October 01, 2012

Mindfulness in the Garden: Zen Tools for Digging in the Dirt

Zachiah Murray

Mindfulness in the Garden: Zen Tools for Digging in the Dirt is a new book from Parallax Press by landscape architect and author Zachiah Murray, with a foreword by Thich Nhat Hanh. Predicated upon the Zen conviction that the garden is a perfect place to practice mindfulness, the book offers a series simple short verses, called gathas, to assist us in cultivating deep awareness through the practice of gardening. The following excerpt begins the book.

Entering the Garden

Entering the garden
I see my true nature.
In its reflection
my heart is at peace.

We cross many thresholds in our lives. Some thresholds are monumental—being born, learning to walk, starting school, graduating, getting our first job, losing our first job, getting married, giving birth, and dying. Other thresholds are subtle—moving from one room to another, passing through a gate, or crossing an intersection.

When we enter a garden, we are crossing a threshold into nature. William Longgood wrote, "A garden is a portal, a passage into another world of your own thoughts and your own making." Our entryway into the garden may be unusual, such as an old architecturally rendered door salvaged from a garage sale, an ornately detailed wrought iron gate, or a lovely wooden arbor adorned with our favorite wisteria vine draping with its magnificent fragrant purple flowers. It may be an understated entryway, such as a simple change in pavement, a single row of fresh boxwood shrubs opening in the middle like a low wall, or the boughs of two maple trees creating an arch in nature's blue-sky ceiling while dappling their shade upon the earth.

Bold or subtle, a threshold into the garden gives us just enough space to come back to ourselves. It is a place where we shed our time-focused, goal-driven pace. We slow down, and we enter the present moment. Crossing this threshold mindfully, we make the transition from the mundane into the sanctuary of our garden. As we enter our garden, we arrive. We can stop here and follow our in-breath and our out-breath, observe the beauty and grace of the plants around us, and become deeply present.

Entering the garden

Breathing in, we bring our full awareness to the moment of our arrival.

I see my true nature.

As we breathe out, we realize our direct communion with all of nature, and we understand ourselves more deeply.

In its reflection

Breathing in, we see that the beauty and magnificence of our garden is a mirror of our own beauty and magnificence.

My heart is at peace.

Alive in the present moment, held in the arms of nature, and knowing our direct communion with life, we breathe out and our hearts are at peace.

 

Read more about Mindfulness in the Garden: Zen Tools for Digging in the Dirt from Parallax Press and purchase a copy here.

Image: Alex Caring-Lobel

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