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Meditative garden magic

January 9, 2014

Right now, unusually in a week in which migraines have been troubling me, my brain feels relaxed. I know exactly why. I’ve been gardening.

For me, gardening is magic. I love being outside in the fresh air, getting gentle exercise, and tending to my plants. I love re-arranging my pots into different configurations that completely alter the look and feel of the space. I love seeing how our trashy kitchen and garden scraps transform into wonderful, rich compost that supports life. And I love watching how so many of my plants thrive and multiply with very little input from me. Best of all for my health, I love how gardening can be completely absorbing. Worries drift away, and all there is in the world is soil and pots and plants and worms.

Modern life, particularly work life, is fractured. There are constant demands and interruptions. Your thought processes have to be able to leap deftly from one demand to the next. This can be wonderfully stimulating in short stints… but for me, as someone who thrives on deeper, drawn out thinking that is more about making connections between things than leaping from thought to unconnected thought, it can be exhausting. After a while I find that instead of being able to make the required mental leaps and bounds my brain starts to stutter and shut down. I reach a point where I simply can’t leap to the next thought if it is an unconnected one – my brain refuses to jump. This is often one of the first signs I get that one of my migraines is imminent.

Gardening, on the other hand, acts for me as an anti-migraine super-drug. It puts my brain back not just into its normal state, but into a blissful state of flow. Everything is connected. All living things. All of my thoughts. My brain stops stuttering and puttering, and my thoughts branch out blissfully in sustained stretches. It feels as though having been battered, bent and warped, my thoughts are stretching themselves out again, uncoiling, untwisting, exploring and connecting. It feels like healing.

Unfortunately I can’t carry my garden around with me as a convenient pill to pop whenever I feel a migraine coming on. Gardening is a time-consuming, non-portable, and often rather messy hobby. Maybe what I can do is learn to recreate this feeling. Perhaps I can find other activities that promote this feeling too, (writing, walking and painting all spring to mind). But it would be even more powerful if I could learn to put myself into this state of mind without relying on an activity as a catalyst. Or maybe that is an activity in itself? Meditation.

Yes, I think what I need to do is to recreate this feeling through meditation. Then perhaps I can carry my mind-garden with me anywhere and everywhere. And maybe if I get really good at meditative mind-gardening I can bury my migraines once and for all at the bottom of an imaginary but powerful compost heap, where they can break down then be transformed, and perhaps something new and wonderful will finally grow.

Pots in Julia's garden

Pots in Julia's garden

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