Mindfulness is still a hot topic, but why is the garden the best place to practice mindfulness? And how do you make your garden a mindful one?
So what is Mindfulness? The benefits are numerous, It decreases stress and improves cognition, physical health and emotional resilience. When the NHS endorse, it we know that its not only official but mainstream. Our brains spend much of our time with a constant train of thoughts; our ‘to do’ lists, replaying yesterday’s meeting – using our ‘default mode network’ as neuroscientists call it.
How do you do it? Mindfulness activities invite us to become aware of our senses or our breathing, tuning in to the here and now. Mindfulness centres on focusing our awareness on the present moment without judgement. By practicing mindfulness we can learn to observe our thoughts, familiarise ourselves with our thought patterns and the more we practice the better the results. More Info
“If while washing dishes, we think only of the cup of tea that awaits us, thus hurrying to get the dishes out of the way as if they were a nuisance, then we are not “washing the dishes to wash the dishes.” What’s more, we are not alive during the time we are washing the dishes. In fact we are completely incapable of realizing the miracle of life while standing at the sink. If we can’t wash the dishes, the chances are we won’t be able to drink our tea either. While drinking the cup of tea, we will only be thinking of other things, barely aware of the cup in our hands. Thus we are sucked away into the future -and we are incapable of actually living one minute of life.” ― Thich Nhat Hanh, The Miracle of Mindfulness
Washing the dishes, gardening, or any task, in fact can be done mindfully, if done deliberately with focus, as if a ritual. Of course, a garden is a space, it cannot actually be mindful but it is a space which we can practice mindfulness, pause and breathe.
There is a definite added dimension to outdoor mindfulness, nature is known for its restorative benefits. Such is the value we now calculate ‘natural capital’ to validate investment in green spaces in cities and hospitals (see article on London Parks ). I personally can vouch for the therapeutic benefits of gardens, I only discovered my love of gardening when I realised losing myself in the garden was the best way to forget about the stresses of the office. Gardening became my practice – a focus – before I’d ever considered mindfulness or meditation.
Design Ideas? A mindful garden would be a space to grow favourite plants and there really needn’t be a grand design. In my tiny garden I enjoy the sun filtering through the leaves of my tetrapanax (above) and also my philadelphus which also smells amazing in blossom.
- The traditional Zen garden, of pebbles, rocks, trees and mosses symbolising the elements certainly provides a restful space. Pureland Meditation Centre & Japanese garden is a lovely example (below).
- Introducing sound from a water feature is a lovely idea, but sound also comes from grasses rustling, birdsong, the buzz of neighbours mowing and children playing.
- Thought should be given to seasonal interest, to our senses, and perhaps a carefully positioned seat, or a shelter.
- Different textures to experience underfoot – ‘grounding’ or barefoot walking is a lovely way to be present.
- Planning a garden with different routes to explore where space allows, with opportunities for catch glimpses of views framed by arching branches.
How to garden mindfully
- Enjoy a daily morning stroll in the garden, notice the temperature, the breeze, the rain.
- Take time to sit and smell the roses, observe the changes in the season, the goings on of the wildlife.
- Gardening on a Sunday afternoon? Leave your phone, simplify things, lose track of time.
- Watch the sun set, change your viewpoint. Lie on the lawn and look up thorough the canopy.
- Accept the imperfection, and let it go. Don’t rush to tidy everything, perhaps allow the wildlife to have its influence on the space.
My design process has changed since discovering mindfulness, I take time to be silent in a space when I survey it, I find it allows space for me to understand the landscape, notice its rhythms and details.
Mindfulness enriches my life and my work, and I hope some of these ideas inspire you.