The Life-Changing Lessons I Learned From Gardening
Silence, stillness and solitude may be the ideal conditions for spiritual practices such as meditation or prayer, but our spirituality can also be embedded in the daily rhythms of our beautiful, ordinary everyday lives.
I am a big believer in the power of starting the day with meditation to get grounded, centred and begin with intention. But my teacher Katie Manitsas and her teachers Sharon Gannon and Maya Tiwari, have also inspired me to weave my spiritual practice in to daily life, in both practical and sacred ways.
“I asked my first spiritual teacher, the alchemist Randy Hall, “How do I become enlightened?” And he responded, “First, learn how to cook, clean, and garden.” Sharon Gannon
It’s was an early Spring weekend and once again I was in my garden, pulling out the crispy dry stems of last summer’s veggies; removing weeds that had sprouted through the bricks on patio, and turning over the soil to mix though a generous amount (read: two sulo bins) worth of manure and homemade compost.
With my hands in the dirt, I chanted to connect to spirit and opened myself to the spiritual teachings of the practice of gardening. This is what I have learned…
1. Cycle Wisdom
When I first started planning my Spring veggie patch, I rushed out and bought seeds, but little did I know there would be hours (weeks!) of tending to my scraggly, dry winter garden before I could plant them!
Our culture is so obsessed with the “sprout and bloom” phases of life, that little thought is given to how we move from the harvest, to preparing the land to lie fallow before plant once again. The latter phases of the cycle are much less glamorous than the burst of beautiful buds and fruits, and in the case of my garden, it was dirty, messy and backbreaking work.
As I started to take pleasure in the necessary work of late winter, giving the clearing phase my full presence without rushing, I began to see this was a profound lesson for me in how I live my life. I needn’t be in full bloom productivity all the time. It’s ok (in fact essential) to take a breather between projects and clear some space before the next idea sprouts.
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2. Reverence For Life
I have spoken with a number of keen gardeners, as I embark on my personal quest to grow my own food. They all talk enthusiastically, lovingly even, about their plants and the pleasure they derive from the process of gardening. The ‘special feeling’ you get from picking and eating what your hands have grown, came up in ALL my conversations.
While there is a degree of pride gardeners feel in eating (and sharing) the fruits of their own labour; I also noticed the sheer joy and reverence they hold for life itself. Their eyes would sparkle as they talked about their gardens: the ins and outs of companion planting, the best fertilisers, the sizes and shapes of their produce and the unique conditions under which each plant can thrive. Gardeners witness the magic of life unfolding on a daily basis!
Living mindfully is one of the great teachings of Buddhism and there is much research now, which proves that those who live mindfully are happier. Every single gardener I spoke to talked about the benefits to their mental health. Gardening gives us the opportunity to be present to the moment, opening our senses to feel the earth between out fingers (perhaps not something we adults often do), listening to the symphony of birds and insects, and delighting in the organic smells of plant life.
Being barefoot on the earth also helps bring us down out of the mind, in to the body to experience ourselves more vividly, embodied and present to the task at hand. Chanting or saying a prayer while gardening can also help focus our presence and invite in a spiritual mood, “bhav”.
4. Discipline & Surrender
I will humbly admit, I still have a lot to learn when it comes to gardening. I enjoy it, but in the past I have struggled to focus and keep my plants alive. I was too inconsistent in the care I gave my garden, forgetting to water and fertilize and failing to adequately protect my plants from pests.
This time around I realised gardening is a long-term project that requires my wholehearted commitment, discipline, a fair bit of research and… serious possum proofing.
Now my seedlings are in the ground I need to be out there every day, watering and occasionally weeding. As the plants grow, I will continue to sprout more seeds, clear what needs to be cleared and rotate my crops with the seasons.
The Yoga teachings of Tapas (Discipline) and Ishvara Pranidhana (Surrender to God/the Universe) are deeply embedded in the practice of the gardener. We must consistently show up and do the work, then surrender the result.
This translates to all life: dig that garden, write that book and follow through on your word, but don’t hold to tightly to expected outcome, it will only cause suffering. Vedic philosophy teaches us that the fruits of our labour are not ours to keep, we must offer them up to the Divine, something greater than us. This is Karma Yoga and the principle Spiritual teaching of The Bhagavad Gita.
So friends, as Spring is upon us, sow your seeds, tend the soil then offer up the fruits of your labour to your Spirit/ God/ the Universe. You might even like to leave a little offering from your garden; flowers, seeds or fruits on your alter to give thanks to God/The Goddess for the bounty mother earth provides.
Now I’d love to hear from you. Have you learned any life-changing lessons from your gardening practice? Help inspire the thousands of women who visit CASA DE KARMA each month, by sharing your thoughts and experiences in the comment section below.
P.S. Who do you know that might enjoy this article? Your green-thumbed, nature loving friend? Or your friend who might benefit from one of these spiritual lessons? Share this article with them now. They’ll thank you for it later.