This past Sunday we took advantage of the sunny weather and my husband’s fancy metal detector—a birthday gift from a few years back—and attempted to find buried treasures. While we had high hopes for coins, gold, and National Treasure-level hidden caves, we knew that metal nails, buttons, and other metal “junk” was much more likely.
Luckily, the metal detector was prepared for that, even if we were not. Through a series of beeps and pings along with numerical readings, the machine told us what was likely under the ground before we even had to break out the shovel. When we excitedly got a series of loud beeps soon after we began our sweep, our more seasoned friends cautioned against digging up “trash” and taught us how to tell the difference. “Trash sounds different than the good stuff,” they cautioned, “and you don’t want to spend all of your time and energy digging up trash.” After a few simple sweeps highlighting the various sounds we were on our way again, this time with a more discerning ear. We waved off anything that didn’t sound promising, then looked at the landscape, and set off again in search of something else.
Surprisingly, we found quite a bit of civil war treasures—bullets and cannon ball pieces and even a civil war era saddle buckle, complete with leather strap still attached. We ignored quite a few spots that promised trash items, and dug up a few more trash items (a rusty nail, a fence post) that we had been unsure about. But all in all, it was fairly easy to hear the difference between the signals, especially if we were paying attention to the monitor.
Later that night as we inspected our small treasures, we realized that the feedback we had been getting from our detector worked in a very similar way to our own “thought detectors”—our emotions. Too often, thoughts creep up to our conscious awareness, and set off an alert within—an emotion of some sort. Some of these alerts feel good: comfort, ease, and calm—and we feel happiness, contentment, love, and connectedness. We enjoy lingering over those spots and soaking up whatever we can find there. But sometimes, a warning pings loudly in our awareness for something we don’t need in our lives: stress, tension, that icky feeling in the pit of our stomachs—and we in turn feel resentment, shame, and unworthiness. Without paying attention to the feedback our body is giving us, we may hover in these spots, absorbing all that we can—never realizing this is just not necessary and creating dis-ease mentally and physically. With awareness of the feedback from our bodies, we can notice where we are hovering, notice what is actually real in our landscapes, and choose to move on.
The land holds lots of history, and may hold treasures or, sadly, trash in equal measure. We humans also have our own fields of thoughts and emotions we can access randomly or in response to our lives, and some of these are pricelessly beautiful. Less useful ones can be noticed and passed over easily. The difference lies in knowing when to dig… and when to look up.