Have you ever walked out into a garden and felt peace? Have you felt the worries and deadlines drop away like grains of sand in a breeze? If so, you’ve experienced mindful gardening.
Have you walked into a garden or natural environment and not noticed the garden? The trees? The birds? Has your mind been so consumed with your projects and worries and plans that what your eyes see is not what your conscious mind registers?
When mindfulness is missing
I’ve been in gardens and not noticed a snake just inches from my hand. I’ve not noticed… well, because I haven’t noticed it, I don’t really know what I haven’t noticed. That’s the funny thing about lacking mindfulness… it’s because awareness is missing. Therefore, when I am unaware, I don’t know it!
It’s only through the practice of mindfulness that I have started to become aware. My friends say: you’ve always been aware Amber! You’ve always been concerned about social issues, environmental issues but that’s not what I’m talking about here.
Cultivating mindfulness and awareness
There’s no doubt that we need to be aware of the world around us. We need to live with our ‘blinkers’ off. However, I’m talking about mindfulness, awareness of the world within first and foremost.
Awareness of what feelings arise from moment to moment, what thoughts are surfacing from moment to moment and how these elements influence me, my identity, my perceptions and my behaviour… and ultimately what I think and feel in the next series of moments…
In the Miracle of Mindfulness, Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh writes:
“…one’s mind is inevitably distracted by other thoughts, and so if one really wants to keep one’s consciousness alive (from now on I’ll use the term “mindfulness” to refer to keeping one’s consciousness alive to the present reality), then one must practice right now in one’s daily life, not only during meditation sessions.”
From a zen perspective then, mindful gardening is a process of becoming aware of the garden and becoming aware of you yourself in the garden and being present, right now, with the garden.
When I am gardening mindfully, I tend to get less tired compared to when I’m lacking mindfulness. Therefore, I tend to have more energy, or less waste, when gardening mindfully.
Mindfulness and meditation practice are inseparable
I’ve found that the practice of mindfulness is inseparable from the practice of sitting meditation: where I sit on a daily basis for at least 20 minutes and bring my mind and body into alignment. Or at least I try to… some days are better than others!
The process I employ extends from my daily sitting meditations and it starts with the breathe and being aware of breathing in and breathing out. This process of coming into the present moment waters the seeds of happiness, ease and peace. From that centring I can practice mindful gardening. From that space I practice gardening meditation.
For me, gardening meditation is mindful gardening. The practice increases my focus with the garden and all the garden elements. We become aware of the sun and the shade, the light and the darkness, the breeze, the leaves, the soils, the bugs, the air and the rain, the space…
We notice the play of colours through the community of leaves in the trees. Perhaps we can come to see how golds and greens interact and how flying insects dance and prance from leaf to branch to flower. The bees dance from flower to flower, and the hover fly right in front of us trying to catch our eye!
We see how the air unites us – allowing us all to survive here. We see how we all have the same water running through our veins and the same minerals feeding our cells.
In the Diamond That Cuts Through Illusion, Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh writes: “We don’t take care of it [the natural environment] out of any moral righteousness, but because there’s no distinction between us and the plants, animals and other sentient beings on the planet.”
Becoming one with our garden
That’s what mindful gardening does. It aligns us. That’s my experience and I am by no means a Zen Master! But even when I’m in a client’s garden; even when I’m mowing a lawn; even when I’m transforming soil; adding mulch; making compost; pruning a branch; identifying a disease; looking at a sap sucking insect; monitoring health… I try to do these things mindfully.
The quality of my life and the quality of the garden’s life increases with mindfulness. Of this, I have no doubt. I have seen the fruits of mindful gardening in my clients gardens and in my own.
Welcome to Garden Tara where I’m here to share my horticultural knowledge with you. Where good horticultural practice is inseparable from mindfulness. Where I hope to hear your voice and develop a community of like-minded mindful gardeners 🙂