Pulling Up the Baobabs

Baobab trees

This autumn, as the aspen leaves were turning to gold, a cherished friend of mine introduced me to Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s novel, Le Petit Prince. While I had been aware of the book’s existence, I had never taken the time to read it. The story has quickly become one of my favorites. 

I love perusing the book’s pages, reading about the little prince who rules an asteroid no bigger than a house. On his travels, the prince encounters a downed pilot in the desert and relates the tales of his travels to him. The adventure comes alive in new ways, with fresh details leaping off the page every time I read it.

Lying in bed one night, I watched as the shadows from the streetlight danced across my ceiling. The silhouettes of falling snowflakes trailed down the wall. My thoughts were racing and I couldn’t sleep. 2020 had been a year fraught with incredibly challenging situations and, as the new year approached, things weren’t looking any brighter. Despite my usual optimistic view of the world, doubts and worries kept creeping in and threatening to cause anxiety. Negative thoughts could pile up faster than laundry, and I was daily scrambling to keep them in check.

I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. Reaching over, I turned on the lamp and felt for the book on my nightstand. I opened Le Petite Prince and began to read.

On the little prince’s planet, there were — as on all planets — good plants and bad plants. The good plants come from good seeds and the bad plants from bad seeds. But the seeds are invisible. They sleep in the secrecy of the ground until one of them decides to wake up. Then it stretches and begins to sprout, quite timidly at first, a charming, harmless little twig reaching toward the sun. If it’s a radish seed, or a rose bush seed, you can let it sprout all it likes. But if it’s the seed of a bad plant, you must pull the plant up right away, as soon as you can recognize it. 

As it happens, there were terrible seeds on the little prince’s planet… baobab seeds. The planet’s soil was infested with them. Now if you attend to a baobab too late, you can never get rid of it again. It overgrows the whole planet. Its roots pierce right through. And if the planet is too small, and there are too many baobabs, they make it burst into pieces.

“It’s a question of discipline,” the little prince told me later on. “When you’ve finished washing and dressing each morning, you must tend your planet. You must be sure you pull up the baobabs regularly, as soon as you can tell them apart from the rosebushes, which they closely resemble when they’re very young. It’s very tedious work, but very easy.”

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Le Petit Prince

Beating Back the Baobabs

As I was lying curled up beneath the blankets with the book, the story of the baobab trees caught my attention. A thought struck me: those baobab trees are just like the negative thoughts that relentlessly try to take root in our minds and grow. And, if we don’t weed them out right away, they will grow and consume us. 

Those negative thoughts may be tough to recognize at first. They may even appear to be a positive thought. But as soon as we see them for what they are, they have got to go! 

On the prince’s planet, if a baobab grows unchecked, it will overtake and destroy the planet. Negative thoughts in our mind can do the same if we don’t weed them out. Seeds of negativity are being constantly thrown at us from all directions. If they grow, we can become depressed and anxious. In some tragic cases, those thoughts can destroy us. The last year has seen a sharp increase in mental health issues and suicides, which many psychiatrists attribute to negative thoughts caused by stress.

I promise you, it’s not a place anyone wants to be. 

We are constantly being bombarded with baobab seeds from all angles. We need to be intentional about tracking down and pulling up the baobabs in our minds before they take hold — every single day

Ways to Uproot the Baobabs

What are some ways that we can pull up the baobabs in our own minds before they take root and grow? Here are a few tools that I use daily for pulling up the baobabs. 

1. You Are What You Eat

While having a good diet and drinking plenty of water is beneficial to your health, I am talking more from a mental and spiritual perspective here. What are you watching on TV, reading on social media, or listening to on Spotify? If you are ingesting negative content, you’re watering the baobabs and they are going to grow.

In the Bible, the apostle Paul told us to think about things that are true, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, or worthy of praise (Philippians 4). Focusing on positive things can help us keep a positive mindset.

One of the ways that I love to recharge and reset is to spend time reading the Bible and praying. This helps me keep life in perspective and gives me hope that things won’t turn out as badly as my wildly imaginative brain might try to believe.

2. A Breath of Fresh Air

Get outside and get some fresh air. Currently, we are in the dead of winter here in Colorado, and there is snow falling outside my window. Bundle up and step outside for a minute. Make a snowman or a snow angel. Have a snowball fight. If the weather is good, go for a walk or run. Play some basketball. Find something that you like to do that gets your heart pumping, then get outside, and enjoy it. Exercise helps process thoughts and emotions, and that fresh air will clear your head when the leaves start getting too thick.

3. Rest

You’ve heard it a thousand times: make sure you get enough rest and sleep. Our lifestyles are often so busy that we forget to breathe. Whatever you do, make sure you take time to rest. This doesn’t necessarily mean sleep. Rest could include:

  • Taking a break from social media for a period of time
  • Doing a creative activity, such as painting, scrapbooking, or writing
  • Putting together a jigsaw puzzle
  • Reading a book
  • Spending time with a loved one

Whatever it is that gives you some time to unplug and recharge your spirit, make sure that you take time to do it! Consider time to rest as a date with yourself  and schedule it on your calendar if you must!

4. Get Involved

Get yourself involved in doing something that is outside your normal routine. For example, you might choose to get involved with a volunteer project once a month. Or you could think of one thing to do each day for someone else, such as writing a card of encouragement, baking a meal, or helping with yard work. 

Perhaps you choose to give yourself a goal to work toward. For instance, my novel Love Takes Guts is releasing in May. I have given myself bite-sized goals to meet each month to make that dream a reality. Having something to achieve and look forward to will help get you up and moving each day, keep your mind engaged, and can give you hope.

5. Have an Attitude of Gratitude

The phrase “attitude of gratitude” has been repeated so many times that we tend to brush right past it without noticing. However, gratitude is your greatest shovel in the battle against the baobabs. When we begin to realize that we can’t take anything or anyone for granted and that nothing is guaranteed, we begin to focus on the positive side of life. 

One way to have a grateful attitude is to write down three things that you are thankful for each day. Jot it down in a notebook or on a notecard. Take a look back often at what was written down, and how often we forget the little details that made the day bright. 

These few tips for pulling up the baobabs are only a starting point. What are some things that you do to weed out the negative thoughts in your mind before they take root? How do you keep a positive mindset even when the world feels shaky around you? Tell me in the comments. 

So far 2021 is starting where 2020 left off – with a lot of questions, stress, and confusion. But there is also a lot of hope for the future, and reasons to make every day count. Don’t give up hope. Make an effort every day to get up and weed out those baobabs and don’t let them take root in your mind. As time goes by, you’ll see that it was worth the effort.

© 2021 Carol Cuppy. All rights reserved.

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