In a climate like Chicago with such long, bitter winters the arrival of spring each year feels like a gift. It is almost as if I have forgotten that it will return! I find it endlessly satisfying to watch for the first signs of spring as the emerge in my garden.
In my one year blog anniversary post I wrote a bit about the role gardening plays in my life and how it relates to my view of therapy. Or maybe more accurately, how it relates to my views on all of our potential for healing and growth:
Gardens and nature in general are a big part of how I nurture and replenish myself, one piece of my work to prevent my own compassion fatigue. I have a whole other post full of things to say about how gardening reminds me of the lessons of therapy (growth takes time and is occurring even when we do not see it for example). I was struck by how I unwittingly (unconsciously?) chose an image for this blog as fitting as the lotus by a bit of something I heard the other today. A character on TV was repeating a quote:”the jewel is in the lotus”, described to mean “you already have within you what you need”. To me that says we, all of us, have within us the innate ability to heal, grow and blossom. You may need someone to help you find an environment that facilitates growth, but you definitely can grow and flourish.
So here comes a post full of some of that other stuff! As I spend time in my garden I think about nothing but what is in front of me, often. That is part of the appeal; it pulls me into the present moment. It reconnects me with something both simple and much bigger than myself. To me it is an experience of mindfulness. There is some research that backs this up: people who were gardening had brain waves that were very similar to people who meditate. But what I get from gardening goes beyond the joy and peace of doing it. It also provides me with lessons to apply to therapy.
When I think about it, In some ways gardening seems to me to be a metaphor for therapy or maybe more accurately human growth in general. Gardening reminds me to trust the process, that growth unfolds incrementally, over time. And that this is true even when it looks like nothing is happening.
No two gardens are exactly alike. That to me is a key aspect of their beauty. Different plants have different requirements for growth. No matter how much I want them to, sun lovers are not going to thrive in my shady corner! How often do we do something similar to ourselves? Try to force ourselves to thrive in an environment/job/relationship that just is not capable of meeting our needs?
Perennial gardening in particular has taught me patience. I’ve started some of my favorite perennials from dead-looking bare roots. They have taken years to show signs of growth in some cases. A few times I have been ready to give up, only to be rewarded by something like the spectacular blooms and fragrance of my lilacs.
Things happen in gardening that are beyond our control. I can stress out about this and try to exert control or I can let go and get a kick out of the unexpected. For example, squirrels love to dig up some of my bulbs and replace them with peanuts in the shell. When I encounter this these days I choose to find the humor in it, to view the squirrels as practical jokers rather than enemies. And when a bunch of my crocuses bloomed unexpectedly in the middle of a neighbor’s lawn, I felt like I was in on the joke. Gardening reminds me that I want to connect to and coexist with nature, not do battle against it. It reminds me it is okay sometime to just let go of my efforts at control and trust the process.