invasives: mental compulsions & garlic mustard

Garlic mustard is a non-native plant of the brassicaceae family that has taken over much of the woodland floors in western Pennsylvania. It actually has a beautiful fragility to it; it’s very easy to weed out by the root and boasts teenie white flowers. And because it’s invasive and aggressive, I and friends of mine and local herbalists pull the plants out on our weekly walks. This is something I normally find a displeasing behavior, but the plants are edible and useful and so I save as many as I can for use in my kitchen, which makes me feel less guilty.

Anyway: at some point the other day my thoughts converged between garlic mustard and mental compulsions.

I think these two disparate things can be considered in much the same way. Nonchalant at first, unassuming and seemingly inoccuous, they can quickly take over a woodland floor or a mind. And with understanding, attention, and compassion they can be culled.

I was discussing with my therapist earlier today how some of my ruminations or intrusive thoughts/guilt have become so ingrained that even though they’ve completely changed parts of my routine, it has become hard to recognize them. I’m just now learning to disengage from them; instead of attaching excess meaning to a thought or ruminating on it, I’ve begun being able to (1) identify it as a stressor and (2) disengage from it. This is similar to my recent having been taught the nature of garlic mustard, a plant I’ve certainly hiked past time after time without knowing it’s tendency to take away from native & ntauralized plants around it.

I don’t believe any plant (or thought), as a thing, is evil – another connection between garlic mustard and the intrusive compulsion. And with regard to plants and living beings I will go into more detail on this in an upcoming post on invasive species. As for thoughts, our minds are connection machines – am I evil and heartless because deep in slumber I have a nightmare where I murder someone? No, I’d say not. But ruminating on the consideration that I might be evil because I had such a mental image is exhausting and changes nothing. Disengaging from thoughts and ruminations becomes important right here.

I’m glad I’ve learned to disengage from many of my thoughts now, and much like the garlic mustard plant I give thanks to my ability to think – I may have an overactive amygdala, but I can still be grateful for the times it’s activity has helped me and my ancestors survive.


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