In 2010 a Harvard University study found that, on average, our minds are lost in thought nearly 47% of our waking hours. That’s nearly half of the time we spend awake, spent thinking about things other than the present moment. As you contemplate that rather unsettling statistic, here’s something encouraging — today is National Garden Meditation Day, a day in which we’re encouraged to spend a few minutes in the garden, observing the present moment, with a relaxed, focused mind.
Reputed to have been created by C.L. Fornari, a gardening expert and gardening communicator, National Garden Meditation Day is celebrated every year on May 3.
Of course, if you’re a gardener, you already know — literally first-hand — that gardening is conducive to a meditative state, being as it is so thoroughly about the present moment. The weed at hand, the sun on one’s neck while watering, that devilish slug problem you’re determined to solve…all so very much right now.
“As a gardener, we have to trust the land, knowing that all seeds of love and understanding, seeds of enlightenment and happiness, are already there.” Thich Nhat Hanh
But let’s take a side-by-side look at the benefits of gardening and meditation.
Health benefits of gardening
- exposure to sunlight stimulates Vitamin D (also known as the happiness vitamin)
- provides a moderate level of exercise for daily life, particularly through weight-bearing movements like walking and the use of gardening tools, effectively stimulating bone and muscle strength
- gardening has many positive mental health benefits — this study done in 2019 showed that just two hours per week spent in fresh air, in a garden, or in green space is associated with increased wellbeing
Health benefits of meditation
A natural fit
Like meditation, gardening encourages us to accept impermanence and change. Every day in the garden brings a new thing — new growth, new leaves, new burgeoning fruit. Every day in the garden can also bring new curiously yellowing leaves, new drooping flowers, new pesty pests on the undersides of leaves. It’s just…gardening.
Gardening + meditation: a long history
There are hundreds of years of association between gardening and meditation. Meditation gardens originated as a part of Buddhism in the 6th century, and Zen gardens have existed in Japan since at least the 8th century.
One of the loveliest modern meditation gardens we found while researching this article is the Chalice Well Gardens at Glastonbury Tor in England. They invite “all people whatever their spiritual path, religious belief, age or gender, to honour and celebrate nature and our part in the continuing evolution of this unique and beautiful planet; in peace, unity and co-creation with all life on Earth.” Every day at noon and 3 pm, they observe a Silent Minute in the gardens, in their “living sanctuary of healing, sanctity and peace.”
Mind and body in the garden
Engaging in the ancient tradition of finding stillness, acceptance and mindfulness in natural surroundings doesn’t have to be complicated. From the National Institutes of Health (NIH), to start meditating all you need are: “a quiet location with as few distractions as possible; a specific, comfortable posture (sitting, lying down, walking, or in other positions); a focus of attention (a specially chosen word or set of words, an object, or the sensations of the breath); and an open attitude (letting distractions come and go naturally without judging them).”
So pull up a chair or a yoga mat to your garden patch, into your houseplant corner, or wherever you can be near some greenery, and join us on this National Garden Meditation Day. Relax your shoulders, find a focal point, tune in to your breath, and be in the moment.
And we’ll leave you with this: in a Japanese study, “viewing plants altered EEG recordings and reduced stress, fear, anger and sadness, as well as reduced blood pressure, pulse rate and muscle tension.”
Plants are good. Gardening is good. Namaste.