Gardening as Meditation

 

Welcome to this week’s wisdom for the Inner and Outer You.

Hello wisdom and adventure seekers! I’m a little late getting this post off to you this week but hey you know what they say, better late than never!

We had a great Morning Meditation session on Saturday. My thanks to those of you who attended. If you would like to see some clips from the last morning meditation where I introduced a Taoist Chakra meditation and Osho’s Gourishankar meditation simply click the following link: Morning Meditation Video

As spring is getting closer I hope you can appreciate this week’s article.

Gardening as Meditation

By Terry Hodgkinson

It all started when I was around 11. My father took up gardening when we moved to a house with a fair size back yard. Before that our family lived in an apartment and I had never known him to show any interest in gardening.

Every summer it was the same thing: “Terry I need your help in the garden today” I would hear him say, all too often. Back then, the last thing I wanted was to be stuck turning over soil or digging holes for hours on end to plant a bunch of vegetables for which I had no appreciation, not to mention it was interfering in time I would be spending hanging out my friends! Or at least that was my thinking anyways. As it turns out I’m glad my dad dragged my butt into the garden at that young age as a kid. There were probably better ways he could have approached it with me that would have been more appealing, but none the less I learned a lot anyways. In the fall even though I spent most of the summer dreading my dad’s “call to duty” I sure enjoyed seeing how everything had grown in only a few months. When I ate some of the vegetables, like four or five different varieties of tomatoes as well as zucchini, squash (coming out of our ears), green beans, turnip, carrots, green and red peppers and maybe even be a few that I’ve forgotten, I do remember how the feeling of eating what we grew impacted me. There was something really special about it, something very wholesome.

As I got a little older into my teen years I began to appreciate the garden far more than when my dad had first started it. However let there be no illusion: I still wasn’t overly excited about doing all the work beforehand. I enjoyed watering it however and there were times in the spring when my dad would pay me to go over to the Etobicoke Creek close to where we lived and collect as many fish as I could find to bring back and use for fertilizer. Yup, he paid me a whole 25c a fish, which seemed like a lot of money in those days.

Later on in years as an adult I would take up gardening once again with some help from Mei and Bronwen we would plant a great vegetable and flower garden. We started to compost all our green waste food each year to use as fertilizer and planting would always take place on the May long weekend. Composting can be a huge asset to your garden but it’s helpful if you have space to store your compost. I first learnt this from my brother-in-law Graham. He has grown some sensational flower gardens over the years that could have been award winning. He explained to me the concept of composting that I believe his dad had passed on to him. So later I added this to my repertoire of gardening skills.

I don’t think many people know how relaxing and all encompassing working in a garden can be. I relate it to my martial arts practice where you are attentive to what you are doing in the moment. I.e. basic movement, technique or kata. When you are involved executing any of these aspects in martial arts “without thinking” then your practice becomes a meditation in motion, like Tai Chi. Gardening is very much like this and I have noticed a distinctive Zen quality about the whole experience over the years.

Dr. Ka Rae’ Carey, a professional counselor and addictions’ specialist often suggests that people who suffer from uncontrolled anger, stress, and anxiety should get involved in outdoor activities like gardening. “I further encourage my clients specifically by giving them tasks to help them be mindful in their gardening activities. In other words, being completely present in the gardening activity.”

Personally I think gardening has been used as a kind of mental, emotional even spiritual therapy for centuries in many different cultures. The benefits run deep and wide and the inner calm and feelings of appreciation and accomplishment you gain from being involved in growing things is well worth your time and the effort spent. There are times now when I am doing work in the garden and time is non-existent, my mind totally involved in what I’m doing. So much so that there is nothing else occupying it, no thoughts, no chatter, no concerns just absorbed into what I’m doing in the moment. Usually hunger kicks in after a while and I start to think about getting lunch or dinner. Other than that what a great feeling to be working up a sweat in the garden, getting a tan, fresh air and exercise.

If you are active for a minimum of 30 minutes then gardening can rate right up there in the benefits that other forms of exercise such as walking and bicycling deliver, says research from the University of Virginia. Of course a lot of that depends on the tasks you are undertaking while doing gardening. Simply standing around watching your garden grow might do wonders for your mind but maybe not so much for your body. When you’re actually active in the garden you tend to work all the major muscle groups: legs, buttocks, arms, shoulders, neck, back and abdomen. Gardening tasks that use these muscles build strength and burn calories. Yes that’s right, burn calories, so that can also mean weight loss! The other benefit to gardening is there can be light stretching involved like reaching for weeds or tall branches, bending to plant and extending a rake. Lifting bags of mulch, pushing wheelbarrows and shoveling all provide resistance training similar to weight lifting, which leads to healthier bones and joints. Yet this is still considered a gentle approach with minimal impact and stress on the body unlike what other exercises such as running or aerobics might deliver.

As I mentioned before you can burn calories when you garden and this can be great for weight loss. Yes you do have to do it for more than a few times in the summer to see any results, but that I hope is just common sense. So make a plan to be out in the garden three to four times a week doing various tasks for up to 30 minutes or more each day. The University of Iowa has put out some general guide lines for certain activities and burned calories that you can see below:

• Digging Holes – Men: 197 calories, Women: 150 calories

• Planting – Men: 177 calories, Women: 135 calories

• Weeding – Men: 157 calories, Women: 156 calories

I would also like to mention that gardening can be a solo, family, group or even community activity. It’s a lot of fun when you’re able to do it with others. You know the Unified Field Theory in Physics? Well there is one in gardening too. It goes like this: When more than one person is unified working in the field with gardening then you all get to share in the benefits and good feelings produced for accomplishing something pretty fantastic together! I know that sounded pretty corny but hey…it’s true!

If you don’t believe me (or even if you do) you need to watch this TED TALK with Ron Finely. He started a vegetable garden in south-central Los Angeles on city owned property and soon it became a community affair. It wasn’t easy as they had to fight the government to do it but the art of gardening brought a WHOLESOME and NEW MEANING and many AWESOME BENEFITS to his family and local community! Coming from south-central L.A. he is a tough guy but man does he ever get off on…. GROWING THINGS!

Watch now: Ron Finely L.A. Guerilla Gardner

Recently I came across a company called, Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds that provides pure, natural, non-GMO and open-pollinated seeds. If you’re not sure what any of these terms mean please Google them and you will find out. To put it simply, these are some of the best seeds for planting out there from not a huge company but a family who loves healthy gardening. While they are not located in Canada, should you want to order their catalogue or any of their pure seeds they will ship to Canada or anywhere else in the world!

Have a look what they offer here: Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

Our Garden Zucchini

Our Garden Zucchini

This year we are looking forward in growing another banner crop. Four varieties of tomatoes, green string beans, zucchini, squash, red, green and yellow peppers, red and yellow hot chilly peepers, pumpkin,  onions, green peas, spinach and a bunch of herbs like mint, chives, coriander, lemon grass, sweet basil and oregano.

Our Garden Sunflowers

Our Garden Sunflowers

Plus a huge flower garden to attract lots of butterflies, bees, dragonflies and hopefully humming birds! Hmmm there is nothing like the feeling of sitting next to your garden that you have just worked in, on a warm day. Now relaxing as the sun is setting, having a nice cup of herbal mint tea (grown from your garden!) while you observe a multitude of activity from birds, bees, dragonflies and butterflies as they move about doing their work. A gentle breeze blows across the yard and dries the perspiration from your body, cooling you down nicely. Heavenly I say, or the next best thing anyways.

Our Garden Yellow Peppers

Our Garden Yellow Peppers

Our Garden Green Peppers

Our Garden Green Peppers

Our Garden Green String Beans

Our Garden Green String Beans

Mei Checking the Tamatoes

Mei Checking the Tamatoes

Our Garden Onion

Our Garden Onion

Our Garden Chilly Peppers

Our Garden Chilly Peppers

 

Our Garden Vegtable Tree

Our Garden Vegtable Tree

Most of all have fun with gardening. Make it interesting and enjoyable. Maybe grow something new that you haven’t grown before. I remember one year I planted a hybrid Sicilian zucchini-squash plant. Oh man it was ferocious: it just grew everywhere and anywhere. I had to keep cutting it back as the vines were traveling like they had a turbo function. They even climbed up a nearby tree and started growing huge zucchini-squash from the top of the tree and even on top of the roof of the house! It was just unbelievable. The tree became known as our vegetable tree and people laughed when they saw what I was talking about. Some said I should take pictures and send them into the local newspaper as they had never seen anything like it before. I never did but I took a few minutes of video to keep for memory sake, of that crazy tree! You can have a look at it here: Vegetable Tree in Garden Video

So why not get active this spring and grow something! Even if you’re not into having big gardens you can start off by planting one or two things and see how that works out. Later on you might like to expand and have a larger variety. Believe me it does tend to grow on you! Pun intended.

For me gardening has always been more than about staying in shape or looking forward to the harvest at the end. Don’t get me wrong I enjoy those aspects tremendously. However I also enjoy that it’s a way in taking care of the holy trinity of my being: the mind, body and spirit. Most off all, I enjoy that gardening is an awesome form of meditation where I’m in the moment with nature all around me and mindful of all that I am doing and all that it is doing for me!

In summarization I would like to leave you with these last few precious and meaningful words.

GROW SOMETHING!

 Quote for the week:

“One who plants a garden, plants happiness.”

– Francis Bacon

 

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About Terry Hodgkinson

Terry J. Hodgkinson is a MindFit consultant. He owns Positive Changes Hypnotherapy and Meditation Centre in Toronto, Canada. As a corporate trainer, keynote speaker and retreat leader he enjoys his work so much that he calls it his passion. In 2009 Terry's book, Memoirs of a Wandering Ninja - Walking the Path of Enlightenment was published. *For information on Terry's international retreats visit: www.TaoJourneys.com *Book Terry for your next event visit: www.TerryHodgkinson.ca *Martial arts training visit: www.ChungFuMartialArts.com
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2 Responses to Gardening as Meditation

  1. Caroline says:

    “He who sees things grow from the beginning will have the best view of them” -Aristotle
    Great article Terry!

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