Exploring how Silence and the Contemplative Way infuse into our ordinary everyday active lives, how Awareness manifests itself, and how we respond to the call to surrender to the divinity within.

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Gardening Wisdom

Gardening is cheaper than therapy, and you get tomatoes.

Mindfulness is a practice which has become greatly accessible to people of all traditions and faiths. Often sought as a remedy for excess mind activity and turbulent emotions, many people don't quite know why they are drawn to it - they just know they feel more balanced, centred and happy by having this practice in their lives. Mindfulness teaches the fundamentals of meditation and of present-moment awareness.

This practice is of immense value as it teaches us self-awareness - we become aware of our habitual patterns of thought. We begin to see how much of our day is taken up with worries, stress and ruminating over situations past or future. It reminds us to bring our awareness back to our immediate current situation, our immediate activity, surroundings and bodily sensations. It trains us to create an internal anchor such as the breath or anchored awareness of our body in the immediate moment. This action of continually returning to present-moment awareness is meditation, it is mindfulness.

By locating our attention on our immediate surroundings, we are dropping an anchor into the deepest and calmest part of the ocean. It steadies our erratic movements, and gives us a chance to look around and get our bearings. Present-moment awareness is naturally calm and it slows and soothes both mind and emotions. Because of our deepening self-awareness, we come to know ourselves very well. Dedicated practice over time habituates us to fresh moment-by-moment awareness, and centres us in our true nature. Through longer and more focussed meditation practice, we learn to recognise ourselves, and learn to recognise Presence. 

Take a look at a gardener at work, or anyone who works physically with their hands. A rhythm comes upon them and a natural ease in their movements. They are not in a rush. Years have taught them that there will be more weeds tomorrow, so they just do what they can today. They witness their thoughts and bodies relaxing as they focus fully on the work. They always pause to look around the whole garden as a complete entity, to search for ideas and inspiration for the next season's planting, and to decide what needs pruning later in the autumn.

They always take time to stop at their favourite flower in bloom. They take time to smell the roses, to water the dry patches, to tend the seedlings, to thin out the carrots, to rub the cat that loves visiting her owner in this space. They see which plants are struggling and which ones are taking over, and they have no problem pruning and removing plants, and relegating them to the compost heap. They know the overall garden rhythm. It is all natural.

Some days, they will even go out and attack the garden with tools and clippers with a whole load of steam built up inside. After an hour, the higher balance of nature will have exhausted them, and unleashed their steam. They return to themselves. Even as the gardener is slowed by age and arthritis, they know every inch of this familiar landscape, and find a spot to sit where Presence is loud, and the heart becomes still.

Any practice that brings us home to ourselves is a gift to be cherished and an activity to pursue with priority for all our days. This is effortless mindfulness. We may go for another round of golf, another choir practice, a music gig, a leisurely walk or run in the park, T'ai Chi, or some Meditation or Centering Prayer - whatever brings us home. We all benefit when we are around people who know themselves deeply, know and practise their divine practice, and share Presence by their presence. 

We spend our lives hurrying away from the real, as though it were deadly to us. "It must be up there somewhere on the horizon," we think. And all the time it is in the soil, right beneath our feet.

William Bryant Logan, Dirt: The Ecstatic Skin of the Earth