Being co-founder of the GardenTags app means that I spend most of my days flicking between computer screens, phone screens and various other devices that are standard issue for any self respecting ‘tech geek’. And when I do finally switch off those screens I turn on the TV to absorb the news before jumping into bed with my latest novel on my kindle. I suspect that routines like this exist across the country and the globe. This is the new age of the ‘connected’ lifestyles that we now lead and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that as long as you find the space to disconnect.
“Everybody wanted a piece of me and the natural thing to do was to keep giving it away”
This state of disconnectness (if that is indeed a word) is not easy to find. In fact, I stumbled upon it about five years ago now in the form of mindfulness. I had been looking for something to help me unwind and give me clarity at moments when there were pressure points at home and at work. It was a classic situation where I had a responsible job, a hectic social life and a parent (my mum) who was struggling to live independently. Everybody wanted a piece of me and the natural thing to do was to keep giving it away. This was until I looked down at the fuel gauge and realised that I was running on empty and there was no reserve tank! As many of you may know this is quite a perilous situation. Fortunately, I went on a googling frenzy trying to find something to help me cope. This is when I happened upon mindfulness.
So what is mindfulness and more importantly what has it got to do with gardening? Let’s start with the Oxford Dictionaries definition:
“a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment”
Let’s deconstruct that a little and show you why gardening is part of my mindfulness routine.
Pardon my french but it may sound like one is stating the bleedin’ obvious but if you stop and think about how many times you’re thinking about something that happened in the past, perhaps something someone said at work or thinking into the future of something you must do like file a tax return you come to realise that often the last place we are is in the present moment. Mindfulness is about techniques to root you in the present moment whilst accepting that you will have thoughts and feelings that will come by to try and take you out of that present moment.
“I’m mindful of how each plant has changed day to day whether that’s new growth or the gradual decay”
I use gardening as a way to connect me to the present moment because it’s all about focusing my attention on what is going on around me. Just take something as simple as watering the garden. A great technique I use is to really focus on each and every plant I go to water. I look at the leaf shape, intensely study the blooms and look closely at the intricate and very individual way each flower is constructed. I’m also mindful of how each plant has changed day to day whether that’s new growth or the gradual decay. It’s even better if there is scent. I take a good old sniff of the scent and let it linger. If I start to think about the fact that I forgot to defrost the chicken I acknowledge that thought and slowly bring my attention back to the garden and what’s around me and keep on doing this again and again to root me back in to the present moment. It really is as simple as that.
“It enables you to detach the thought from the feeling which is a powerful thing”
Over time it has become a lot easier for me to retain the focus on what surrounds me and stop ruminating about stuff in the past and what I think is in my future. I was a nay sayer and didn’t believe this technique could work but mindfulness has had a big impact on my stress level. It enables you to detach the thought from the feeling which is a powerful thing. Now it didn’t happen over night in fact I practiced more traditional forms of mindfulness such as meditation and still do occasionally. And of course like with any practice it’s not always for everyone but at least give it a go. The impact of going out into the garden and re-connecting with nature may just surprise you. If anything, you’ll at least get to switch off those screens and fill your lungs with some fresh air!
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