Gardening to Lift One's Spirits
Gardening and Spirituality, Horticultural Therapy, Spiritual Gardens
Gardening and Mental Health, Gardening and the Good Life 
 

A variety of observations, references, and quotes about gardening as a path to awakening and joy. 

By Michael P. Garofalo

February 2001

 

Main Menu of Themes

 

Gardening and Spirituality, Part I: Quotes, Sayings, Poems

Gardening and Spirituality, Part II: Quotes, Sayings, Poems

Religion and Gardening: Quotes, Sayings, Poems 

The Spirit of Gardening Index

Introduction

Doing and Appreciating

Enriching the Senses

Earth

Fast Path and Slow Path

Gardening for Everyone

Gratitude

Nature Spirits and Devas

Intimate Connections

Humor and Jokes

Lessons from the Earth

Trees

Nurturing Ourselves

Lifestyle Advice for Wise Persons

Earth Religions

On Quiet Time and Silence 

Our Paths in the Valley Blog

Power and Control

Putting Us In Our Place 

Flowers

Reasons for Taking Up the Gardening Way

Seeing

Taoism and Gardening

Pulling Onions: Quips and Sayings of an Old Gardener

Relaxation and Awareness

Index to the Spirit of Gardening

Themes to be Developed in the Near Future

Zen Poetry

 

 

Portions of this essay were published in Psychic Reader (June 2000, Volume 25, No.6) and titled: "The Way of the Gardener."

 

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Introduction

 

    Many serious minded women and men, spiritual seekers, have become advocates for gardening as an effective means to start and stay on the spiritual path.  They are rediscovering a centuries old tradition of combining prayer, meditation, or silence with the daily efforts of hoeing, digging, watering, planting, harvesting, and pruning in their gardens.  Even the quiet contemplation of the beauties and wonders of a garden, after a few hours of work in the garden, are sufficient for many to transport them into mystical reveries or provide profound insights.  This essay will explore the connections between gardening and the spiritual life, and how spiritual values are mirrored in gardening activities.   We will double dig into the rich soil of metaphors, cliches, proverbs, symbols, and similes planted with the two seeds of gardening and spirituality; and, try to show how both growing together, inter-twining, have made us wiser and better persons. 

 

    Gardening satisfies many basic human needs.  A garden offers protection for the home, a safe place for leisure time activities, and a haven for the mystically inclined.  Gardening allows for personal participation, hands on involvement, and intimate earthly connections.   Gardens provide a laboratory for learning about Nature, a homeground for the practice of the arts and sciences, and a sure method for understanding more about our world.   Gardening satisfies our thirst for artistic and personal creativity, and allows us to unfold some of the mysterious layers of creation itself.   We are free to create our gardens to reflect our own tastes and desires, free to explore the magnificent palette of colors and smells that a garden can offer, and freed from some of the cares and worries than bind our lives.  Gardening can point to our true selves, help us grow a new identity, form our characters, and reflect our unique personalities.   Our gardens shown our concern and love, provide a common ground for conversations and friendships with others, pat us on the back for a job well done, and are a enduring source for our affections towards Mother Nature.  Gardening helps us relax, unwind, smile, and enjoy our moments of leisure in our busy lives.   And for the gardener, in the end, as we open a husk of corn, or crack a walnut, or peel a potato, or slice a tomato ... we can satisfy the hunger and thirst that are our calling to Life.  


"Gardening is an active participation in the deepest mysteries of the universe."  - Thomas Berry

"Cultivate the garden within."

"We may have to learn again the mystery of the garden: how its external characteristics model the heart itself,
and how the soul is a garden enclosed, our own perpetual paradise where we can be refreshed and restored."
-  Thomas Moore

"Indian monks were the first to choose the garden as the proper setting for their lives, which were devoted to the
contemplation of the divine; but with a prophetic eye we may see that the garden will often be dedicated in a
like manner: at a later time Greek philosophers, and monks in early Christian days, will retire into their
gardens for united, yet silent, contemplation."
-  Marie Luise Gothein, A History of Garden Art, 1928, p.50

 

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Gardening at the Dragon's Gate: At Work in the Wild and Cultivated Worlds by Wendy Johnson
The Findhorn Garden: Pioneering a New Vision of Man and Nature in Cooperation by the Findhorn Community
The Inward Garden: Creating a Place of Beauty and Meaning by Julie Messervy 
A Garden's Promise: Spiritual Reflections on Growing from the Heart by Judith Couchman 
The Soul Garden: Creating Garden Spaces for Inner Growth and Spiritual Renewal by Donald Norfork 
The Druidry Handbook: Spiritual Practice Rooted in the Living Earth by John Michael Greer
Landscape as Spirit: Creating a Contemplative Garden by Martin Hakubai Mosko
Sacred Circle Garden by Karen and Mike Garofalo
Sacred Gardens by Michel and Judy Marcellot
Spiritual Gardening: Creating Sacred Space Outdoors by Peg Streep
Gardens for the Soul: Designing Outdoor Spaces Using Ancient Symbols and Healing Plants by Pamela Woods 

 

                             

 

 

 

Reasons for Taking Up the Gardening Way

 

    Gardening is a mixture of many arts and skills, and gardeners have many reasons for taking up the Way of the Gardener.  There is seldom a single reason that explains why we began the hobby, and there are often many reasons why we continue to eagerly sweat in the sun in behalf of the green world. Sometimes our memories that beckon us back to the soil, and sometimes it is an unconscious optimism in a good and flourishing future that drives our enthusiasm.  Some crave fresh vegetables, others want vigorous exercise, some need a closer union with Mother Earth, and many just want to help keep up the neighborhood property values. 

    Likewise, our love for and commitment to the spiritual life is planted by unknown forces and nourished by complex reasons that elude our full understanding.  The concept of the "spiritual" is more like a big family of meanings: ultimate concerns, fundamental values, The Holy, eternal truths, sacred mysteries, the Real World, release from illusions, supernatural realms and beings, the Ground of Being, God, care of the soul, etc..  Some seek the Truth, others want to embody goodness and love, some worship Beauty, some hope for salvation, others strive for enlightenment, others yearn for mystical experience, and many just follow the guidance of religious leaders in the traditional religions.  The wide range of religions, rites, rituals, and spiritual practices testify to the variety of human concerns and needs.  Therefore, any examination of why we find wholehearted and attentive gardening a spiritual concern is likely to as twisted and confusing as being in a maze of yew hedges, and as rich and complex as our gardens themselves.  

 


"The garden is a metaphor for life, and gardening is a symbol of the spiritual path."  Larry Dossey

 

 

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Lessons From the Earth


    Sages and mystics throughout the ages have harvested moral and spiritual lessons from the garden and from the natural world.  Most of us lack the ken for gleaning such spiritual facts, but can readily and eagerly digest the insights of wiser souls.  For millennia, nearly everyone tended a garden or worked the fields to survive, so the moral lessons derived were readily understood, rooted in traditional tales and proverbs, and planted in every child.  Gardening does teach us something about ourselves, about our interdependence with the world of nature, about the relationship between work and creativity, about our quieter and deeper states of being, and about how we might begin to discern those spiritual facts that elude us in other aspects of our lives.  Gardening can produce revelations of the profound in the ordinary.  The mere existence of our gardens, sometimes built from the bare ground up, and their ever changing manifestations, are startling facts that often amaze and delight both our mind and soul.  Gardening can teach us much about beauty, love, natural history, lasting values, and the seasons of our lives.  

    

"Every natural fact is a symbol of some spiritual fact."   -  Ralph Waldo Emerson

"To see a world in a grain of sand
And heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour."
-  William Blake

 

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Nurturing Ourselves for Physical and Spiritual Health

 

    Avid gardeners are keenly aware of the aspects of nurturing needed to make a garden flourish.  Nurturing requires daily efforts and attention, a vision or detailed plan, respect and appreciation for the young plants, a willingness to protect vulnerable plants from the elements, and a strong sense of the ongoing duties required to maintain a fine garden.  Nurturing plants requires a good understanding of the nature and potential of different species, and the purpose for which a plant is cultivated - for flowers, foliage, or fruit.  This aspect of nurturing a garden reminds us of our need to nurture our own bodies by means of good food, reasonable exercise, adequate water, proper rest, cleanliness, and fulfilling our own personal goals and inner nature.  We know we must weed out the influences in our lives that sap our energy and stunt our own growth.  We know we must supply new ideas, knowledge, and creative stimulation to fertilize our minds.  We know we must prune back excessive worries, unneeded products, rank desires, and old habits so that we might renew ourselves and experience vital rebirth.  We see how a neglected plant withers and dies; and likewise how our own faults and failings towards ourselves lead to poor health, mental weakness or moral decay.   As we become more skilled at nurturing plants, we begin to apply these principles to our own bodies and minds and begin to develop the vital ground for spiritual awakening. 

 

"Our bodies are our gardens, to which our wills are gardeners."  -  William Shakespeare

 

 

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Relaxation and Awareness

 

    Active work in the garden is well known as a means to relax the body from the stress of modern life.  Gardening provides bodily exercise that tends to increase deep and regular breathing, reduce muscular tension, lower the blood pressure, open the pathways of energy in the body, provide needed sunshine and outdoor air, and calm the nerves.  People often speak of "feeling better" when they garden.   Gardening gets us away from the workplace, computer screens, books, television, and other people.  In a quiet corner of the garden we can bury the worries of the day.  All of these elements combine to produce many of the same effects of seated meditation: steady breathing, a soft smile, non-attached attention, an acute sensitivity to the presence and aliveness of the ordinary world, alertness without tension, and a release from the fleeting illusions of the busy mundane mind.  Even in the more demanding aspects of gardening, such as deep digging and weeding, we find our body energized and our spirits lifted in marvelous ways. 

 

"Cares melt when you kneel in your garden."
-  Anonymous

 

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Power and Control

 

    Gardening is an exercise of power.  We hold the reins over these planted beings.  They live and flourish, or wither, or meet sudden death at our hands.  Weeding is an act of destruction; necessary, but destructive none the less.  Choosing to withhold water from a tender young plant, or cutting down a misplaced tree or shrub, are firm and final exercises in the application of power.  The realms of the spirit or supernatural also have important elements of power at work.  Judgments about eternal salvation or damnation, miracles, magical abilities, or the power of spiritual and religious authorities are but a few of the manifestations of power that people respect or fear.  Some believe that supernatural beings like the Angel of Death or the Fates can pluck us from life as easily as we can pluck grapes from the vine.  We are attracted to the exercise of power, earthly or spiritual; it's in our blood and bones, and we are drawn into the dirty fray for better or worse. 

 

"In the garden the door is always open into the "holy" - growth, birth, death.
Every flower holds the whole mystery in its short cycle, and in the garden
we are never far away from death, the fertilizing, good, creative death."
-  May Sarton

"Death is more universal than life - everyone dies but not everyone lives."  - Anonymous

 

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Gardening for Everyone

 

    Gardening is an activity for every woman and every man.  The daily issues that emerge from our sexuality, race, physical appearance, social status, ethnicity, religion, and family customs seem dissolved and rather irrelevant to the mind set and tasks that we face with hose or hoe in hand.  The lack of land faced by inner city dwellers is often overcome by indoor gardening; although, in truth, the suburbanite and rural dwellers have more opportunities to dig deeper into the gardening experience.   Spiritual pathways and awakening must also be open and available to all classes and types of people.   All can be saved, all can follow a spiritual path, all can be transported to the Other Shore if they but stay on the Right Way and keep the Right Mind.  We can all bloom where we are planted; we can all find a means to embrace the divine and the sublime.  Some have claimed to have found God while digging in the garden, others assert that gardening has opened them to the Presence of Pure Creative Energy, some have heard the Divine Voices singing in the wind and rustling leaves, some have seen the Supernatural at work in the spring blossoms by the creek, and others are convinced that they have become One with the Potency of Emptiness while pruning the oak tree in the courtyard.  The paths through the garden gates into the Realms of the Over-Soul are ready for everyone.  One must take action, move into the garden, become one with the earth, open oneself to the grace flowing from the growing world that might save our souls; and, realize that this rich and good spiritual fruit is for all mankind to taste.  All the good gardeners on the Way are welcome at the Harvest of the Gods. 

 

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The Art of Happiness by the Dali Lama
Time and the Art of Living by Robert Grudin
Loving Kindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness by Sharon Salzberg 
The Druidry Handbook: Spiritual Practice Rooted in the Living Earth by John Michael Greer
Simple Taoism: A Guide to Living in Balance by Alexander Simkins
The Tao of Daily Life: The Mysteries of the Orient Revealed by Derek Lin
Everyday Tao: Living with Balance and Harmony by Ming-Dao Deng 
Ripening Peaches: Taoist Studies and Practices by Mike Garofalo
The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff 
Scholar Warrior: An Introduction to the Tao in Everyday Life by Ming-Dao Deng
Vitality, Energy, Spirit: A Taoist Sourcebook by Thomas Cleary

 

                             

 

 

Intimate Connections


    As the years and decades pass, a gardener becomes intimately acquainted with all the shrubs, rocks, trees, beds, walkways, compost piles, potted plants, tools, and other features in her garden. She has seen these responding to all types of weather.  And, she has seen all of this through the comings and goings, emotional and physical, in her own life.  This grounded intimacy, this deep knowledge, and this thriving awareness of her garden overflows in a harvest of memories and earthly wisdom.  Spiritual growth requires this kind of firm grounding, month after month practice, and thorough blending of life's experiences.  Along the path of loving attention, and spiritual discipline, there will be the releafing of the sacred, and flashes of profound insight as stunning as the perfect flowers on a carefully tended decade old rose.  Short and easy fixes in the garden of the spirit often die under the relentless sun of sorrow and triviality.  Dig and redig, water and water again, plant and prune ... until you are one, personally familiar, and intensely united with both the processes and the beings.  Don't give up until the bare root stick of your soul is a grand old Oak Tree in the Courtyard of Life.  

 

"A monk asked Chao-chou Ts'ung-shen, "What is the living meaning of Zen?" 
Chao-chou said "The oak tree in the courtyard.."
-  Wu-Men Kuan, Case 37

"Learning how to operate a soul figures to take time."  Timothy Leary

 

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Putting Us in Our Place


     Gardening, when forced against one's inclination or will, can be a humiliating or punishing experience.  It is considered a radical therapy for men and women too full of themselves, recalcitrant, overly confident, stinking of hubris, overflowing with self-thoughts.  Having to kneel, bend, pull, push, shovel, hoe, crawl, squat, toil, sweat ... all wrench the uppityness and wayward energies out of most folks, including the bad guys.  Working in the garden or fields as a punishment or slavery has a long history.  Religious rituals such as fasting, kneeling, repetitions, sitting, bowing, prostrations, difficult pilgrimages, or standing also tend to force the proud and mighty to be humble and restrained.  The rich must be made poor, the teachers silent, the healthy sick, the strong weak, the first last.   Prometheus must be punished for giving mankind the Fire of Reason that led them to think of themselves as gods.  Some view these obsequious acts or reversals of fortune as a process of "toughening" the soul for the real tests of the life.  In part, it is a process of equalizing the worshippers, like leveling the ground in the autumn.   True seekers, however, must be careful and cautious when following in this path, for excessive self-mortification, like over-pruning, will stunt one's growth.  Too much self-effacement and a dog-like following of the Master's disciplines will more likely lead to a toughened but shriveled and fruitless spirit, or a growling anger that bores away inside you until you wilt.  Never pour too much humility over the soul. 

 

"Conscious faith is freedom.   Emotional faith is slavery.  Mechanical faith is foolishness."   Gurdjieff

"Wisdom is oftentimes nearer when we stoop than when we soar."   -  William Wordsworth

"Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself."  - Desiderata

 

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Gratitude

 

      Gratitude is a core value engendered and amplified by gardening and gardens.  One cannot help but appreciate the beauty and bounty of our unique Earth.  Having the vitality to labor in the backyard or fields, to supper at midday on fresh vegetables, or to enjoy an hour of quiet reflection in your garden at dawn are experiences that naturally give way to an open-hearted and deeply felt gratitude.  We give heartfelt thanks to God, Gaia, Life, Nature ... for just being in this world of wonders.  Existence and the chance to give and create are precious opportunities; and only a fool or evil being would not be ever grateful.  Give thanks every time you step into the sacred space of your garden - for you are privileged.  No spiritual life is possible without a grateful attitude and actions that testify to our gratefulness.  All religions and spiritual traditions place very high value on love and gratitude, and millions of prayers of soul-felt thanks are sown each day.  The ungrateful person is often bitter, empty hearted, lonely, arrogant, angry and wallowing in a living hell.   The grateful person is a powerful stimulant in the lives of others, and sure to reap true peace and lasting happiness. 

 

"The clearest sign of wisdom is continued cheerfulness." - Michel Montaigne

"The man who radiates good cheer, who makes life happier wherever he meets it, is always a man of vision and faith."   - Ella Wilcox

"When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive - to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love."  - Marcus Aurelius

"Just to be is a blessing.  Just to live is holy."  -   Rabbi Abraham Heschel

Cheerfulness - Quotes for Gardeners

 

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On Quiet Time and Silence

 

    Most gardeners prefer to work in silence.  They tend not to listen to music or the radio while tending the garden; nor are they known as being great conversationalists when busy with garden chores.  Most, in fact, use the garden to escape from chatting with other people and for stopping the inner chatter within themselves.  They compost their worries and clear out their cares when focused on energetic gardening.  Silence is evergreen ... lush, thick with potent cones. 

    A distinguishing feature of spiritual practices is the frequent use of silence, quiet meditation, or prayerful silence.  Spiritual retreats always leave plenty of time for solitary reflection.  Some religious orders take very seriously vows of silence.   Silence allows us to freely listen to the sounds of life about us: the buzzing of insects, the distant hubbub of human voices, working machines, birds, the wind, the rumblings of the inner mind, and the Voidness that embraces these Utterings from the Ground of Being.  Silence is the epitome of openness, and leaves room for the inflow of fresh experience.  Sometimes silence is the best means of expression and communicates far more than words could ever say.  So we putter about or sit ever so quietly in the backyard; ready for the surprising insights that will inevitably burst forth from unburdened consciousness, ready for our own visions, ready to see the burning bush and hear His Voice.   

 

"All who seek the roots of life dig in solitude for them."  - C. H. A. Bjerregaard

"Solitary trees, if they grow at all, grown strong."  - Winston Churchill

"Inside myself is a place where I live all alone, and that's where you renew your springs that never dry up."  - Pearl S. Buck

 

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On Enriching the Senses

 

    Gardeners know their work in their muscles and bones.  Gardening is a hands on affair with the elements of this earth.  All the senses are fully involved and sensitized.  Although many good gardeners have accumulated much knowledge through reading, observation, conversation, and nowadays even through television; the real knowledge is acquired primarily by close acquaintance.  We must feel the sun on our back, hold the hose in our own hand, smell the fragrance in the air, and feel our sweat on our dirty arms.  When the opportunity arises we sometimes literally leap into our gardening clothes and enthusiastically rush out the backdoor begin our daily chores and puttering.  It's a passion, a lust for a personal union with the natural world.  Gardening is seldom primarily an intellectual activity - thankfully.  

    Spiritual seekers may also derive useful knowledge through the study of theology, scriptures, philosophy, and the history of religion.  However, theory is not practice in this domain either.  All religions stress the active involvement of the aspirant in charity work, ceremonies, helping others in need, following specific precepts, or hours of meditation or prayer.  Living one's faith and the existential commitment are primary.  The wise person must act in a timely manner in accord with their knowledge and values.  We will be judged by our acts and the tangible results of our works in most aspects of our lives.  Gardening is fertile ground for spiritual metaphors because it requires daily immediate action, personal practice rather than theory, and the failure to act in a timely manner can be a disaster.   

 

"Seeing is different than being told."  Proverb from Kenya

"The greatest gift of the garden is the restoration of the five senses."  -  Hanna Rion

"Like a beautiful flower that is colorful but has no fragrance,
even well spoken words bear no fruit in one who does not put them into practice."  - The Buddha

Work - Quotes for Gardeners

 

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Seeds and Cuttings
Hydrofarm Hot House Seed Starter 11-by-22-Inch   
Secrets of Plant Propagation: Starting Your Own Flowers, Vegetables, Fruits, Shrubs, and Trees 
Hydrofarm Jump Start Indoor Grow Light System 
Plant Propagation A to Z: Growing Plants for Free  
Seed to Seed: Seed Saving and Growing Techniques for Vegetable Gardeners  
Hydrofarm Germination Station with Heat Mat  
American Horticultural Society Plant Propagation: The Fully Illustrated Plant-by-Plant Manual    
Burpee Seed Starter: A Guide to Growing Flower, Vegetable, and Herb Seeds Indoors and Outdoors
Plant Propagator's Bible
The New Seed Starter's Handbook
RION MLT3 Mini Lean-To Greenhouse
Seed Sowing and Saving: Step-by-Step Techniques for Collecting and Growing  
Saving Seeds: The Gardener's Guide to Growing and Storing Vegetable and Flower Seeds
Seed Sowing and Saving: Step-by-Step Techniques for Collecting and Growing More Than 100 Vegetables, Flowers, and Herbs

 

                                    

 

 

 

 

 

 

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On Fast Trackers and Slow Trackers

 

    There is, at times, an urgency about gardening or farming.  Normally, we gardeners plod along with an unhurried smile doing our gardening chores; and at other times we know that we must do something immediately, now, today, this week.  Some work cannot wait.  When the fruit is ripe it must be picked and eaten or preserved promptly.  The animals must be given water and fed today, now.  When the temperature rises to 105 degrees, the garden must, must, must ... be watered thoroughly in the morning.  The time for harvesting or planting is often a very small and critical period of time.  Failure to act promptly can result in financial loses, disaster, or even starvation in subsistence cultures in the Third World. 

    Religious preachers sometimes focus on the need for immediate action in light of the End of Time, the Second Coming, the millenium,  the Grim Reaper at the door, a divine command, a community disaster, or a radical change needed by an individual to avoid completely falling out of grace.  The fear of fire and brimstone coming tomorrow has led many tonight into the cool and soothing baptismal waters.   Individuals often become more intensely and urgently involved with spiritual matters when recovering from a serious illness, after a personal failure, or after loosing someone or something dear to them.  Religious holidays and rituals have set times for specific actions, and postponement can mean eternal damnation to some.   Some pour extreme energy into resolving spiritual problems, suddenly leaving all the ordinary behind, driven by a burning desire for the sacred that is often frightening and insane to others.   Some urgently strive for the explosion of satori, and sprint towards the overwhelming ecstasies of mystical union with the Divine.   Others are spiritual plodders, content with gradual enlightenment over the years, comfortable with the holy routines, unhurried, at peace with the world and themselves.  The plodders and the sprinters - there's a place and time for both in the Temple and in the Garden.  

 

"Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the
slow circles of nature, is a help.  Gardening is an instrument of grace."
-  May Sarton

"Let no one think that real gardening is a bucolic and meditative occupation. 
It is an insatiable passion, like everything else to which a man gives his heart."
-   Karel Capek

"We cannot be happy if we expect to live all the time at the highest peak of intensity. 
Happiness is not a matter of intensity, but of balance and order and rhythm and harmony."
-  Thomas Merton

 

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On Doing and On Appreciating

 

    Many busy suburban dwellers have professional gardeners tend their yards, and have automatic sprinklers efficiently water their property.  They are just too busy with work and family to have time for gardening, or they don't enjoy the inevitable physical labor required by gardening.  They truly appreciate the beauty of their own home garden, and their neighbors' gardens, and even relish visiting the local parks or larger public gardens provided by their local government.  They are armchair gardeners.  They keep their hands clean, their backs rested, and their spirits uplifted by simply viewing beautiful gardens in books, on television, or at a distance.  They don't need to play a musical instrument to enjoy music, nor do they need to produce a film to thoroughly enjoy a movie.  They are quite content with the bounty and beauty of a nice produce department at their local supermarket.  They carefully distinguish the means from the ends, and save time and precious energy in the deal. 

    There is nothing wrong with this approach in limited applications, problems arise when the theory is applied to more and more activities.  At some point, we end up becoming armchair everythings.   We slip into living a second hand life, derived, at a distance, hands off, vicarious to the empty core.  Dishes, phooey, use a dishwasher.   Read a book, no, watch the video.  Cook a tasty meal, n'aw, go out to eat.  Walking, no way, use the car.  Playing sports, your kidding, watch the pros.  Talk with our neighbors, not now, time to listen to a radio talk show.   Sex - watch an adult video for a warm-up.  Our overreliance on technology becomes an embarrassing bad habit, cutting us off from real and substantive experience.   We become all eyes and ears, and forget we have arms and legs and noses.  Soon we experience little first hand, up close, in real time.  We loose in the end because we don't allow ourselves to try, to fumble, to fail, to slowly and intimately know things as they are. 

    Many spiritual aspirants are also quite content with the answers to fundamental questions provided by traditional religions.  They don't feel the need to explore the realms of religious experience and opinion on their own.  They respect and appreciate the work others have done to map the Beyond, and plot a course to the Everlasting.  Reinventing the Wheel of Dharma seems foolish to them, and far outside their expertise or moral courage.  They believe it is challenging enough to just read, listen, understand, and repeat what has already been widely accepted as valuable in spiritual matters.  I see armchair theologians everywhere, scriptures in hand, heart whole, inspired, and refreshed.   These choices are practical and beneficial, as long as we always sing praises to those that did the spadework, led the way, planted and harvested, found the Ur-Ground and unearthed the Secrets of the Ages.  The real truth of the matter, however, for the mature soul, is that it is far better to meet Truth face to face oneself, in living color, grasped close to the heart.  St. Paul shuddered from the heavenly vision that knocked him cold to his past, the Buddha himself was enlightened after soul-struggling for months under the Bodhi tree, Mother Theresa had to give her all to others to her last breath, others have seen the light themselves while on a long pilgrimage or on a serious extended retreat and thereby changed their lives forever, and others won't quit their Practice until the most Sacred Cows come back to their own Spiritual Home.  Doing It Yourself still brings insights and appreciation far beyond one's ordinary estimation; and, you become someone better and stronger than you knew.   The Practice is the message, the Way.    

 

"The highest reward for a person's toil is not what they get for it, but what they become by it."
-  John Ruskin

"To cultivate a garden is to walk with God."
-  Christain Nestell Bovee

"Practice is the seedbed of miracles."
-  Michael Murphy

"Often the hands will solve a mystery that the intellect has struggled with in vain."
-  Carl G. Jung

 

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Themes to Be Developed in the Near Future

 

For Future Generations

Sacred Trees and Flowers

Seasons and Rites of Passage

Seeds and Hope

Kindness and Charity

Zen and the Art of Gardening

Being in the There and Then

 

 

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"Whenever learners or those beyond learning awaken the mind, for the first time they plant one buddha-nature.  Working with the four elements and five clusters, if they practice sincerely they attain enlightenment.  Working with plants, trees, fences and walls, if they practice sincerely they will attain enlightenment.  This is because the four elements and five clusters and plants, trees, fences and walls are fellow students; because they are of the same essence, because they are the same mind and the same life, because they are the same body and the same mechanism."
-   Dogen Zenji, Japanese Zen Buddhist Grand Master

Awakening the Unsurpassed Mind, #31
Translated by Thomas Cleary,
Rational Zen:  The Mind of Dogen Zenji

 

 

"The many great gardens of the world, of literature and poetry, of painting and music, of religion and architecture, all make the point as clear as possible:  The soul cannot thrive in the absence of a garden.  If you don't want paradise, you are not human; and if you are not human, you don't have a soul."
-  Thomas Moore, The Re-Enchantment of Everyday Life, 1996, p. 101

 

 

"[Gardening] would beget early rising, industry, habits of close observation, and of reading.  It would incline the mind to notice natural phenomena, and to reason upon them.  It would occupy the mind with pure thoughts, and inspire a sweet
and gentle enthusiasm; maintain simplicity of taste; and ... unfold in the heart an enlarged, unstraightened, ardent piety."
-  Henry War Beecher 

 

 

"Follow the wisdom provided by nature. Everything in moderation - sunlight, water, nutrients. Too much of a good thing will topple your structure.  You can't harvest what you don't sow. So plant your desires, gently nurture them, and they will be rewarded with abundance."
-  Vivian Elisabeth Glyck, 1997 

 

 

Lifestyle Advice for Wise Persons compiled by Mike Garofalo
Loving Kindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness by Sharon Salzberg
Original Blessing: A Primer in Creation Spirituality by Matthew Fox
A Path with Heart: A Guide Through the Perils and Promises of Spiritual Life by Jack Kornfield
The Solitary Druid: A Practitioner's Guide by Robert Lee Skip Ellison
Sweeping Changes: Discovering the Joy of Zen in Everyday Tasks by Gary Thorp
Time and the Art of Living by Robert Grudin
The Tao of Daily Life by Derek Lin
Walkers Between the Worlds:  The Western Mysteries from Shaman to Magus by Caitlin and John Matthews  

 

                                     

 

 

 

"There is a theology to gardening that few of us consider, but to understand this theology means relinquishing much control - our arsenal of books, techniques, tools, chemicals, fertilizers, fancy hybrids, and expectations.   Yet, that is exactly what we must do if we are to fully embrace a more spiritual form of gardening.  As a part of Nature we must learn to enter our garden as if it were truly sacred, we must learn to enter with humility."
-  Christopher and Tricia McDowell,  The Sanctuary Garden, 1998, p. 17

 

 

"Beyond its practical aspects, gardening - be it of the soil or soul - can lead us on a philosophical and spiritual exploration that is nothing less than a journey into the depths of our own sacredness and the sacredness of all beings.  After all, there must be something more mystical beyond the garden gate, something that satisfies the soul's attraction to beauty, peace, solace, and celebration."
-  Christopher and Tricia McDowell, The Sanctuary Garden, 1998, p.13

 

 

"By a garden is meant mystically a place of spiritual repose, stillness, peace, refreshment, delight."
-   John Henry Cardinal Newman 

 

 

"A garden is the best alternative therapy."
-  Germaine Greer

 

 

 

 

 




Green Way Research, 2001

 

I Welcome Your Comments, Ideas, Contributions, and Suggestions
E-mail Mike Garofalo in Red Bluff, California

 

A Short Biography of Mike Garofalo

 

 

Quotes for Gardeners

Months

Pulling Onions by Michael P. Garofalo

Green Way Research