5 seeds of mindfulness
by fiann o'Nuallain
the holistic gardener
Gardening is a natural provider of mindfulness and well-being: it relieves stress, enlivens the senses, focuses the mind, energizes the body, opens the heart, and radiates from the soul. To mindfully garden is both deeply enriching and easy to achieve. In his soon to be released new book ‘seeds of mindfulness’ (ixia press, January 2021), Fiann Ó Nualláin compiles more than 100 mindful gardening moments to inspire psychological and spiritual renewal via a favorite pastime. Here he shares some of those activities that can keep us well and grounded over the coming months.
1. A first seed to sow. Following your breath is a key tenet of mindfulness, it is the seed that germinates to a bountiful experience.
Simply close your eyes a moment and quietly focus on your natural breathing pattern – hear it, feel it. Notice the inhale and how your body moves to it; notice the exhale and how your body reacts to it. It may be shallow and nasal now or it may be deep and lung filling – that’s not the important part – not yet. Just notice it. Try to pay attention to it for 20 seconds – the in, the out, the in, the out … and any thoughts that come just let them come and go and keep returning your focus to your breathing rhythm.
That’s it. Job done. You have begun the journey. Mindfulness is that simple – returning your focus to the task at hand. In this instance and in many ways the concept of simply following your breath is the key that opens the mindful door. Breathing is your automatic life support system – this is you alive. Tuning into it is tapping in to the very engine of your existence. It is such a little thing to do but it has such a powerful effect.
Later we can learn how to alter breathing patterns to strengthen the meditation, improve clarity of consciousness and bolster health… but for now, following your breathe for a few moments is the best starting point to this journey. The seed is sown, it will germinate with nurture. This seed does not need water; it needs oxygen and co2 – the next mindful inhale, the next mindful exhale.
2. Seed selection. We can think of our emotions and intentions as seeds, those that we water will thrive, those that we don’t give attention to will stay dormant or wither to nothing. So it is important to select the seeds we wish to cultivate and put our attention there.
Yes we have within ourselves the seeds of anger, contempt, reticence, self-doubt and also the seeds of love, compassion, conservation and joy. What are you growing now? What do you wish to grow?
This is your life, you can put the energy of it into what you want to see flourish. Thriving plants bulk up and in doing so leave less room for weeds. Sure, weeding will be required but why not have a robust garden that can out flourish the weeds. So be honest to yourself and make the better choices - What are you growing now and what do you wish to grow?
3. Pacing yourself. Mindful moments can be slow down moments – taking the time to smell a flower or look at the sky, to sit on a bench and breathe or to lie on a lawn and be present to the universe around and within you. Many people take to it as a relaxation technique – fair enough but mindfulness is really about being present and that incudes to all the gears of your day. You could mindfully sprint across the line, most athletes are mindful in their winning moment (as well as in their training and other performances) – they may call it focus, or dedication or the will to win but they are at one with that purpose, they are ‘all there’, it is not just giving all, it’s being your all in the now of the race.
There is no starter gun in the garden; there is no finishing line either. But we do exert our physicality – and so we can and should be mindful in the doing too. In the moments we have to pick up the pace as well as the peaceful interludes. If we are present in the chore it is no longer a chore, it is a mindful exercise. The garden has plenty of opportunities to slow or pick up the pace, we can bring mindfulness to any pace.
Don’t feel you have to be 24/7 in mindful mode, you don’t even have to be trying to make every chore mindful, the garden will present opportunities, you can make opportunities – you can choose to just water today and even daydream through it – it’s your life, take it at your pace. This way you won’t force doing, you will be you as you do – that’s the tao of it – that is the flowering of mindfulness.
4. To weed mindfully. Weeding makes a great metaphor to the spiritual and psychological significance of removing negativity from your life to allow space for positivity to grow - but we are gardeners and gardens have actual weeds so some actual weeding will be done but it can be mindfully done.
We can weed an actual weed mindfully, we can bring our attention to how it may resist or give way to our pulling hand, we are not relishing its destruction we are acknowledging that it has to go – that it competes for water, nutrients, space and even light. In deeming that plant so it may seem that we are being judgmental – we are not; we are simply acknowledging, accepting and responding accordingly. Many gardeners may root out a bramble or nettle with judgmental attitude, with curses and even aggression – why waste all that energy, why manifest contempt. We weed for the greater good of the garden – do it in the spirit of goodness.
We can be present to its removal – actually witness it. We may notice how the hoe or other tool is efficient. We may reflect some gratitude for such inventions and the easing of our labour. I like to think of weeding as harvesting material for the compost heap, any negative associations and also the monotony of a mundane chore is thus transformed in to a purposeful action that can be carried out as a dynamic mindful exercise. Of course, some days it’s just weeding to get done and that’s ok too - but the more we do it mindfully, the more mindful we become.
5. In tune with our circadian rhythm. Just as plants react to daylight, soil moisture or ambient temperature so too we humans take similar cues from the natural world. In us, daylight triggers the activation of an alert neurotransmitter called serotonin which wakes us up to be active in daytime, while lowlight or night-time prompts the release of a sedating hormone – melatonin- to make us sleepy and go rest up. This is known as the circadian rhythm.
One of the stress factors of the modern world is that working or living under artificial light during daylight actually triggers melatonin and looking at phones and screens in the evening triggers serotonin – so our rhythms are off beat. No wonder we are beat all the time. The answer is to get outside.
Being and doing in the garden in the bright of day is you truly experiencing the day – the reality of it and the purposeful serotonin release of it. You are truly operating on daytime setting. If you have to be at work all day and only get to garden in the evening then being and doing in the garden in the ebbing light of the evening is you truly experiencing the transition of day towards night – and in the reality of it, this is also the purposeful prompts to melatonin levels and a shift in brain waves toward a better night’s sleep which will improve your daytime energy tomorrow.
It doesn’t matter when you tend the garden it tends you back.
Read more from
AVAILABLE NOW - ‘seeds of mindfulness’ – a book all about how to cultivate mindful moments and achieve healing neuroplasticity through the garden. From how to weed and plant mindfully, to how listening to nature can rewire our brains, to how a barefoot moment on the lawn can detoxify mind, body and spirit.
FIND OUT HOW ARE TEAM HAVE BEEN ENTERTAINING THEMSELVES THIS WINTER!
As a mum to a 2-year-old toddler, Rebecca is focusing some time this season of self-care and trying to introduce mindfulness into her daily routine.
She has begun to implement this over the last few weeks by using an acupressure mat daily to carve 30 minutes into each day to lie down still and reflect, meditate and relax. Acupressure mats contain several hundred plastic points which apply pressure to many acupressure points in the back.
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