“The heart is like a garden. It can grow compassion or fear, resentment or love. What seeds will you plant there?” ~ Buddha
Growing up, as a young girl I was lucky enough to have grandparents who lived on a farm. I say “lucky enough,” because to a young child the expanse of land and outbuildings innate to an Iowa farm afforded me endless opportunities for exploration.
There was a big barn and a machine shed. There was a grove of assorted maple and oak, a small livestock yard and a windmill. In addition, my grandparent’s farm was home to a variety of animals. Cats dominated the yard, an occasional flock of sheep wandered the pasture, and they had ponies that were just the right size for children to ride. But it was what I discovered in the livestock tank one day that fascinated me the most. My grandpa, on one of his many fishing expeditions along the river, had caught a turtle. I’m not sure why he kept it, but it became my obsession.
Every moment I spent at the farm, once the turtle came to live there, I was at the edge of the tank; observing, talking, feeding and adoring this common western painted turtle. I don’t recall begging for possession, but I’m sure that I must have because at some point I was allowed to take it home and keep it. I named him Chop-Chop.
I took great care of Chop-Chop. As much as an 8-year-old can. He lived in a big metal tub outside, near the garage. I kept his tub clean and I swatted flies to feed to him. I released him into the yard for carefully monitored exercise and, on special occasions, I took him small bits of raw hamburger, his favorite dish.
One weekend, my siblings and I caught some salamanders- odd looking black lizards with yellow spots. We took them home and created a home for them near Chop-Chop, and my reptile menagerie grew. Until my dad returned home from work one night and let them all loose in the yard. It wasn’t an intentional slight on his part. He casually mentioned at the supper table that night what he’d done. The critters were creating a nasty smell in the garage and he took care of it. I was devastated. The tears began to fall and I felt as if my heart were broken. I didn’t mourn the loss of the salamanders, we hadn’t had much interaction, but my turtle had a name. We had bonded for months. I went out that night with a flashlight and combed the yard.
It was dark and spitting rain when my dad came out to join me in the search. Bush, by bush, I remember looking through the wet leaves and branches, and I found him! More tears, and so much joy! Here I am 46 years later and I can still feel the relief and the heart-bursting happiness of finding my beloved pet.
Imagine, if you dare, losing someone or something you hold dear. One moment it’s with you and the next it’s gone. The emotions that begin to build run deep. Panic, fear, sadness, despair. You may even retreat into yourself, withdrawing from the rest of the world. Life loses its color. Days turn dark.
Now picture what you lost coming back to you. As quickly as it vanished, this someone or something has returned and you are filled with joy! Your heart swells with warmth and your cheeks are flush with happiness. You make a solemn vow to treat this part of your life with greater care. You lavish it with love. You hold it close and provide it with attentiveness and kindness.
We are capable of so much emotion. Each of us harbors fear and frustration, anger and angst. In equal parts, we also carry love and joy, kindness and compassion. All the elements of human nature bubble below our surface on any given day, at any moment in time. The difficult part is cultivating what we want to float to the top.
If we follow the yogic path we are constantly observing. We observe the sensations of the body through the yoga poses. In meditation, we observe the thoughts that travel through our conscious mind. Through practice we become more aware of the joy that resides within.
Feelings of sadness and anxiety wait for release at times of loss and suffering. But day to day, moment to moment, we have a choice to open our hearts to peace and contentment. Toe-tingling joy needs only a nudge of encouragement, and a nugget of nourishment, to be experienced and shared. And the heart-bursting happiness that comes when we find something we thought had been lost, can be felt each day of our lives.
Laurie Kasperbauer is an active Florida Realtor specializing in properties in Naples and Marco Island. Laurie also enjoys the spiritual and physical benefits of yoga practice and instructs both group and private classes.