Cultivating the Land is Cultivating Ourselves
By CHRISTINA RAI WHEELWRIGHT
It’s the time we all look forward to – spring gardening weather is coming!
Engaging in gardening is one of the most therapeutic pastimes there is. It heals both body and mind and especially anchors the soul in its journey on this plane of existence. We are here to have the physical/emotional experience. We are not meant to detach while in corporeal form but, rather, to fully embody all that is available through the five literal senses. This, in turn, feeds the soul and provides it with a directional impulse in its search for home.
When we garden, whether on a minuscule scale by having a few choice houseplants or on a larger scale by venturing forth into our back yards, we connect with Gaia, the earth mother. Truly, this organism is our own source of life. From Gaia, all have come and to her we return. She provides us with all that we may need to sustain ourselves, both in body and in mind. What can we do without food and water? How many poems have been written by someone inspired by the magnitude of the beauty of the living earth? How many landscapes have been painted or photographed by someone attempting to capture even a small fraction of the vista before them? It is good to garden, to watch things grow from tiny seeds and then watch these same plants return to the earth in preparation for a new cycle to come. After all, according to numerous religious myths, the first couple were gardeners!
The gardening process is beneficial from its inception to its conclusion. During the later winter months, we can relax with gardening catalogues, make plans on garden grids, organize what seeds we have left over from the previous season and sort through equipment that may need repair. Some of those seeds could be planted to get an early start once it has warmed up a bit. For serious gardeners, this might be the time to get the greenhouse going. Commercial growers are already hard at work by February, which is why we have a sudden burst of green at garden centres long before any seeds have been planted into the actual garden. In March it is just beginning to whisper warmth to us so we may even be able to go outside and have a look see at the garden space. All this prepares us for the work ahead.
Once it begins to warm up, usually by April, we can begin to tackle the spring clean-up or prep work that is necessary after the long winter months. I have seen gardens in Winnipeg ready for seeding by the end of April, black earth rich and inviting and fully cultivated. If our own gardens do not resemble this, we can make it a goal. Even though April is usually not yet warm enough to set plants out, some seeds may be planted, though a good guideline is to wait until the first New Moon after the May long weekend. I have planted out before this and been disappointed by an unexpected frost. However, due to the fluctuating occurrence of the New Moon (the dates change on a regular basis), some years this is well into June, so we have to be flexible as we prepare to plant. Onion sets, however, can be planted even if there is a danger of frost, and for those of you who plant winter garlic, it will be up by this time, green shoots poking through, even if there is still some snow around.
By Summer Solstice, this year occurring on June 21 at 5:07 AM in central time zones, your garden should be in full swing, with the green foliage overtaking the black earth. Daily garden blissful activities include weeding, cultivating and watering when necessary. For hardcore gardeners, you may still be transplanting and relocating perennials before they get too big. Garden exercise is one of the best forms of exercise as the gardener does crunches, bends, stretches and lifts. It builds muscle while also expanding aerobic capacity. The sweat that is produced helps to cleanse the body of toxins, while the thirst that ensues forces the gardener to rehydrate on a regular basis.
Gardening tends to slow us down. It releases us from urgency. We fall into an almost hypnotic rhythm, aligning ourselves with the drumbeat pulse of Gaia. This natural rhythm has been shown to actually reboot the very same natural rhythm of the human body. Back in the day, a popular therapy included sending patients into the countryside where they could be outside, or “take the waters,” as it was commonly called. Today, the most sought-after healing spas are located in pastoral settings almost always filled with gardens of some kind.
The emotional benefits derived from gardening cannot be understated. We are physical creatures, so just being surrounded by the sounds and smells of the awakening earth is healing. While engaged in the physical activity, we can allow our minds to rest in a state of mindfulness. The garden is the best place to meditate, whether proactively or passively. Passive meditation can be incredibly restorative, and often we will suddenly come up with solutions to problems. Don’t forget that Einstein dreamed his Theory of Relativity! Sleep, of course, is the ultimate passive state, but engaging in a ritualistic gardening process can also create a passive mental state. One indication of a happy mind and heart is joyful singing. While gardening, it is not uncommon to find yourself humming. The vibrations that this creates inside the body are yet another benefit that comes from the bliss of gardening.
The Buddha stated: “Mind your thoughts, as they become your words. Mind your words, as they become your actions. Mind your actions, as they become you.”
We want to be the best we can be, full of love, peace and acceptance. Gardening reminds us of those things that really matter: the living earth, the continuity of life, wholesomeness and goodness. As we nurture the earth, she nurtures us. and we blossom into the full potential of the Buddha’s promise.
Christina Rai Wheelwright has studied with shamans, both locally and internationally. She is also an evolutionary astrologer, writer and energy worker trained in reflexology and craniosacral therapy. Visit Christina’s website at christinarai.com