What Gardening Can Teach Us About Ourselves

Sunflowers In my Garden
Everyone deserves to make time for things and activities they are most passionate about. 

It’s March and it’s almost that time of year when we have to start getting our gardening tools out and start sowing our spring and summer crops.

I almost decided to not garden this year 1. because it took too much of my day hours last year, 2. i have more going on this year than I did last year when we first moved in this house. Spring 2017 was so spectacular that I spent 85% of my waking hours outdoors.

Last year was also my first time gardening, and thus was my first growing season. I remember how I felt when I was in my garden, it was an overwhelming feeling of joy and so much purpose. In the garden there’s always something that needed my attention. The dogs spent a lot of time outside too for as long as I was there. The three of us got a lot of sun together.

In working with earthly elements, I discovered another part of myself that I have not met before. It was in one of my gardening sessions last year when I was first introduced to the concept of intuition–in completely trusting this flow of ancient wisdom from elsewhere.

Gardening 2017
It took me to a quiet place where I just know what to do. It felt like coming home.

Here are some of the lessons I learned from the garden last year:

  • Tune in. If we pay attention, the plants (and our environment) will tell us what they need. I carry this with me now in all aspects of my life.
  • The high point in engaging ourselves on a project is what we learn during the process. To venture on a project for the first time is about learning to focus and invest our attention in mastering the craft and catching the wisdom that is shared by our process in the environment we are working on. Notice how you feel when you are deeply immersed in your element, I experienced many meditative moments, and some moments of frustration when I know there is nothing else I can do but let go. Our attention is our biggest investment in the projects we undertake, the money for the tools and equipments that we need comes secondary.
  • In gardening, there are several factors to why we reap what we reap during harvest. The gardener is not the only player in this game, nature has it’s say and will dictate what happens to our crops. It reminds me of our own impermanence in this world. What makes gardening fun is knowing you can keep building and growing the garden for the whole growing season. Which in my case here in the Pacific Northwest is short.
  • Set yourself up for success. I like playing this game with myself where I do as much as I can today so that I don’t have to do it tomorrow, but that caused me to missed some important things indoors that needed my attention. So this year, I am going to try and create a better time management so that both indoor and outdoor tasks that need my attention gets taken care of.
  • Patience instead of pressure. There are some projects that require pressure, and some people thrive in pressure. Gardening is the opposite of being under pressure because everything about it is effort and patience.
  • Creating in our element is an expansive experience. Notice how when we are doing what we are good at and what we love, we hardly notice the passing of time? Learning takes place when are ready to accept the wisdom and we stay with a project long enough to witness and help it through it’s life cycle.

Our experience on social media and other online outlets can be constricting. Recent studies have shown how our habit of “browsing” has noticeably cluttered our space and capacity for creating. Since the rise of social media in our culture, our attention span (adults and children) is noticeably shorter.

Working on projects that require an X amount of focus can help create a breathing room in our mind and our soul. These therapeutic activities (whatever it is that we decide to take on) create internal expansion and are healthier for us in the long run.

For a meticulous gardener, every plant is precious and needs ample attention and care. There is also the thrill of waking up everyday excited to see the changes: what’s thriving, what’s bloomed overnight and what’s being attacked by pests.

Gardening is inviting ourselves to co-create with nature. And I like this whole concept of time away from modern technology. It is not a cheap hobby, but it can be cost effective when planned accordingly. Last year, I grew almost every seed I could get my hands on. Some succeeded and some did not. And that was fun. This year, I will concentrate growing only herbs and vegetables that I use in my kitchen.

I am really excited to step into spring, get into the rhythm of the garden and find out more of what the plants can teach us.