Yoga is like gardening

Category : Featured, General advice 1st June 2024

Inside Yoga 329 (01/6/2024)

For several years we have had an allotment, or rather my partner has, and I have only gone there to do the odd job, build a polytunnel, repair a water butt, but rarely did I do some gardening work in the soil itself. This was her domain, her space, not mine, but recently we decided it was time for me to do a bit more gardening: the soil and plant stuff.

There were two main reasons for this, firstly, she’s so busy with her work as a gardener for clients in their gardens, my labour would help her get the numerous allotment jobs done; and secondly, it was time for me to embrace the therapeutic and meditational benefits of gardening.

Talking about doing this went on for a long time, typically delaying on my part, not because I did not want to do the gardening, or because I don’t like gardening, on the contrary on the few times I have done this, I have enjoyed it. Years ago, when I was travelling, I took part in schemes where I worked on organic farms/properties and meditation retreat centres in exchange for food and lodgings. So, I knew I had enjoyed the work, but starting a new activity sometimes just doesn’t happen, we procrastinate – I procrastinated! But, finally I seized the moment one afternoon, when I dropped whatever I was doing or not doing, and went to the allotment. I have not looked back.

Not being experienced my first jobs have been weeding, a never-ending job, yet very satisfying. As the headline of this article says, yoga is like gardening.

Yoga is never-ending, it is a practice, which is gradual, yet we are always making progress, in the same way, although gardening is continuous without an apparent end, with the preparing of soil, the planting, the growing and maintenance, and the harvest is followed by the next growing cycle, there is always progress.

Yoga means union, so, for example, when we feel out of kilter, and stressed we feel disconnected, removed from our self, unable to focus and concentrate; the opposite of this is union with our self, with the environment we are in at the time, and aware of the present moment. We seek a grounded and settled mind and body.

As I crouched in the dirt, sifting through the soil to remove the weeds, I noticed the transition of my mind and body, from a restlessness at home, and concerns over issues to deal with, for example, problems with utility companies etc, towards a calmer and more engaged state of mind.

As I worked in the soil, I could see my mind settling; and what helps is the continuous repetition of the action of gardening, weeding in this case; I had an area to clear, and what at start feel like a lot of work ahead, once started, and focussing on each little area at a time, the focus deepens, the satisfaction increases, and the work gets done. With each little area at a time, I made gradual progress.

This is very much like yoga, as we practice gradually, and persevere, and carry on; and not really with an overall outcome in mind, but eventually we see progress and results, as I did when I looked back at the area I had weeded.

And this goes for so much of life, focussing on the methodical progress of small steps forward through our life, not trying to reach the end in one great leap. And as history shows, one Great Leap Forward does not necessarily work, as Chairman Mao in 20th century China found out, because his haste to make changes to country resulted in a nationwide famine.

Gardening teaches us to work at a steady pace. It makes us focus on one task at a time. The similarities to yoga continue, as we need to hold one posture at a time with full focus; and notice that we often find our mind racing ahead to whatever is next. Holding to the present is key as it is gardening, work on one plant, one area at a time.

It is quite a simple premise, so don’t be surprised if your thoughts as you read this are along the lines that this is obvious. The solutions and remedies to our well-being can often be simple and right in front of us, but we often ignore the signs and clues.

This is just a reminder of what we can do to improve the quality of our lives.

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