INTUITIVE GARDENING: Spontaneous Gardening, Nature Therapy, and Mindfulness Practice

Apr 20, 2022

It is an amazing feeling to be in relationship with plant beings, these magical lifeforms that feed us and give us life. When I'm not gardening, or only ornamental gardening, I tend to forget that food comes from the Earth. As a Western Consumer, I usually get my food and sustenance from the grocery store or from a restaurant. It is therefore particularly satisfying to walk out my door and have yummy food that is offering itself in its generous lifecycle from the garden and the land that I tend to.


I am an impulsive, spontaneous gardener. I have a green thumb, so whenever I walk by a plant I feel empathic to the plant’s needs and if it seems thirsty I feel uncontrollably compelled to water it. I never make plans to garden. I never make time in my busy schedule for gardening. It just happens. If I'm outside of my house, it just starts happening. I find myself responding to the needs of the garden. If it has recently rained I find myself pulling weeds when they come up so easy when the soil is soft and moist. If the days are getting warmer, I start planting seeds as I feel the warmth inspire me and my connection to the plants and the many levels of sustenance they provide me. Gardening has always been an effective form of therapy for me and I am naturally compelled to do it.

I've been gardening this way for many years, off and on, depending on whether my living situation provided much of a gardening space. My recent living situation provides ample gardening opportunities and I've started impulsively gardening for at least 15 minutes every day. Beyond simply a form of nature therapy, it has now become an opportunity for a mindfulness practice. Now, when I find myself spontaneously gardening in my natural, intuitive fashion, I recognize my intuition at work. I practice dropping into that place of intuiting the needs of the plants and living systems all around me with present-moment-centered awareness. The experience has shifted from an activity that sweeps me into the present moment to one that I consciously imbue with mindful consciousness. 

When in a state of mindfulness, I slow down. I pay particular attention to every stimulus and happening - be they my own footsteps, to the breath I feel at my nostrils. I feel into each step, each breath. There is a clear sensation of making contact with a gravitational force beneath me, while simultaneously my posture rises upwards towards the heavens. Even the fresh morning air and sunlight caressing my skin feel profound as I am willing to absorb the experience of it all. While moving very slowly, I embody each movement I make with my living presence. And in this slower state, so much freer from my head, from thoughts, from worry, from time, I drop into the level in which nature communicates. In this level, or state of awareness, I am even that much more sensitive to the connections, the happenings, the constant exchanges, and interactions in the garden, I am that much more sensitive to the needs and intelligence of the plant beings all around me.

I flow with this timeless state for as long as it feels good to me each morning, then I shift back to ordinary reality with its busy agenda for the day and all the time constraints to go along with it. And maybe, over time, some of my mindfulness gardening will start to permeate the rest of my activities so that life in all of its arenas can be a little more spontaneous and a little more intuitive as well.

Feeling a need for nature therapy? Try a daily practice of working with nature. Try intuitive gardening or a mindfulness gardening practice. Set aside an amount of time on a daily basis to engage in the garden and allow whatever spontaneously arises to simply arise. Do whatever the garden calls you to do and try to do this in a state of mindfulness. If you see some handy mulch, fresh from the lawnmower, that seems needed somewhere take that action and try to keep your focus on the task at hand. Like the Buddhist aphorism, “chop wood carry water,” Keep it simple. Notice the life all around you, even if it is totally urban.  Life is everywhere. Tap into it in present-moment-centered awareness. This is the practice.

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