water the fruit trees

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poetry / Rumi / spirituality

How much fun is overthinking? I mean, good times, am I right?

Oh so very not.

I have mentioned a few different ways that anxiety or fear or uncertainty can show up in our lives. However, surprisingly, I don’t think I’ve tackled actual thinking patterns before. What an egregious oversight! (overthought?  no, that doesn’t quite work.  anyway…)

In yoga, we call these unintentional, constant, whirling thought patterns the vrttis. I know what you’re thinking…”Holly, that’s an impossible word to say!” Haha, not really. Just pretend there is an “i” between the “r” and the first “t”, like “vrittis.”

The vrttis are usually translated as “the turnings of the mind.” It is quite something that in Western society we don’t have a word for this. Let’s be real…it should have been us that invented a word for this! It probably should have sounded something like “kajagoogoo” or some other inane 80s band to employ a touch of onomatopoeia.

In truth, I know why we didn’t invent a word for this. In our culture it never goes away! So we think it’s just calling “thinking.”


I recently attended a yoga class with a new teacher. She introduced a lot of complimentary elements beyond a traditional yoga sequence. She stated at the beginning of the session that she hoped we would receive clarity about something by the end. Obviously, she didn’t know what that would be for each of us but something…

As she closed the class she read a quote about how much we are all connected and how much Source (or whatever) wants to reach out and wants us to reach back (totally paraphrasing here).  In that very moment, I had the most amazing feeling wash over me. It was a moment of great clarity.  Fog-clearing, epiphany-inducing, pristine clarity.

I’m sure you won’t be shocked by this but I was reminded of Rumi.

Y’all know he’s my guru of choice, so I put a lot of stock in what he says. I also fight a lot of what he says. Not because I don’t agree but because I’m not ready. Not ready to change. Not ready to give up bad habits. Not ready to work hard. Not ready to work less. Not ready to be free. Whatever. Not ready. Fortunately, he’s pretty patient. (he’s waited 800 years. what’s a few more?)

As she was speaking about this connection to Source, I can’t say I was reminded of a specific poem of Rumi’s, just a general observation that what she was saying in this moment mirrored the truth that he has been pointing to all along.

All I have to do is look for the source inside myself and everything else will fall into place.

I felt so clear about pretty much everything as I walked out and drove away from the studio. I don’t mean I understood the meaning of life and all the secrets of the universe. Hardly. Laughable even. I just mean that I felt so very clear about my little patch of it. More important than that, I was clear in my realization that this feeling will not last. Not because it’s not real. Instead, I knew it would not last because my vrttis would start turning again and I’d forget how clear I was in that moment. (it lasted well into the next day though, I’m happy to report.)

I was right. It didn’t last. My mind started its doubting voices again. (no, I don’t literally hear voices. not time for the funny farm just yet.) However, I was armed with this new knowledge that I wasn’t in my clearest mind.  It was easier to ignore the doubts. Additionally, I knew that when I am not in my clear mind, any attempts I make at reaching for clarity from that space will be like trying to grasp air or water with my bare hands. Completely elusive.

So, what are the things and places and people that bring me clarity? I pay attention to that. For me, those things are yoga, meditation, music, dancing, archery, travel, and writing. For you they might be some the same, some different.

It’s equally important to pay attention to what and who does not bring me clarity but rather confusion. With this level of observation and information, I can make healthier, more authentic, more natural choices.

A few days after this class, I did run across a Rumi quote that speaks to this experience:

“Mad with thirst, he can’t drink from the stream running so close by his face.
He’s like a pearl on the deep bottom, wondering, inside his shell, ‘Where’s the ocean?’

His mental questions form the barrier.
His physical eyesight bandages his knowing.
Self-consciousness plugs his ears.

Stay bewildered in God,
and only that.

Those of you who are scattered, simplify your worrying lives. [!]
There is one righteousness:

Water the fruit trees,
and don’t water the thorns.

Be generous to what nurtures the spirit and God’s luminous reason-light.”

I see the “fruit trees” as these clear spaces and more accurately the recognition of them as wholly separate from the “thorns”, or the worrying spaces.  It has transformed my experience to be able to realize when I am not clear in my mind or environment.  Of note too is the fact that Rumi does not suggest we cut out the thorns like a canker.  Just don’t water them and make them grow.  We can do that.

So where are your fruit trees?  Have you watered them lately?


Love and light,

Photo credit:  Shutterstock/Rosalba Matta Machado

The Author

I am a dancing, arrow-flinging yogini from the South, but I live in the Pacific Northwest. I just like to keep things interesting. ;)

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