Amidst the current corona virus crisis, we are being urged to limit our circle and maintain social distance and that includes in the great outdoors. Recent weeks have seen the easily bored as well as the genuinely cabin-fevered flocking to the hills and beachfronts and over-crowding the local parks. To the degree that there are now restrictions on such activities. But within the confines of your own garden you can not only boost the functioning of your immune system with sunshine delivered Vitamin-D and increase good mood with blue-sky delivered serotonin but also get a few lungfulls of non-claustrophobic air without needing to dodge the speed walkers and the double masked nervous types.
If you are self-isolating by GP advice our obeying the mandatory notice to stay home then far from this current crisis being an ever decreasing circle, there is opportunity to open up new horizons; to not just stand in the garden like a prisoner on yard break, to not just mow and preen like you are scared your kerb appeal will lapse – but to actually enjoy the gardening experience. And if you have ever gardened, you can dip the toe, it is a wonderful distraction to your worries and even better a respite from the rolling news. If you have always gardened, you can of course take it a bit further and try some mindful gardening.
Becoming a more mindful gardener does not pit ‘being’ over ‘doing’ – to garden is to do – how we do is also how we be. We can carry out our daily chores as mindful practices. We can rake like a zen monk for sure but we can also mow the lawn with attention, be there as we do it. Often the monotonous tasks of life are done on automatic pilot but if we are present in the moment, they are not so monotonous- we are alive in the moment of their doing – the doing is a vibrational lift to our being when it is done mindfully.
Being present is experiencing life. Being present is the root of mindful gardening. Doing what needs to be done in the garden today with focus and conscious presence is mindful gardening. You may have been doing it all along but didn’t notice. Mindfulness will sharpen that notice. To notice is mindfulness. In noticing the doing of the task is the witnessing of the now of it, and brings our being into the task. We are truly there – that is the aim and actualizing of mindfulness.
To sow mindfully. Sowing seed is not an act of will, it is participation in the divine force of creation, it is participation with the force of life; to renew itself. In sowing seed, you are present at the conception of a new batch of plants. Be present. Be awestruck. Be joyous. Be mindful.
With diligence read the seed packet or recall from past experience the requirements of the seed to germinate. Does it need light and so a surface sowing, does it germinate in darkness so a prod of a pencil tip to set its depth in the growing media to success? This attention to detail is being present to the life process requirements of the plant. Taking it seriously, not just dispersing seed any old way and leaving it to chance, it is not just due diligence but respect. Respect is a loving kindness, it is an open heart, it is an awake presence to the undertaking.
Bring your awake presence to every stage; to filling the compost tray or making the drill or fine tilth in the earth. Put or manifest the intent to success in every action. Feel the seed in your hand and carefully deposit it into its position to grow. Consciously water it to its requirement. This may be a gardening task that you do regularly, almost on a muscle memory, automatic, without experiencing but why not experience it anew by doing it as if for the first time, by letting it be the full focus of your attention. By being here and now with it.
To plant mindfully. In the segment on sowing a seed mindfully I mentioned diligence. Diligence is acting with integrity; it is bringing your dutiful and alert self into the process. We gardeners can become automatic on regular gardening tasks and not really be present to what we are doing. We may dig the right depth hole and water in after planting but we perhaps ‘phone it in’ or go through the motions without actually noticing what we are doing or have done. To plant mindfully is not just to bring a correct method to bear, it is to be there.
So notice how you dig the hole, feel the implement in your hand or how your hand parts the soil. Feel it, register it. Become aware of the plant as you tip it from its pot, tease it roots, place it in the hole. Feel the sensation of backfilling, firming in – there is a lot of physicality and contact here. Experience it all. Then with positive regard water the plant. Know that you have given it the best start you can. Know that by planting with your attentive self – in a mindful mode – you have really interacted with that plant, that you have cultivated a connection, that you are not just doing in the garden, you are being and a vital part of its being.
To weed mindfully. There is the spiritual and psychological significance of weeding negativity from your life – to allow space for positivity to grow. Weeding being a great metaphor, but we are gardeners and gardens have actual weeds so some actual weeding will be done too.
We can weed a physical weed mindfully and can bring our attention to how it may resist or give way to our pulling hand. We are not relishing its destruction, rather, we are acknowledging that it has to go – that it competes for water, nutrients, space, and even light. It may seem that we are being judgmental – we are not; we are simply acknowledging, accepting, and responding accordingly. Many gardeners may root out a bramble or nettle with judgmental attitude, with curses and even aggression, but why waste all that energy, why manifest contempt. We weed for the greater good of the garden so do it in the spirit of goodness.
We can be present to the weed’s removal – actually witness it. We may notice how the hoe or other tool is efficient. We may reflect some gratitude for such inventions and the easing of our labour. I like to think of weeding as harvesting material for the compost heap, any negative associations and also the monotony of a mundane chore is thus transformed in to a purposeful action that can be carried out as a dynamic mindful exercise. Of course, some days it’s just weeding to get done and that’s ok too – but the more we do it mindfully, the more mindful we become.
So garden guru or mountain top guru, becoming is the thing to do.