In these early days of summer, as I ease into a less structured schedule, the power of less structured mindfulness activities (those beyond the meditation cushion, bench, or chair) becomes ever clearer to me.
In keeping with her long-standing role in my life, my garden whispered this reminder when I ventured outside at the break of day to harvest blueberries. The bushes were heavy with fruit beneath the bird netting structure that encloses them this time of year, possibly our best harvest yet.
Gratitude (mindfulness activity #1) flowed through me.
I pulled out a few of the garden staples holding down the protective netting, scrunched into a ball to squeeze under the small opening, and slid inside the enclosure. Years ago I asked my husband and sons to build this temporary structure to protect the berries from bird thievery. It’s worked beautifully. The PVC pipe frame is assembled when the berries begin to form and the netting keeps most of the critters at bay.
It’s true, a chipmunk has tunneled into the space, but I will accept his presence without judgment (mindfulness activity #2), even as he stares me down with blueberry-stuffed cheeks. Perfect opportunity to practice compassion (mindfulness activity #3).
Five More Mindfulness Activities to Practice in the Garden
Beyond the broad principles of gratitude, non-judgment, and compassion, the garden offers a multitude of ways to exercise your mindfulness muscles. Here are just a few for you to try out on your own.
1. Gardening engages our senses, grounding us in the present moment.
Because our brains can’t multitask, when our senses are engaged and we rest our attention on those physical feelings, our minds take a break from past- or future-based thinking, the source of so much of our stress. We familiarize ourselves with what presence feels like, just as we do with formal mindfulness meditation.
2. Harvesting blueberries (and other slow, repetitive garden tasks) provides an alternative anchor to the breath to practice focus and present moment awareness.
Instead of bringing our attention back again and again to the breath as we do in formal meditation, we bring out attention back again and again to the sensory experience of picking the berries. Even if our minds wander from the task, each time we realize it we are back in the present moment. And each time we bring our minds back to the present moment, we strengthen the neural pathways that make it easier to stay there.
3. Harvesting blueberries (and other garden tasks that require observation before taking action) is similar to the formal meditation technique of noting the nature of a distraction before letting it go.
Is this blueberry ripe for picking? Is it not only blue, but can it also be tickled easily off the stem (the sign of true ripeness)? If not, I’ll let it go for the time being. We practice this in formal meditation by noting or labeling a distraction as a thought or physical feeling before letting it go and coming back to the breath (or other anchor of our attention).
4. In formal meditation we sometimes count our breaths in cycles of ten to help maintain focus.
We can bring this counting practice to the garden, whether picking blueberries in groups of ten (ten fit pretty well into the palm of an adult hand before dropping them into the container), or counting weeds pulled in cycles of ten, or pinching off spent blossoms (deadheading) in cycles of ten.
5. Gardening, like formal meditation, trains us to recognize, be comfortable with, and even expect change as the only constant in life.
The garden is a constant reminder that nature evolves, regenerates, and renews itself. We learn to let go of control, learn to open up to creativity, learn to notice and appreciate the tiny, wonderous details of our world right in our own backyards, this very moment.
So go on out and grab your gardening gloves (if your dog hasn’t stolen them as mine is prone to do) and practice some of these garden meditation techniques! And make sure to let me know how it goes!
If you enjoyed today’s post and are not yet a subscriber, please join my Readers Circle via the sign-up box in the right margin and receive my free ebook Six Playfully Mindful Strategies to Beat Procrastination and Boost Productivity. You’ll also receive updates on my book Blooming into Mindfulness, weekly blog posts, and photography, speaking engagement, and workshop news. Email is much more reliable than social media in getting information to you in a timely fashion, so sign up to make sure you’re in the loop! (I promise not to share your address or send you spam.)
And if you know someone else who might benefit from an extra dose of calm in their lives, please spread the word! Social media likes and shares are always appreciated.
Finally, if you find typos anywhere on my site, I’d be grateful if you let me know. I hate typos! Contact me so that I can correct the error. Thank you!