Saturday, August 4, 2007

The Zen of Gardening

Today was one of those days in which I hit the ground running. Seems from the moment I woke up, I started working. What began as a simple intention to water the garden quickly turned into a two hour project in which I pulled weeds, uprooted and transplanted flowers, and generally got pretty dirty pretty quickly. If you've never done yard work, and I'm talking about the kind that requires moving quantities of dirt around, then you really can't appreciate how much energy and muscle that kind of work requires. It's brutal, especially when you're doing it under the summer sun.

In spite of its rigors, I find gardening to be a very rewarding experience. It allows me to think but, more importantly, it allows me NOT to think. It allows me to focus on the task at hand and not think about the many issues of life that must be dealt with. This is my form of meditation. Most people who meditate do so purposefully while in a consciously relaxed state. I, on the other hand, tend to meditate best when I am actively engaged in a creative activity that requires me to focus on details. In doing so, it quiets the mental chatter on the analytical left side of my brain and allows my creative right brain to roam freely.

Take gardening, for example. I must focus as I am digging and tilling so as not to damage my plants, then squat down and meticulously pick out weeds from the freshly tilled soil. While doing this, I notice the pill bugs, the earthworms, the newly formed buds on the flowers, the variety of insects buzzing around and pollinating the mature blooms. I take in all the little details that most people pay no attention to and marvel at their perfect synchronicity to the rhythms of nature. More often than not, while I'm focusing in this manner, something amazing occurs. The resolution to a issue I had been pondering some time before suddenly appears in my head. Never mind that I hadn't been consciously thinking about the issue or that it may be totally unrelated to what I am doing at the time. Suddenly there it is, presented with a totally fresh perspective. These insights occur with great frequency and I am convinced it is not a random phenomenon.

Gardening has other rewards as well. In addition to the beautiful blooms and delicious crops, it requires you to be outdoors where you are in closer proximity to nature's wildlife. If you're lucky, you can witness a brief visit by a beautiful winged traveller as it passes through the area. This morning was such a day and I was twice blessed, seeing a monarch butterfly in my front garden and a black dragonfly in my backyard. In both cases, these beautiful creatures circled around in front of me as if trying to catch my attention before disappearing again. In animal symbolism, the butterfly is a symbol of transformation. The dragonfly brings the vision of ancient knowledge and allows us to see past self-imposed illusions. I see them both as portents of a challenging and bright future.

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