Gardening to Practice Gratitude
The centerpieces of a gratitude practice are thankfulness and presence. Gardening naturally cultivates physical presence. Many gardeners experience an inescapable delight while watching nature do its thing, and participating in the nurturing of life.
Our lives are full of awe and wonder, but also apprehension and anxiety. Being outside helps us calm our nerves and return to a spacious appreciation for all of it. The whole pie of life.
For me, it helps tremendously to intentionally set practices of gratitude into my life. Let’s explore how we can integrate gratitude into our gardening practices.
Cultivating Awe and Gratitude
Can we really be in awe each time we step into our paradise of nature and gardens? No, not the ‘awwwww’ we speak over cute babies, but the one that blows the golden blades of grass in open fields, folding them in waves. Yes!
It’s the awe that rustles and sighs through the auburn leaves of fall. The one that kisses your face when you summit a mountaintop. It’s that first warm sun ray that envelopes around you when you visit a sandy beach. Awe is what you hear 80 feet underwater scuba diving… when you hear absolutely nothing, and you’re completely alone.
It’s the tremble in your chest when a majestic elk steps boldly into a quiet, still meadow haloed by tall pines.
It’s that awakening, often momentary experience that catches you off guard when you’re not looking for it. Suddenly you become blissfully aware of the wondrous life surrounding you, living inside you, and breathing through you.
When I experience it, I’m reminded that it’s never left me. Somehow I’d forgotten the sky was blue, or that sunsets were worth watching. But it has always been here and it always will be.
Some people light a candle in a celebratory attitude for every breath and every heartbeat that life brings them and their loved ones. They thank something or someone outside your self for the experiences that you have had and expresses this appreciation out loud.
But have you ever considered bringing the intention of gratitude to your gardening? Or any outdoor project really. Natural, ecocentric surroundings gift us with gratitude all on their own, no doubt… but setting an intention multiplies the effect. If you’ve never considered setting this intention, this post is for you.
Here’s How We Can Get Started in Gratitude.
Spring 2019 might just be the season of your life that gratitude takes root. Let’s spend some time exploring ideas that could help us cultivate gratitude and mix it in with our passion… gardening and outdoor projects.
1. Place a Gratitude Symbol in Your Garden
Gratitude symbols are not for everyone. But some gardeners like to arrange their plants (or rocks in rock gardens) in symbolic ways. If you’re trying to awaken a sense of gratitude into your gardening practice, where better to place something to give you a daily reminder?
What is the definition of gratitude?
For us green thumbs, the definition of gratitude is being outdoors in our gardens, yards, relaxing patios, watching sunsets and getting our hands dirty. The smells and sights of freshly tilled soil, newly planted seeds, well-trimmed grass, and beautiful landscaping projects fills our souls to the brim. Our cups overflow with gratitude when we’re in our natural environment.
2. Memorize Two Quotes That You Invoke Daily With Purpose.
Earlier this week we posted some inspirational quotes about Springtime (tailored for gardeners). Try memorizing one of them, and supplement with another quote specifically about gratitude. Each day, walk into your garden, or your favorite nook of your outdoor paradise (backyard or front), and speak outloud both of the quotes.
Start by saying, “Thank you,” out loud to something natural. Express your appreciation and celebrate the joy that wells up within you as you do.
Here are a few gratitude quotes to consider supplementing your practice with:
- “‘Enough’ is a feast” – Buddhist proverb
- “Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.” Robert Brault
- “Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance.” Eckhart Tolle
- “Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn’t learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn’t learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn’t die; so, let us all be thankful.” Buddha
End your practice by saying “Thank you,” out loud yet again, to all things outside yourself. Say it and push the words out from your chest into the world. Express gratitude toward the trees, your yard, your garden, the sky, and the entire planet.
A simple formula to practice gratitude:
(Say all of these out loud!)
- Say, “Thank you” to a specific place in your natural environment.
- Rehearse an inspirational spring quote
- Rehearse a quote of gratitude
- End with another “Thank you” to the earth.
3. Plant a Gratitude Gift in Your Outdoor Space
Pick something this Spring planting season that will forever mark your outdoor space as a place of gratitude for years to come. Whether you are planting a seed, a tree, or repairing an area of your yard, mark that area as a designated memorial of gratefulness and appreciation.
It’s ok if the planting isn’t permanent. You’ll remember the event, and it will reap a harvest for the rest of your lifetime.
4. Host a Gratitude Event This Year in Your Outdoor Space.
Invite a small group of loved ones, friends, or neighbors to your house. Tell them that you are celebrating the gift of life. Show off your garden, your plants, and share the gratitude practice that you’ve chosen to invoke this year with them.
You don’t have to make a big show of things. Gratitude is a simple practice that can take two seconds, truly. Something I like to do with my children that is an incredibly simple practice of gratitude is this. I ask them to pause for one moment before a meal, and encourage them to say, “Thank you,” aloud before we begin eating.
We ask questions about our food like, “Where did this cheese come from?” and answer with, “The cows! Let’s say thank you to the cows today.” Then we picture cows in our imagination and say, “Thank you cows.”
If you’re inviting a group over and don’t fancy giving a big speech on gratitude, perhaps you could employ a similar, very simple invitation to your group before an ice tea, or appetizer. Just saying our thanks out loud once, for a moment, can be life changing for a few hours.
Counter-Attacking Life’s Challenges With Gratitude
May these simple practices be lighthouses to us, shining beams of joy out to our storm-tossed ships. Waves of concern crash up against our bows in our daily grind of life, but tears of jubilee also fall from our eyes.
Launch a counterattack by enacting a daily practice of gratitude this year in your outdoor space.
I’ve started to identify my own defiant means of resisting that devious, daily blindness that sneaks up on me when I’m not watching. I want to continually develop practices that help me hold mystery in wonder, that keep the veil lifted from my eyes, and that cultivate my awareness of life.
While I could list off several things that invigorate life’s essence in me, I want to leave you with a more expansive approach to the journey of awareness by advocating for this gardening for gratitude practice.
As you garden, bring your focus and attention to the physical environment, and through the practice you are performing, bring your heart and mind to the present moment.
Say, “Thank you,” for the breath in your lungs, for the heartbeat in your chest. For the feelings you experienced throughout the day. For the feelings you experience during the practice. All of them. All the feels.
Notice the effects of practicing gratitude
Simply pay attention to what happens inside you. I have no absolutes or guarantees to offer you, but I will share my own experience. I have found that cultivating the attitude of gratitude does something wonderfully mysterious for me. Not always immediately, but always eventually.
- The feelings I had previously told myself were good feelings expand and are given wings. They soar to entirely new heights.
- The feelings I had previously labelled bad transform, but somehow without change. I don’t know how else to articulate it.
The good and bad labels suddenly fall short of whatever blossoms from them. I’m not talking about granulating more detailed descriptions. It’s more like a new taste in your mouth when you add that special ingredient. It’s like the first time you try combining gingerbread and Roquefort cheese; even if you hate Roquefort, the pairing is so magical you find yourself loving it. (If you still don’t love it, try adding some honey.)
A bad feeling, when married to a good attitude, has the potential to become something even more brilliant than a good feeling standing alone.