The Heart of the Garden
The growth process isn’t easy – it’s pretty uncomfortable. Yet, I find solace in my garden as I observe nature’s calming and straightforward process. Thich Nhat Hahn reminds us in Mindfulness In the Garden: Tools for Digging in the Dirt by Zachiah Murray, that the things we throw away can become compost that will turn into beautiful flowers and nourishing herbs, fruits, and vegetables. He shares that garbage can smell terrible, especially when it’s rotting organic matter. But it can also become rich compost for fertilizing the soil.
TOUCHING THE EARTH’S SKIN
WITH ALL MY SENSES,
I GET TO KNOW THE HEART OF MY GARDEN, AND I VOW TO NURTURE IT
During an increasingly frantic and stressful time, gardening offers a vital comfort and opportunity for mental, physical, and spiritual renewal. Enjoying the pure pleasure of gardening, I learn a valuable lesson that derives a sense of peace and comfort, not from having it all, but from having enough. In his book The Soul Garden, Donald Norfolk describes the garden as a sacred space where we learn that life does not start and stop – it’s a continuous process. In learning and growing through life’s ups and downs with patience and grace, we move through a forever practice of learning to grow, contract, and expand.
“When we sow a seed, we plant a narrative of future possibility,” says Sue Stuart-Smith, a British psychiatrist and psychotherapist, explains in her book, The Well-Gardened Mind. Drawing on thirty years of clinical practice, she compares gardening practice in historical and contemporary mental-health treatments and reports on empirical research into gardening’s impact on mood. She explains how the meditative and repetitive aspects of gardening can function as a form of play for grownups. And how we gain sustenance from nature’s regeneration.
I recently re-discovered an article in Flow Magazine – Finding Flow and Calm in Chaos Edition that I’ve revised to reflect how I’ve been learning to tap into the healing powers of gardening. It helps present an opportunity to step into a terrain of discovery while trying to ‘be’ in a global pandemic. I’m hoping you can gain some insights from these tips as well.
A Gardening Manifesto
1. Water seeds with Awareness.
If you garden or have a plot of herbs on your kitchen counter, breathe deeply as you water them, giving your body a moment of stillness as seeds settle into the soil. Let your breath wash over the seeds. Let your breath be a watering of love.
2. Grow love.
Know that every bite of food you eat informs your entire being. Know that all food begins in the soil, whether vegetables or animals. We trace our roots to the land. As you tend to your plants, remember that you are tending to seeds of love that will someday transform into a meal. You share this food with family or friends, let these plants be a coming together as food converts into bodily energy, and let that food carry the power of love. Let that love grow a community; self-sufficiency is a myth. Become community-sufficient, and you will find space and peace in the strength of many hands; you will have solace and support in the ugly moments.
3. There will be ugly moments.
Yes, some plants will not germinate; they may die or not produce fruit. Your garden may get overrun with weeds at some point, so keeping the weed population minimum will ensure that the vegetables and plants you have thrive. You will never rid your garden of all weeds. Decide how many weeds you can tolerate and how you can turn their presence to your advantage. No matter how hard we work to make the bad stuff go away or prevent them in the first place, nature has the last say, and surrendering to the powers that be with acceptance, creates peace.
4. Follow the pull.
Witness beauty. Gardening demands Awareness and a level of observation that can pull you toward beauty: the beauty of seeds, flowers, sunrise, and sunsets, of sharing a summer meal with friends. Witness the beauty of every day, even on the hard days, and know that the light will shift and remind you that you can keep growing.
Do this, not just because it is a revitalizing antidote to the anger, fear, and current isolation that weighs us down, but because beauty brings us alive all on its own.
5. Learn how to live in the space in between.
Before the harvest, there comes the seed, the seedling, the unripe fruit. Sometimes it will be hard to live in this in-between space. Sometimes you will want so much to be at the harvest, juice running down the sides of your mouth, but all you will feel is the tension of growth. Yet, this space is where discoveries live.
6. Take Lessons from sunflowers.
Some days are full bloom, and others are not. Eventually, you will have bloomed enough to trust that it will happen again, but those closing moments may catch your breath in your throat. So learn how to follow the sun even when you feel stuck. Learn to see the beauty in sleeping blooms that grow, gathering energy until the right moment comes to open their center to the world.
7. Show up for abundance.
There will be days when gardening feels hard. And then there will be the days that remind you with every ray of sunlight and note of birdsong why exactly you’re doing all this. With persistence, those reminders will come more and more. Abundance is here. It’s hard work to show up for it, but its beauty and sustenance reveal themselves when you do.
8. Remember, wealth does not rest solely on money.
Future savings can look like this: growing cover crops to build soil and investing in berry plants. The growth cycle can nourish the ground and the body; it can generate and regenerate beauty and food, creating value that will surpass our lifetime.
9. Cultivate Wildflowers beyond the weeded rows.
Wildflowers in a garden cultivate both Awareness and liveliness. Scatter wildflower seeds to entice bees and butterflies. When the flowers emerge, a silent tug will remind you of the part you played, and your soul will draw you to the blooms and smile.
Wish yourself well in the evening air, summer rain, and the dark nights of new moons. Stand still long enough to taste the love you are growing, and feel the roots spread from your feet and mingle with the trees’ roots and the bodies of worms. Then, when you step back to take a break, you see how the garden’s rhythm mirrors your own: growth and rest intermingled.
Rest among the garden beds, and let your dreams dig deep. Let your body become a vessel of seeds. Water them with love, see what wonders grow, and discover peace.