Eastman: Mindful Gardening

I recently read an article titled “Your garden as a meditation refuge” that discussed some basic elements which, when included in a garden, can take it from being a pleasant plant-filled space in your yard to a truly peaceful escape from the daily rat race. After reading some of the suggestions in this article, I found myself pondering not only the garden as a sanctuary, but the meditative quality of gardening itself.

I’m not going to try to convince you that working in your yard is somehow more relaxing than peacefully meditating in a lush green haven. However, I truly believe that if we are mindful and aware when we garden, we can learn to be more peaceful centered people and can find a deeper appreciation of the environment we build for ourselves.

Mindfulness is one of the basic principles behind most approaches to meditation and spiritual well being. At its most elemental form, mindfulness “…seek[s] to develop and nourish present moment awareness. [It] encourage[s] paying attention in a way so as to be more aware in the present moment of all that is here, and of the constantly changing nature of what is here.”  This constant awareness of the present moment seems like a critical part of the enjoyment of gardening.

Plants don’t generally provide immediate satisfaction in the same way they provide hope for future pleasure. I can feel good about planting a seedling tree now, however I know that I am not planting it for what it provides today, but rather for the benefits I will reap for years and years to come. For this reason, many see gardening as a chore; a sort of due to pay in order to later enjoy the fruits of labor. If you view gardening in this light, a dead plant or failed harvest is a lost investment. You are not likely to share the joy of gardening with your children, and future efforts at gardening, if any, often bear an urgency that only increases the heartache of subsequent failures.

Alternatively, if you can approach your garden with mindful awareness, the outcome is just icing on the cake. With full awareness, choose your seed. Appreciate the process of choosing the varieties of life you will be propagating. See the beauty in the natural processes that lead from fallen leaves and dead plants to the rich loamy earth between your fingers. Experience your connection with the lifecycle of your plants each time you water and feed them. If you can learn to draw pleasure from each moment spent in the garden, the outcome becomes just another step in an active meditation instead of the lynchpin to your enjoyment.

A garden or landscape designed specifically to enhance meditation is a truly wonderful place to be – a tranquil oasis of verdant green, soothing scents, soft textures to caress you senses. But for many of us, myself included, that perfect peaceful place seems to be a fantasy, out of reach because reality doesn’t allow time to reach that level of perfection. This is why I am learning to engage my all my senses in every action I take in my yard. During that time when I am alone with my garden, I am free from my worries, my stress, and my obligations. My yard doesn’t look like a luscious retreat, yet despite my hard work, or perhaps because of it, it is the most calming place I can be. I have experienced every aspect of it, and that complete awareness makes my meditation complete. I encourage you to practice this too, and work at transforming yard work into meditation.

Jesse Eastman

Owner & General Manager

Originally published on February 3rd, 2011. Updated on April 26th, 2011.