Home Gardening As Therapy

Old School Gardenening Therapy

Home gardening can be one of the best therapeutic activities available. If you approach the process and activity from the viewpoint of mindfulness, and really pay attention to what is directly in front of you, the mind has the opportunity to relax and stop worrying about all of the little daily concerns. It will stop trying to herd the cats, untangle the knots and wind the ball of yarn. Home gardening will give you a fresh, relaxed and rejuvenated feeling. It has long been known by pre-med students and those in residency that there needs to be a balance between the mental activity in which so many of us are engaged and the physical activity that we have lost for the most part. This is why when there is only a couple of hours of sleep in front of them before starting their next set of rounds, they will play a short round of basketball, take a 10 minute run or something similar. It puts the mind on the back burner and gives it a little peace while the body gets some attention. Both parts of the equation benefit.

Something as simple as weeding can be hugely beneficial. The activity itself does not require much thought, just a wakeful mind that is paying attention to and is engaged in the process. Looking for and identifying emerging weeds from the young seedlings, finding out how deep the roots go and how much soil is attached to them, as well as how to remove the weeds without disturbing the tender seedlings are all things that do not require a high level of intelligence, but demand the full attention and presence of the gardener. The same goes for rolling the paper pots and filling them with seed starting mix, then placing them in the seed starting tray and planting each seed by hand. Not mentally challenging by any stretch of the imagination, however there are some powerful forces at work here. You gain an intimate understanding of how things are inter-related and how the parts of the garden work. In home gardening you are starting the eternal cycle of life all over once again by planting seed and making one of the most elemental connections with it at the same time. There can be something very Zen-like in gardening, no matter what the activity. You only need to “Be Here Now” as the Zen practitioners say. This is one of the major reasons that gardening was looked at by both Eastern and Western traditions as a contemplative activity, especially in the monasteries. The daily ritual of checking on the plants, watering them and tending to them is a strong one, giving a natural break from the daily work life and easing the transition into the home life. It is a few minutes of peace and stillness and harmony before beginning the next direction of the day.

There is a concept of active meditation or “meditation in motion” that is described as an activity that requires full attention and concentration without needing much cognitive thought. Rock climbing, trail running, mountain biking, riding a horse on a trail and various forms of exercise are great examples of active meditation. You are forced to put the cognitive mind on hold for a bit and focus on what it right in front of you. Gardening can be an active meditation as well, depending on how it is approached. If you look forward to the time spent in the garden instead of as a “chore” or something that must get done, then you can experience the positive benefits on offer. Gardening has the added benefit of being less intense than many other forms of active meditation, so hitting the pause button is more of a choice than an absolute necessity. Many great leaders and thinkers throughout history have used the garden setting, especially in early morning, as the ideal stage to find both intuitive and meditative advances as well as consciously and cognitively working on and untangling seemingly intractable problems that they were facing. It is a bit uncanny to find how well this works, and it is rather easy. Simply walking slowly along the beds and paying attention to as much as you can will provide you with a constantly unfolding education into how things work together in the garden, as well as glimpses of incredible beauty on a ridiculously regular schedule. Heavier work such as broad-forking a bed will intimately show the structure of the soil- how loose it is, the colors and aromas revealed with the movement of the fork, and hard spots announce themselves abruptly. You get to know the soil on a much more detailed level than ever possible with a gas powered tiller with it’s noise and fumes.

The garden can become a small steady place of solace in these times of our always-on, instant response world where really knowing someone or something can be hard to achieve.

17 replies
  1. Vince
    Vince says:

    I really enjoyed reading this article. The “mind calming” payoff we get as we garden was unknown to me just a few years ago. As we prepare for this new season, I can already feel the effects that home gardening plays on my day to day hectic life, just planning for the new year gets me focused on the garden and dis-engages everything else I have to deal with.
    Thank you again, Terroir Seeds, for another great newsletter.
    Vince Rush and Family
    Southern California

  2. Alida
    Alida says:

    Thank you for the reminder. Gardening can be gentle therapy in a world full of excessive mental busyness.

  3. "Green Gene"
    "Green Gene" says:

    There is a common natural anti-biotic in the soil called Microbium vaccae that has no side effects. (My last response may not have come through) I allready mentioned how I miss the pleasant, positive and hopegiving, daily practice of visiting a personal garden. Yet, I believe everything is the garden and “every choice matters”. That is from my manifesto at ecogreengene.com

  4. "Green Gene"
    "Green Gene" says:

    We breath that anti-biotic when we work in the garden and we get fresh air, exercise, creative outlet, and wholesome food.

  5. Stephen
    Stephen says:

    Thanks for the info Gene! There are many positive effects of garden exposure.

  6. Victoria
    Victoria says:

    Thank you for reminding me to not add gardening to my ‘to do’ list and instead to simply enjoy!

  7. patty
    patty says:

    I wanted to let you know that I just lost my husband of thirty-one yrs.and if gardening was not a passion of mine before it certainly is now. It’s the only thing that makes me get out of bed each day and the only thought that doesn’t make me cry.
    God Bless gardening.

  8. Stephen
    Stephen says:

    Thank you for sharing this with us, Patty.

  9. Lynda
    Lynda says:

    I found your article to be true and so inspiring. I hope more people can find the time to use gardening in their life to bring them increasing understanding and a new way of creating moments of stress free living into their busy lives.

  10. Georgi
    Georgi says:

    I had a serious accident a couple of years back and after rehab it was difficult to stay active. My garden did the trick and now I’ve expanded it 3-fold and added chickens. No matter the weather or even the days when pain is present and it’s hard to move keep me from tending the garden and the animals. Call it guilt. Call it a sense of responsibility. Call it curiosity…each day there’s something new to see. I call it “coop therapy” and it can re-build the body as well as soothe the mind. So happy to discover your company right in my backyard as well. A great resource!

  11. Stephen
    Stephen says:

    Thanks Georgi! It is good to hear how your garden has helped you in the recovery process.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] acquaintance. Give them a nudge to get started. Gardening is more than just plants – our “Home Gardening As Therapy” article takes a deeper look at the true benefits of spending time in your garden. Do you want to […]

  2. […] were a number of very positive comments on our Home Gardening As Therapy article, so we decided to dig a lot deeper to bring more of the less obvious benefits that home […]

  3. […] Home Gardening As Therapy for some insights into what some simple, focused, quality time in the garden can do for your […]

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