Why Gardens Inspire Mindfulness

While gardening we may believe that we’re nurturing plants, but it’s the other way round; the plants are taking care of us. Plants are so inspirational and If we’re quiet and listen they whisper timeless truths. Here are 5 life lessons your garden wants you to hear:

1) The tortoise wins the race

There have been times in my life when I’ve become a workaholic and celebrated being ‘so busy’. This egotistical “busyness” eventually led to me staring at my computer like a zombie, utterly exhausted. I was not effective, creative or productive until I started to take breaks. When I went outside and enjoyed the park I noticed that nature is slow and steady. Nature never burns out; nature has an endless supply of creativity and energy. Let us not forget that we are part of nature, and when we mirror nature we become one with it and are rewarded. When we respect and listen to our bodies we are given more energy. Nature knows with patience and pacing there is time for everything. If we pause when we are tired and go at our own pace, we will be successful. Pushing our bodies too hard goes against nature and is a form of violence. 1 year ago I decided to never miss my twice daily meditation practice because I was ‘too busy’.  Being ‘too busy’ to take care of our magnificent vehicles that nature has gifted to us is insanity. In order to function properly we must pause.

2) Beauty is everywhere

While wandering in the park I realized a deep truth - there is beauty in ALL things. The mind can disagree as it tends to find fault and compare; but beauty isn’t mind-made or a concept. Beauty isn’t linked to thoughts, to what the mind labels as ‘attractive’ or ‘ugly’. If any third party labels us as unattractive it is irrelevant, it is not the truth. Beauty is inclusive, expansive and everywhere.

Seeing the beauty within ourselves is something that we may lose connection with. We absorb messages about what is beautiful from artificial environments, such as our culture and the media. When we return to a natural environment, such as a garden, we see many different shaped organisms, all with important roles to play. Each organism is beautiful in its own uniqueness. A dandelion clock is beautiful, a cactus is beautiful, a fur tree is beautiful, an orchid is beautiful, a mushroom is beautiful... so I am beautiful. When we see the beauty in a multitude of different forms we are more able to see beauty within ourselves. The garden reminds us that we are beautiful and glorious in our uniqueness.

3) Meditate to connect with nature

Garden Meditation

Click here to download or stream

My garden meditation is tailored to boost appreciation for yourself and the world around you.  We begin with breath awareness, body scanning and a beautiful garden visualization; then a creature appears reminding us of unique qualities we may have forgotten along our life journey. Visualizing nature has a calming effect on the nervous system. The more times you listen to this meditation the more mindful you will become.

4) Slow down - nature never hurries yet everything is done

It’s so calming to slow down and just be with the plants and the trees. When we’re in green spaces we may sense what could be described as an ‘active stillness’. We may begin to notice the silence of growing things. At a glance a garden may appear to be unmoving, however though time-lapse photography we know that everything is alive and transforming. There is a beautiful, eternal dance going on. This is also true of our human bodies; at rest we’re rejuvenating and our cells are alive and multiplying. It’s ironic, but in states of non-doing could we be accomplishing more?

5) Life is a celebration

When we enter a garden we see nature at play; Mother Earth is celebrating, expressing herself in an array of different forms; these forms bloom then dissolve back into the earth to become new forms in an eternal game of growth and transformation.  

The earth laughs in flowers
— Ralph Waldo Emerson

A garden bursts with unique and exquisite organisms that live in harmony together. Each organism alone is a work of art, however together they create the masterpiece. Let us all live happily together knowing each of us play an important role in the masterpiece. Let us never compare ourself with another or believe that we have no useful purpose. We all have a right to be here. Flowers are never insecure - a flower does not compete with the flower next to it; it just blooms. And if ever we feel sad we can try gardening; it’s is cheaper than therapy and we get tomatoes! My therapist is my basil plant...it taught me two things: to never to give up; and after a long time being dormant to make a come-back!

By Aruna Shields (CHP, MBCT)