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Meditation and gardening — my thoughts this new year

Posted on: February 24th, 2015 by Jon No Comments

As one of my New Year chal­lenges, I have enrolled in a short taster course at Birm­ing­ham Bud­dhist Cen­tre (Park Road, Mose­ley) to learn about med­i­ta­tion.  I have learned about the con­cept of ‘mind­ful­ness’ which is some­what of a ‘buzz word’ in sec­u­lar self-development as well as a core ele­ment in Bud­dhist teach­ings.  Essen­tially it is being more con­scious and ‘present’ to all your daily activ­i­ties how­ever sim­ple or menial. The ben­e­fits to men­tal health and well­be­ing of such behav­iour are well doc­u­mented now.

Gar­den­ing, like almost all daily activ­i­ties, can be approached in a ‘mind­ful’ way and yet so many of us tend to par­tic­i­pate with our eyes shut. For instance, It struck me that as a gar­den­ing pro­fes­sional, I can tend to get on to site and imme­di­ately focus on indi­vid­ual tasks, blink­ered to the big pic­ture, dri­ven by the goal of get­ting the job done to keep my client happy, and in a most cost effec­tive way. The trou­ble is that the very nature of focus can block out the periph­eral vision. Becom­ing aware and con­scious when in our gar­den is a joy. It con­nects us more directly to the earth we aim to inter­act with in an almost primeval way. Our gar­dens are a vibrant liv­ing envi­ron­ment, we step out there and become part of that envi­ron­ment, but we are guests. When we leave there the gar­den con­tin­ues to morph, to grow and to ‘be’. I do under­stand the argu­ment that time is money and being mind­ful doesn’t get the task done any quicker, but here lies the crux of the dis­cus­sion. Are our tasks in the gar­den, or when we walk the dog, go shop­ping,  put out our shiny new wheelie bins on rub­bish day,  are they indeed chores or a human expe­ri­ence to enjoy in what­ever way we can and then become a poten­tial source for plea­sure? It is all in the mind isn’t it? It is all down to per­cep­tion right?  Being mind­ful can be a plea­sure; it opens our hearts to a wider and more vis­ceral human expe­ri­ence. Kids have a nat­ural instinct to be mind­ful, some­thing we can grow out of as adults as the pres­sure of life bears down on us. Try to revert back to the enthu­si­as­tic child, open your ears and eyes because it’s good for the soul. Stop for moment to watch and engage Mr Robin as he hops around the recently turned soil some­times as close as a spade away or turn­ing a rock­ery stone to see hiber­nat­ing frogs and woodlice. When you find those lit­tle red bran­dling worms in you com­post, they relent­lessly turn leaves and clip­pings into usable gar­den com­post for us. That com­post that is feels soft and sen­sual and smells good enough to eat.  Rak­ing the leaves away to dis­cover a small clump of Snow­drops days from flow­er­ing, or notic­ing the roses you cut down in autumn have devel­oped juicy plump buds wait­ing to burst forth in May and June.

Gar­den­ing is a med­i­ta­tion in itself, any­thing that one enjoys as a process that can take your mind away from day to day wor­ries and strains. Under­taken ‘mind­fully’, it can awaken the senses to the world around you. So next time you are out in the gar­den cut­ting the lawn, weed­ing or plant­ing up your bor­ders do start to look and lis­ten more. Look up at trees, look and mar­vel at these giant organ­isms that in some cases have been grow­ing 100 years or more, lis­ten to bird in song.

In short, wake up and smell the freshly mown grass, it smells good!

Links www.birminghambuddhistcentre.org.uk

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