Thursday, June 19, 2008

Review: Plant Seed, Pull Weed

Summary: Gardens have often been used as metaphors for spiritual nurturing and growth. Zen rock gardens, monastery rose gardens, even your grandmother's vegetable garden all have been described as places of refuge and reflection. Drawing on her experience working at Seattle's premier gardening center, Zen teacher Geri Larkin shows how the act of gardening can help you uncover your inner creativity, enthusiasm, vigilance, and joy. As your garden grows, so will your spirit.

Larkin takes you through the steps of planning, planting, nurturing, and maintaining a garden while offering funny stories and inspiring lessons on what plants can teach us about our lives. As soothing as a bowl of homemade vegetable soup, Plant Seed, Pull Weed will entertain, charm, and inspire you to get your hands dirty and dig deep to cultivate your inner self. -- Harper Collins

When I was contacted by Emily from HarperOne about reading a self-help book called PLANT SEED, PULL WEED: Nurturing the Garden of Your Life by Geri Larkin, I told her I'd give it a try. I don't tend to gravitate towards self-help books, but I figured it wouldn't hurt me to do a little reading on some Zen concepts. I know that if I implemented some of the concepts into my everyday life, I would probably be a happier person (and easier to live with!)

The book was described it to me as "Eat, Pray, Love-ish but (of course) more under the radar." I am probably one of the few book bloggers out there who hasn't read EAT, PRAY, LOVE, and I can honestly say that I don't think I will. I definitely don't want to sound like I'm bashing a book that I haven't read, but it just doesn't appeal to me. What did appeal to me about this book, though, was one of its main ideas -- that "we need to live with a wide open heart."

The book is divided into chapters based on themes from a famous Mahayana Buddhism text called "The Way of the Bodhisattva." The author then shows the reader how each of these concepts can be applied to our lives through various stories and anecdotes -- many of which are touching, others which are very funny. Also interspersed throughout the book are steps for starting and maintaining a garden while showing us what plants can teach us about our lives.

I'd like to share with you the chapter titles to give you a better idea of how she ties gardening to developing a better life:

1) Casing the Landscape: Developing a Clear Intention
2) Rolling Up Your Sleeves: Transcending Hesitation
3) Preparing the Ground: Clear Seeing
4) The Great Fertilizer: Generosity
5) Planting Like You Mean It: Enthusiasm
6) Weeds and More Weeds: Taming Our Minds
7) Tomatoes Grow at Their Own Speed: Patience
8) Weeding at the Root: Anger
9) The Great Harvest: Joy
10) The Whole World is Our Garden: Vigilance

I will admit that reading this book certainly has made me reflect about my own life. Some of the chapters definitely struck a chord with me. Without going into all of my hang-ups, I found the chapters on Taming Our Minds and Patience to be especially helpful. In addition, I love the entire Joy concept -- that we must appreciate all of the joyful things we experience everyday (even small joys.) What I realized about myself is that I need to do more to help those who have less than I do. All these actions will make a difference in lives of others (as well as improving my life), and they don't have to be huge -- the small things matter too!

I found Geri Larkin's path to Buddhism to be very interesting. She quit her job as a management consultant to enter a Buddhist seminary; and she was ordained in 1995. In 1999, she started a Zen Meditation Center in downtown Detroit. She has since written many books about Buddhism and Zen.

I thoroughly enjoyed PLANT SEED, PULL WEED; and I know I'll be thinking about what I can do to make myself a better person. Since I did like this book so much, I'm wondering if I should maybe give EAT, PRAY, LOVE a try!


Cheryl said...

Self Help books are one genre that I have not really read.You are not alone about Eat, Pray, Love as I have not read it either.

Good review

Jeane said...

I haven't read Eat Pray Love either. It seems to be a love-hate book. But this gardening one- my hands are full of dirt as I weed our small garden plot every other day- so it sounds kindred to me right now.

LisaMM said...

This reminds me of a book I just read, The Wishing Year by Noelle Oxenhandler. It wasn't self help but more of a memoir, but very similar in that it was about "putting it out there" and being ready to receive the abundance of the universe. It wasn't really my thing but I could appreciate that it was written well.