The weather where we are has been a bit strange this spring. We had snow at the beginning of April (the latest we have had snow for 82 years apparently), and both April and May have been wetter than usual - even for a persistently damp place like the Pacific Northwest. Now I can't complain, especially as other, not too distant areas are experiencing droughts. Being in the soggy part of the country has its advantages.
And one of those advantages is of course how beautiful it is. The wet weather, combined with a few warm days and generally mild weather otherwise has meant that this whole area is wonderfully green at the moment.
And that goes for my front yard. At the moment it is full of glorious, luxurious thick plants, bursting with color and many shades of green.
I think it looks lovely.
But, of course, the minor downside to this is that ninety percent of the wonderful flora in my yard are weeds.
Now I needed to be told this. I must confess that if you asked me I wouldn't be able to tell you which plants were the weeds, and which were the 'good plants.' I'll be honest with you, they all look great to me.
This division of plants into 'weeds' and 'not-weeds' has always puzzled me. I have asked many people what the true definition of a weed is, but nobody seems to be able to give me a satisfactory answer. The most compelling answer I have heard is that "weeds are plants that are easy to grow." Which, now that I write it down, doesn't feel that satisfactory after all.
I find this arbitrary distinction between weeds and 'good plants' a strong metaphor for how we divide the world into people we like and those we don't. When we practice metta meditation one of the things we learn is that this distinction is every bit as arbitrary. Seven years ago I wrote a short essay on this dilemma. You can find the original here, or I have reproduced it below.
I hope that you find it useful, and that you can enjoy the weeds in your yard - and the metaphoric weeds in your life - over the coming week.
Lovingkindness, Weeds and Judgment
June 14th, 2015
I've always been perplexed by the concept of 'weeds'. The fact that we arbitrarily divide flora into 'good' flowers and 'bad' weeds has always struck me as capricious.
Of course, when we consider Metta or Lovingkindness practice we come up against exactly the same realization - that our division of the world into 'friends' and 'enemies' is equally subjective and unhelpful.
When contemplating this it reminded me of a song I heard in my youth by the Christian singer-songwriter Graham Kendrick. He wrote:
Teach me to love the unlovely O Lord
I don’t know how to do it
Teach me to love the impossible people
I really don’t like
I don’t naturally take to some folks
I can’t make out the way that they are
I just don’t understand other people who aren’t like me at all
Loving-kindness ought to be brought to the point where there are no longer any barriers set between persons, and for this the following example is given: Suppose a man is with a dear, a neutral and a hostile person, himself being the fourth; then bandits come to him and say "we need one of you for human sacrifice." Now if that man thinks "Let then take this one, or that one," he has not yet broken down the barriers, and also if he thinks "Let them take me but not these three," he has not broken down the barriers either. Why not? Because he seeks the harm of him who he wishes to be taken and the welfare of only the other three. It is only when he does not see a single one among the four to be chosen in preference to the other three, and directs his mind quite impartially towards himself and the other three, that he has broken down the barriers
You can read the whole teaching here.
The full audio, including a fully guided Metta meditation is below.
"The Practice of Loving-Kindness (Metta): As Taught by the Buddha in the
compiled and translated by Ñanamoli Thera. Access to Insight (BCBS Edition), 30 November 2013,