Gardening as Meditation?
Updated: Jan 22, 2020
At certain times in my life, I can become an out of practice with my meditation. I love meditation and what it does for me, but it doesn’t always come easily. Recently, one of my dogs has been a handful. She is now in her “teenage years” and apparently doesn’t know the difference between a dog toy and a pillow. So leaving her alone is a crap shoot. She could be fine, but then again there’s always that chance that you’ll come home to the stuffing of the couch spread about the living room floor like the guts of her latest dog toy. Which by the way recently happened.
So last week I was hopeful when I had to leave her in the house to go check on a few things. When I entered the kitchen and neither dog was there to greet me I immediately knew the odds of all being well were dwindling by the second. Sure enough, there were the remains of a throw pillow spread all of the living room. And only over a fifteen minute time span too! Dog 5- pillows-0. You’d think I would have learned my lesson, but apparently, I’m not there yet. After cleaning up the incredibly amount of fluff that was stuffed in that little pillow (seriously, it’s amazing how it all fits), I put her in her mobile kennel (also known as the car) so I could get back to fall cleanup in the garden. This is when the little voice in my head told me to practice presence.
Presence as a form of meditation is not a new thing. It is precisely why many avid gardeners love to garden. Weather you know it or not, staying in the present moment is a totally valid form of meditation. Making a point of clearing your head by listening to what’s going on around you- the birds, bees, wind, rustling of leaves; as well as your actions- cutting plants back, weeding, deadheading gets your thoughts out of your head and into the present moment.
It’s not easy as it sounds. It’s much easier to sit there cutting back plants thinking about how bad your dog was for chewing up the pillow and worry about what you’re going to do with her. Of course this type of thinking is neither here nor there. Really sitting in presence by watching each snip of the pruners and mindfully cleaning up the garden while thinking of each action deliberately helps you to clear your head of unhealthy thinking and get back to center. It helps to make more deliberate decisions, stay in the now and clear your anger more quickly.
Most of us already know that meditation has a ton of benefits. It reduces stress, reduces high blood pressure, increases the ability to concentrate, helps with depression and insomnia. It also helps with improving brain function, decreasing anxiety and improves breathing and heart rates. Some even say that it improves metabolism helping you to lose weight, reduces aging and increases immunity. It personally helps me by keeping me out of my head and unhealthy thought patterns, helps me to be more optimistic and self-accepting and helps me to be more relaxed overall. It is amazing how many benefits there are from a simple five minute meditation. It’s a wonder we are all not meditating every day, throughout the day. Oh yeah, this does not happen because it is not easy!
Meditation can be hard if your brain is cram packed with the day to day thoughts, activities and emotions we all carry with us every minute of every day. To sit in silence and clear all of that out of our head and focus on the moment is a serious challenge, hence why I am currently an out of practice meditator. But really- it’s only if we make it that way. All of those thoughts and emotions are precisely why we need to do it. It doesn’t have to be difficult, but of course we humans have to over complicate it. It’s really a matter of finding a method that works for you.
There are a ton of different apps that help with meditation. Most have soothing guided meditations with calm music or nature sounds and timers built in. There are countless ways to meditate on your own. You can chant a simple mantra over and over- think “ohm”, focus your attention on your breath or a body part, such as your fingertips or just sit with a timer going and do whatever works for you. The goal is to not let your thoughts take over. I like to use the analogy of letting the thoughts that pop up in my head (and they ALWAYS do) as clouds that float away the same way they came in. Then of course there is simply being mindful in the present moment. No timer, music or app needed. This can be done anytime, anywhere. While driving, walking, cleaning dishes, anything really.
Gardening is a perfect way of being in the present moment and it is precisely why a lot of gardeners lose track of time, get fully immersed in the task at hand and love the art of gardening. The nurturing aspect of gardening makes being present come naturally. The key in making gardening an act of meditation is by keeping all of those thoughts floating on downstream without giving them any time to stew into a story. Stay focused on the simple tasks of gardening.
After my dog shredding experience, I practiced exactly this. Watching each stem I cut, and weed I pulled without getting lost in the story of my teenage dog testing her boundaries. I’m not gonna lie, it was easier to think about how many more pillows and couches could be destroyed and how mad I would get each time I had to clean it up, but I kept at it. Eventually the time between each crazy story lengthened and my sanity restored itself once again. Not only that, but my productivity was increased dramatically. I had cut back an incredible amount in a surprising amount of time. And at the end of it all, I forgave my young dog for exactly that. Being young and not knowing any better. In addition, my meditation practice is coming along and actually becoming a regular thing. By simply starting from the point I was it, it has gotten easier to sit and quiet my mind on a regular basis.
So if you’re a gardener, keep gardening! You are becoming less stressed, cultivating greater ability to concentrate and lowering your blood pressure with each cut you make. I bet you didn’t know you were meditating did you? There are plenty of indoor gardening projects that can be completed any time of year. Make sure to visit your local greenhouse for some inspiration. If you are not a fan of gardening and prefer to call it “yard work”, give this method a chance next time you have to prune your bushes. You might even be a little calmer next time around.