Tending Beauty: Finding Mindfulness Through Gardening

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This is where it all started. Little did I know how long it would take to create a sacred space for budding beauty.

Bloom where you are planted.” – Mary Engelbreit

In late Spring of 2016, I decided that I wanted to create a garden space in the front of my house. A simple wish, full of daydreams buzzing with vibrant colors and hummingbirds. Up to that point, every place that we had lived as a family over the past six years always had a garden. Our several attempts at cultivating an organic vegetable garden were typically head up by my husband.  One of my biggest hopes when purchasing our first home was to be able to have the freedom to plant some real roots and to create a place for meditation and contemplation. I had not yet truly dug my fingers into the earth in such a way to create a deep and lasting connection,  but I craved that so much that I started setting the intention to develop that kind of relationship to the tender land around me. I watched my husband, year after year, seek connection to nature in our vegetable gardens, but I always kind of felt on the sidelines when it came to committing to working in a separate, dedicated space to develop my own connection to the sacred Mother.

Do what you can with what you have in front of you.

A wish…turned into a pocketful of seeds, turned into upturned earth. That’s the only way to plant these desires, you see. One step at a time. But I was naïve concerning all things gardening. I loved the idea of being able to harvest the beauty once it bloomed so that I could showcase and uplift the energy of our home. How selfish of me, truly.

A wish…turned out to be a desire to have my own needs met first, instead of being inclined to reach out and care for something other than myself. 

These things revealed their true nature the moment the leaves poked through the soil. The moment the fragility surfaced, I became aware. The beauty I originally desired to cherish was only skin deep, a mere aesthetic to please my own egotistic inclinations.

And so, as the seasons turned, I transformed that wish into something real. A true connection based on things outside of what I could only personally gain.

Don’t be a fair-weather friend.

So this initial wish… invited me to build a relationship. Not just some passing appreciation of the fruits of nature’s labors. I had no clue what was in store for me on this new journey. I wanted to create a space for peace and reflection, but I could only reach those things if I dug into the earth to find them.

I wanted to create a space for joy and laughter, but only could I attain those things if I invited my family into this budding connection. I had to invite them to come with me and play in the earth in ways that would help not just the garden grow, but our entire family grow, with more love and dedication.

 

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Show up to grow up.

Each new spring was different from the last. New explorations of color and nurturing tools were offered to this sacred space. At one point I was so dedicated to keep the grass from fighting with the flowers over territory that I literally clipped the invasive blades with a handheld pruner. From a distance, I am sure that it looked as if I were obsessively offering my yard a haircut. It was in that moment that I stopped and realized that this connection was starting to take a hold of me in some unexpected ways.

Weed through the guilt and shame.

I can’t tell you how many times my imagined fears of what the neighbors thought pressed down on my efforts to show up and take care of this space in my yard. “It’s not good enough” would rattle relentlessly in my thoughts as I pruned and plucked. The moment I finally let the fears go, a neighbor called the city on us for having “too high of grass.” 

Some days I could only do what was minimally necessary to keep the judgement at bay, to keep the city from offering us a warning to keep our wilderness a little more tamed and appealing.

Gosh, I shut down when that happened, because didn’t that silly neighbor see me uproot that blasted grass handful by handful just to clear more space for mulch? Didn’t the city recognize all of the hard work that went to the wayside when nature took over with torrential rains, so much that I could not step foot in what had become a mini marsh in our front yard?

Some days I would greet this garden with a heart full of appreciation, and other days my entire being would just ache with an incessant nagging to do something about it already. 

It became less of a harmonious vision and more of a “thing” to do something with. A  burden. A source of bellowing shame and guilt. One more thing to use against myself to convince everyone around me that my efforts are a crock.

But the true magic of this garden, when I open up and see it as it shows up, is that all of that unnecessary noise shuts up the moment I plant my fingers into the rich soil.

Set down expectations with the rising sun.

I had to come to a decision about what this garden meant to me. Was it going to be an endless source of pain, shame, and guilt? Was all of this showing up through rainstorms and overgrown grass, and weeds, and fire ants just to show me that I have to claim, once and for all, that I am enough, no matter what?

Something inside of me shifted, and it became less about what people thought of my yard and moved back towards the original wish for beauty. What had this become? Shame and guilt were not what I had intended to plant in this space.

So I made a choice of how I wanted to have relationship with this space. If I had anger and frustration within me, I could intentionally till it into the soil for healing. If I had sadness and overwhelm threatening to shut me down, I could bring a simple cup of coffee with me into a moment of silence and ask to see the beauty instead.

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Does planting these seeds impact others?

I am going to go out on a limb here and make the assumption that most of us have heard of the concept stating that our thoughts affect our moods, and our moods affect our behavior.
So there are these days, right, when my thoughts feel more like a battleground than a warm hug.
On those days, when those types of thoughts run rampant, I have to pretty much warn anyone around to give me extra space, otherwise they will end up in the irritability “splash zone”, so to speak. When I don’t have a set practice of turning that kind of thinking around, I am a mess, and my life gets way more messy.
I have found that every time I bring that nasty negativity with me into the garden, it somehow does not taint that space with more negativity. It transforms it.
I visualize each weed that I pluck out to be one of those self-negating thoughts. Each mound of soil that I turn over and till to prepare a supple body for planting new starters or seeds, I offered each thought, one by one, in this meditative offering to release this nasty poison keeping me locked in self-doubt or shame and guilt.
The less poison churning inside of me, the less amends I end up having to make because I am activating a ritual of healthy release instead of slamming everyone around me with this crap that gets stirred up inside of me almost daily

“Gardens are not made by singing ‘Oh, how beautiful,’ and sitting in the shade.” – Rudyard Kipling

I’ll be honest, I truly wanted this garden to just magically pop up and thrive on its own. I wanted to appreciate the fruits of my efforts without really putting any effort into it at all. Did I realize how self-centered that was when I started this adventure three years ago? Of course not. I simply was not aware at that time how much energy, time and presence was truly required of me in order to produce this concept into a living, breathing space of peace and contemplation. I simply did not realize that the imagined space that I desired was being created in all of the small, present moments within this growing thing. It was less about the destination and all about the journey.

Staying true to the beautiful journey.

So this truly has become more valuable than just a clutch of pretty flowers for me. Taking time and energy to be present in this space outside of my home has actually secretly become an unexpected extension of my home. It has turned into a space built for laughter and tears, for frustration to be burned off and replaced with deep satisfaction that I am at least making a difference to a small, budding flower, if even I cannot make a difference anywhere else in that day or moment.

Listen to that still, small voice.

So when the earth calls, I now listen in a more heart-centered way. I recognize my role in this relationship, that this isn’t a one-sided deal. On their own, flowers and plants can be pretty hardy and resilient, but man do they enjoy connection just as much as we do. Our energy and presence affects them when we offer a moment or two to show up and witness the birth of their awakening beauty. And their energy welcomes us to a place of inward reflection about how messy we can make life when we lose sight of tending the beauty.

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