Our gardens offer enduring lessons of growth and renewal. A compost pile can turn weeds, fallen leaves, grass clippings, and kitchen waste into rich new soil. The same principle holds true for our lives-- we can compost old patterns into new possibilities.
In an examined life, everything can be compost. Cherished memories empower us and enrich our lives. But so can painful memories from the past, old habits we'd like to break, patterns we've outgrown. Instead of dwelling on negative experiences, which can often attract more of them, we can compost them. Becoming more mindful, asking "What can I learn from this?" and then moving on can turn a negative experience into a new cycle of wisdom and growth.
If you'd like to try this personal form of composting, please join me in this meditative exercise:
Close your eyes, take a deep mindful breath and slowly release it
Then, as you continue to breathe slowly and deeply, think of something in your life you'd like to compost:
- An old habit you'd like to break.
- A negative experience that keeps nagging at you.
- Ongoing guilt or resentment about a past experience.
- Something you did that you regret.
Say to yourself, "I am ready to compost this."
And take another deep breath and release it.
When you open your eyes, write your compost plan on a piece of paper or index card. "I compost___[name what you've chosen to compost]." Then sign and date the card.
For the rest of this month, look at the card each morning and say to yourself, "I compost ___," stating what you've chosen to compost.
It takes time to break old habits, so don't be discouraged. Whenever you find yourself falling back into the old pattern, stop and tell yourself, "I've composted that."
At the end of the month, tear up the card and bury the pieces in the ground, adding your compost to the soil.
Connecting us to the ongoing cycles of nature, composting can bring us new beginnings and renew our faith in life.
 An earlier form of this exercise appears on pages 30-31 of my book, Inner Gardening: A Seasonal Path to Inner Peace. New York, NY: HarperCollins, 2001.