that can be easily identified from this collective spiritual heritage. Each tradition has similar guidance for taking the steps leading to spiritual growth, and each consists of some kind of regular or consistent spiritual practice.
Examples of such spiritual practice are: a) daily prayer with pure-hearted devotion; b) regular reading of the sacred scriptures; c) meditation on the sacred word; d) striving every day to model the standards set forth in the sacred teachings; and, e) selfless service. These are ways we can learn about and live the spiritual life; this effort keeps remembrance close to us.
These kinds of spiritual practice, most importantly, can transform our characters and make us new beings, entirely unlike our previous selves, because these actions can lay a foundation for meeting head on and overcoming any tests or trials that might befall us.