The last week of each month we focus on a different spiritual practice. This week its gardening! Its a good follow up after exploring last week's post Sacredness Of Creation based on the Community of Christ enduring principle.
My father and grandfather were both farmers. Each year my dad would work the family field preparing the soil and planting either soy beans or corn depending on the year. After the long process he would walk out into the field and say a prayer. "Lord I have done all I can do, the rest I leave to you."
Farming as well as gardening takes a lot of trust. We can do everything we can to have a fruitful harvest and yet there is an element that we cannot control. My father knew this and hence lifted it up to God.
Gardening gets your hands dirty by tilling soil, planting seeds, watering, and weeding. It is a process that takes dedication and care as you step into this sacred space each day to work and relax. It allows us to take time to focus our attention on caring for and improving the earth. We also get to reflect on our own thoughts and sense the divine that is all around and through us. It is in this time where we can meet God in a powerful way. I see so much symbolism in gardening to God nurturing us as individuals as we grow into fruitful beings. Its constant work but work worth the time. We have to be patient just as the divine is with us.
Reasons to Garden
There are a myriad of reasons to take gardening up as a spiritual practice. The great thing is you get to decide how this spiritual practice is important for you and why you should do it.
1. Ability to Create/ Design A Sacred Space - Gardening is a way for people to use their creative minds in designing and constructing a space which will fit the needs of themselves or their communities. This can also become a sacred space for an individual to meet the divine or to focus on their time with others.
2. Brings People Together/ Creates Community - Gardening is an activity which can be done with others. It can be educational, spiritual, and enjoyable all at the same time. When people get their hands dirty working on a common goal it connects them in a deep way. It creates positive relationships that can lead to further ability to impact the community. When we can create community we are living out the gospel message.
3. Decreases Personal Stress - Gardening can be relaxing as we put the worries in our life aside for a moment. We slow down and take time for the earth and ourselves. A study conducted in the Netherlands by Van Den Berg and Custers took thirty individuals who took a stressful test and immediately afterwards had to either go inside to read or go outside and garden for 30 minutes. The study found those who gardened had lower cortisol levels (stress hormone), and reported overall more positive moods. The stress levels of those who were reading actually increased during that time.
4. Opportunity To Be Generous - Gardens are an easy way to become generous. If you plant an edible garden, harvesting those fruits, vegetables, or herbs/ spices provides an opportunity to give to others. People genuinely appreciate receiving food that has been nurtured and cared for from someone they know. If you plant a flower, water, or some other type of garden than providing the beautiful view can be generous in itself. Again giving flowers away or inviting others into your sacred space can also be ways to be generous with that space.
5. It Makes Our World Better - Gardening puts plants on the earth creating more oxygen for our world. Plants also remove some pollutants from our ecosystems especially through water systems making it a safer place. Gardening provides food and shelter for wildlife. Animals may eat some of the food or use it for shelter benefitting the overall ecosystem. Bees and other pollinators also use gardens and plant life to stay alive. Overall gardening is a good thing for the world.
What Types of Gardens Are There?
If you are interested in starting this as a spiritual practice than its also a matter of choosing what fits your needs and style. There are many different kinds of gardens so I have chosen a few to give you some ideas.
Edible Garden - Growing vegetables, fruit, or herbs/spices. Before you begin planting make sure you research your weather region to know what grows, when to plant, how it grows, how often to water, and the supplies you need.
Water Garden - This is interior or exterior water features focusing on growing and showcasing aquatic plant life. If you want to learn how to build one check out "Water Gardening" which gives you instructions on how to build your own. If you wondering what plants to use, go to this article "20 Best Water Garden Plants for Ponds and Fountains" at Happy DIY Home which provides extensive information identifying various plant life that may fit your garden. They also have various articles on gardening that may interest you.
Flower Garden - Focuses efforts on creating a beautiful landscape of flowers. This may be a variety of flowers or dedicated to one kind such as tulips, roses, or something else that mixes a myriad of colors. Topeka has a Tulip Time Festival at Ted Ensley Gardens every year highlighting their flowers. You can check out this news article "Tulips in full bloom" from WIBW.
Japanese Garden - This type of garden attempts to keep a simple, minimalist natural setting to help people to reflect and be inspired. They are usually comprised of a few different elements and features. The important aspect of this type of garden is the focus on making it a sacred space for all to come and enjoy. A Japanese garden was created in the Community of Christ temple and is open to be seen by those who go there.
Urban Garden - For those of you living in the city or urban environment it is still possible for you to take up this practice. Maybe you just have a small space, a rooftop, or know a community garden down the way. Urban gardens provide a ton of benefits for those in a city. In fact they have found urban/ community gardens help improve neighborhood aesthetics, reduce crime, and improve community communication. Check out this article "The Real Value Of Urban Farming (Hint its not always the food)" to read the other benefits.
I sincerely hope after reading this you consider whether the spiritual practice of gardening is right for you. I believe it will benefit not only you and your connection to the divine but those around you and the environment. I will end this post with the wise words from Joe Dirt, "Life's a garden, dig it."
I appreciate all of you sharing this blog with those you know! The feedback we have received has been awesome!
This week really look at how the spiritual practice of gardening can work for you or an aspect of it you can adopt in your life.
Craig Hidy like the majority of ministers in Community of Christ is a bi-vocational, self sustaining ordained minister. He is a member of the Midlands Mission Center Emporia Team and an ordained Seventy. He and his family, live in Topeka, Kansas.
The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of Community of Christ. We believe individuals should be allowed to have their own opinions and be at different places in their faith journey.
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