A week or so ago a friend at work told me she would like to do yoga in the garden
—that way she could do something she really liked in a place she liked even more. I
replied, given my tendency to be easily distracted, that I would find it very difficult to
concentrate fully on either: in the midst of the standing bow posture I might notice a
weed poking through the dirt I would want to pluck out; or, there would be a bloom
opened that wouldn’t have been yesterday, calling out for some praise and recognition.
Perhaps the bottom line is that I have an undiagnosed Attention Deficit Disorder. But my
friend’s comment caused me to think just the same about what aspects of gardening are
meditative, require me to be in the moment, to engage in an activity that like yoga,
contributes on some level to a greater human good.
As I write, it’s officially summer and I love summer. My bones have finally
warmed—in fact, I’m sweating a little. The vista is fabulous (and I finished everything I
needed to do before 2 o’clock, staying well ahead of my established “quit at 3 o’clock”
rule.) The summer afternoon breeze makes the spires of the ornamental grasses sway. A
Crepe myrtle, “Dynamite,” is directly in front of me and I await its fabulous red.
Each process, action, of gardening is in itself a sanctuary. Two days ago I set out
to weed. I’m probably a little weird because I like to weed; I find the repetitive motion
soothing, almost like “Karate Kid” meets gardening. How I pull them out is specific for
the weed—some need a fierce yank while others relinquish their hold on the earth pretty
readily. Others refuse to give up their roots and I sigh, knowing it’ll give me another
chance in a few days. One weed at a time, a few hours later and I’m done. Weary a bit
from the postures but satisfied that it’s complete—just like a yoga practice.
Yesterday and today I went pot by pot, annual by annual to give each plant a long
drink from the hose what the skies haven’t provided in rain fall. Like weeding, watering
is keeping my full attention as I think only of the plants and the water. What I get back is
the feeling of tension dissipating from my shoulders.
Planting is meditative, too, but in a more artful way than weeding and watering.
The composition of the space, whether bed space or containers, creates vistas like I
described earlier. Not just for my honey, my family and me but also for the neighbors to
enjoy as they walk by with their significant others and dogs. Planting vegetables and
herbs gives a gardener a vehicle by which to share his labors at table.
I read recently in a book by Wayne Dyer that we change the world when we
change the way we respond to the world, that scientific studies have been done
illustrating how collective thoughts in positive, non-egocentric ways can influence more
than we might think possible. This is where yoga and gardening are really the same—
people who practice either or both are working to change the way they look at the world,
giving of their most positive of energies to benefits all. Perhaps that yoga mat should
come outside after all