Garden Reminders of Mindfulness

By Linda Wiggen Kraft

A garden is a perfect place to be in the moment. A perfect place to let all our senses experience their fullness. The sight of living flower and foliage colors against the blue of sky fills our eyes with a beauty that awakens the heart. The sounds of birds, insects and wind in leaves fill our ears with a symphony of nature’s calling. The scents of flowers and earth fill our lungs with breath of life. The touch of earth on our bare feet grounds us. The taste of fresh food from the garden nourishes body and soul. All of these experiences are deepest when we are living them in the moment.

We often need reminders to bring our awareness to the moment. There are several ways to remind us of the now, when we are in our gardens. One way is to redefine what a garden is. In America we think of gardens as the areas where flowers or vegetables grown. Our lawns are not garden. But we can learn from the British who have a different definition of a garden. For them the lawn and all trees, shrubs and garden beds are garden. Homes are embraced by the garden. The reason we need a new definition of the word garden is to bring our awareness to the sacredness of all land that grows plants. Entering into this land can be a reminder to stop, take a breath and be one with the moment.

Another way of reminding ourselves to be in the moment is to use the sound of chimes or bells in the garden. Pathways into and through a garden have entrance points. This entering into, is crossing a threshold into a special place. The entrance may be a grass or stone pathway. It can be a gate or an archway. These entrance points are perfect spots to put a chime or bell. These sound makers can be hung on a gate, archway, tree, shrubs or Shepard’s hook. Bells or chimes can be touched when entering the garden, reminding us to pause and bring ourselves back to the moment.

Special plants at entrance points can also be a place to stop and become aware. Plants with fragrant foliage can be rubbed together sending their scent heavenwards. One such plant is Sweetgrass (Hierochloe odorata). Its long green blades smell like vanilla. It is a native plant to both North America and Eurasia. Blades of this grass where often put on the ground at the threshold of a church entrance. There it is walked upon releasing it’s fragrance to remind people they were entering into a sacred space. It is also one of the four sacred plants of Native Americans used for smudging and ceremony.

When entering a garden, or being within the garden, there are several ways to let awareness come back to now. One is to stop, take several deep breaths and let each and all senses be experienced fully. A prayer or thoughts of gratitude may spontaneously come to mind. A sweet little book titled Mindfulness in the Garden, Zen Tools For Digging in the Dirt offers little verses to say inwardly or out loud. The book contains four line verses, called gathas, to recite. One gatha for entering a garden is: “Entering the garden, I see my true nature, In its reflection, My heart is at peace.” A forward for this book, written by Thich Nhat Han states: “The garden is the perfect place to practice mindfulness.”

Linda Wiggen Kraft is a landscape designer who creates holistic and organic gardens. She is also a mandala artist and creativity workshop leader, including workshops Aug. 18-23 in North Carolina and Oct. 4-5 in St. Louis. Her blog and website are: www.CreativityForTheSoul.com. Her phone number is (314) 504-4266.