Becoming a Mindful Gardener Amidst a World in Chaos

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When an envelope of chaos surrounds your life, it is important to know that your garden can be a place of refreshment, renewal, and hope. It can be a safe place where you can be still and become one with the natural world around you. This is a good thing. We often trip on our thoughts, on fear, and on the what if’s. In the garden, you can be still, content, and soak in the beauty that surrounds you. When you become a mindful gardener, you have arrived at a place that allows you to escape the chaos of the world and just be.

“We may think we are nurturing our garden, but of course it’s our garden that is really nurturing us.” Jenny Uglow

When I was a much younger gardener, I was like a bull in a china shop. I was really into digging, moving, planting, and sweating. For me, gardening was a functional form of movement that kept me in great shape physically. It was not until I became older that I realized that there was so much more to reap from gardening besides the physical benefits. As I slowed down a bit and really became a much more thoughtful gardener, I started to sense the additional benefits that I was enjoying.

What is mindful gardening?

According to  the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, mindfulness is,the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis.”

Gardening has this amazing way of grounding you in the moment. Perhaps this is due to the intimate contact we have with the living world, or the sense of joy that we get from working to beautify a space and growing our own food. This begets a sense of peace, joy, and security that is unlike anything else. It is only when we slow down and let our minds and hearts connect to the space that we really become one with our garden.

If you are anything like me, your thoughts tend to wander, and sometimes it is hard to harness them, to slow them down for long enough to be still. If I am not moving, I am thinking, and it is hard to stop both of these things long enough to be present in the moment. But, gardening has a way of allowing things to slow down, if only just for a moment.  Gardening is a type of movement that teaches us how to be mindful and present. When you are fully engaged in the experience, your enjoyment and focus are concentrated on digging, planting, pulling, or watering – in caring for another living thing.

Gardening connects us to nature

When was the last time that you took the time to take a long walk in the woods, stroll leisurely, enjoying the moment while taking in the fresh air and the beautiful sights and aromas of nature? 

It is important to reconnect with the natural world around us regularly. Technology has stolen time, energy, and desire from us as it makes it easy to live in the past or worry about the future. When we step out into nature or into a blossoming garden, with no phone in tow, we can become one with our thoughts and the natural world around us. 

You will experience more energy and a better mood

This may seem scary to you, to be alone with just the fresh air, sunshine and plants that surround you, but truly, truly, once you do it a few times, you will find that there are huge mental benefits, including decreased stress, improved energy, and an uplifted spirit. We can all use that right now!

Digging in the soil, watering my plants, and admiring how a seed can grow into beautiful mature plants is like a detox for my mind. While nurturing my garden, I am nurturing my mind. I am engaged in simple tasks with immeasurable benefits that go beyond my time in the garden. In just thirty minutes, I become a better person, a happier person, and a more grounded person. Just because I spent some time in my garden. 

More benefits of gardening

A reminder that life is precious – Gardening is a reminder that life is a precious gift. When you garden, you get a front-row seat to the beauty of life – watching plants blossom and thrive. Perennials come back year after year, showing us that even in the coldest winters, there is hope and healing. Weeding helps us remove toxic thoughts and negative energy and emotions and allows for positivity to flourish. From the dirt comes beauty, a reminder that we can rise above our problems.

We also see the fragile nature of our life in the garden. I remember when my entire garden was wiped out from an unexpected and severe hailstorm. Yes, there were new beginnings, new plants, and new life, but that storm really helped me to live more mindfully and enjoy each moment that I am given.

An opportunity to become creative – You may not describe yourself as a creative person, but gardening allows you to use a different part of your brain than you might use on a daily basis. Being outdoors boosts energy and cognitive power, allowing your creative self to flow. Many people consider gardening a form of art. It is in being a good steward of the natural world around us that we can let our creativity replace negativity and worry.

You can self reflect – Gardening allows us to self reflect, to let our thoughts flow uninterrupted. Feel your emotions and allow yourself to let go of things that are holding you back or discouraging you. Being mindful means being aware of your emotions and your thoughts. How does it feel to see that sunflower reaching for the sky or the intricate design your bean plant has made on the trellis. What do these plants remind you of? Perhaps to always keep moving forward, to appreciate the beautiful complexities in your life, etc. It is in these moments of ultimate self-awareness that we grow, mature, and become content.

You can let go of stress and anxiety – Is your body here but your mind always somewhere else? Do you hyper-focus on the negative in your life or in the world around you? Do you live in fear and worry? If so, you are not alone. Time passes very quickly when we let fear drive. However, when we replace fear with hope and peace, everything slows down. Gardening helps to reduce stress and anxiety, it pushes out fear, and it replaces it with a mindful state that allows us to let down and just be. Gardening helps remind you of what you can and can’t control, it helps you to let go and standstill in a beautiful moment of time, reaping everything from every single minute while cleansing your mind.

How to become more mindful in your garden

Here are some ways that I have learned to become more mindful in my garden.

  • Don’t take your phone with you.
  • Don’t worry about the time. Give yourself an entire afternoon to enjoy your garden – no restrictions, nowhere to be and nothing else to do.
  • Be patient – it takes time for you to slow your mind and really focus on what is directly in front of you. 
  • Look for metaphors in your garden. A new plant is a fresh start, new life, hope, and growth. How does this apply to your life? 
  • Pick a few special plants to really focus on each time you are in the garden. Look at their color, their shape, feel them, smell them, and engage all of your senses.

Plant a garden, nurture your mind and spirit.

-Susan Patterson

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