Worm Herding: A Mindfulness Practice

Herding Worms (1)

Sundays are chore days at our home, and ranch chores often lead to surprising nature adventures! Today, when taking out the compost bucket I paused at the bin of red wigglers in the laundry room. Oh dear, I thought, I’ve neglected these little guys and I wonder if they’ve survived me.

Red wiggler worms were an impulse buy last winter, long before they could be put outside in the harsh cold. So they live indoors in a plastic bin and are supposed to turn my compost into dirt. When I got them I dumped in my compost, and a bit of shredded cardboard, covered them with a damp towel and promptly forgot about them. I watered the towel each week when I watered my plants but that was about it. I don’t have time to be a worm herder and don’t know what I was thinking when I bought them.

With some trepidation, I pull back the towel and dump the bin on a tarp on the floor. To my astonishment, black, rich, sweet-smelling dirt tumbled out, with hundreds of red wigglers doing just that in every direction! Then the herding began.

I’ve herded horses and cattle, and know it as a very active process. Worms are a little different. There is a lot of sifting and waiting, sifting and waiting. The glistening wigglers dive away from the light and toward the warm heated floor. I pick out bits of cardboard or eggshell that didn’t get eaten and put them back in the bin. When I come across a worm I put it back in the bin too. I break up the big chunks of “dirt” aka worm leavings, and notice all kinds of living beings – tiny white worms, casings, eggs of some sort, things I can’t see with the naked eye but can actually feel: life, abundant life energy! I put it to my nose and inhale healthy, vibrant, sweet earth. I feel like a kid as I explore the miracle mound of living earth.

What transformational power of these shiny, soft, wiggly beings have! Their purpose in life is to take our garbage and transform it into beautiful, rich nutrients. That’s it. And, since herding worms is a contemplative practice of sift, pick out worms, wait; sift, pick out worms, wait, I have time to wonder what it would be like if every one of my thoughts and intentions was like a red wiggler. What would I be able to transform in my being if each of my thoughts was an agent of transformation? What anger, fear, judgments, resistance might I be able to compost into positive passion, trust, discernment, flow? What if I empower every one of my thoughts with intention solely for positive transformation? WOW!

As in Dr. Seuss’s tale, “Marco Comes Late”, my ponderings keep me there for over an hour as I take this new red wiggler metaphor into my being. I am no longer herding worms, I am herding my own thoughts and intentions, aligning them with the direction I want to grow, envisioning them as little shiny light beings gobbling up that which is waste – my negativity, doubts, control, righteousness, etc. – and transforming it into sparkling fertile ground for my personal growth. I feel joy, happiness, lightness of being sprouting from my inner compost pile, and I am humming.

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