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In search of two blades of grass the same

I love mowing the lawn. My job involves a lot of thinking, and the measured monotony of marching up and down the garden gives my mind a rest. It’s almost meditative.

Then there is the scent of cut grass bearing the promise of summer to come, the caress of a soft lawn on bare feet, and the satisfaction of a job well done. Having said that, I do like to leave part of our garden semi-wild – I think we all need a little wild beauty in our lives!

In fact, mowing the lawn recently reminded me of a different relationship with monotony in a story I read years ago – I can’t remember where, but in essence it went something like this:
We all need a little
wild beauty in our lives

Mary felt depressed. The fog of sadness had left the world seeming grey and dull. Apathy and boredom had drained life of its colour. She went to a counsellor, poured out her heart and the counsellor listened attentively. When her session came to an end, he said: “I have some homework for you.”
“Oh?” gasped Mary, who had not had homework to do since her children left school.
“I’d like you to bring me two identical blades of grass.”
Well, that’ll be easy, thought Mary.
The next week, she arrived at her session a different woman. The fog was thinner, her eyes were brighter.
“Have you done your homework?” asked the counsellor.
“No,” replied Mary with delight. “I looked everywhere around the garden, down country lanes, across meadows, through fields but I couldn’t find two blades of grass exactly alike.”
“Good,” smiled the counsellor, seeing she had understood. 

Around the time, I was going through a dark period. When you’re depressed you become your own jailer – imprisoned behind meticulous bars of carefully-crafted (and well-rehearsed) self-deprecation. You might have the key to the door, or the door may even be open, but you gaze at the grey cell wall, trapped in your own skull.

I never went out myself in search of two blades of grass, but this tale left a lasting impression and I did, very slowly, step through the cell door and into life’s wonderful variety.

By going out in search of the grass, Mary had to leave her prison, to explore the world and get out in the fresh air, feel the earth beneath her feet, the wind on her face, to look beyond her suffering. And, by finding no two blades of grass alike, she realised that depression was just one of many ways she could experience the world. She was not her depression; it was just a part of her.

In fact, a counsellor friend once told me of a way to make any debilitating or destabilising emotion – be it depression, anger, guilt, grief or pain – more manageable. 

He said: “Say to yourself, ‘Part of me is... (depressed, for example)’.” This does two things: firstly, it helps us to acknowledge that there is suffering within us which needs our care and attention; secondly, it helps us to appreciate that any suffering is only part of our experience. Life, including our minds, is so varied that we are much more than any one thought or emotion. They come and go all the time. We just have to remember this and say to ourselves: "Part of me is (depressed, stressed, angry, sad, or whatever emotion is arising at that moment), but most of me is not. Therefore, most of me can cope. There is more than enough healthy, strong, loving me to take good care of the small, vulnerable part of me which is suffering."

Anyway, after the marvellous monotony of mowing the lawn, the garden came alive with birds. As it turned away from the sun, which seemed to pause on the curve of the earth, it echoed to a symphony of bird song. Our resident blackbirds, robins and doves bobbed about the lawn, sifting through cuttings the mower had left behind.

Naturally, they weren't looking for identical blades of grass. And thank goodness there weren't any to be found.


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