Surrender 124: Garden Meditation

Today I was intentional about spending time in my garden this evening. As I moved through the day, working this morning and visiting with my mom at the hospital, I considered how to best savor those moments. I was excited about planting and hanging the vintage cone colanders and creating a permanent space for the minnow bucket candle holder. 


I set that intention this morning and surrendered to it. During the day, as I was in the flow of possibilities, two other elements clicked into place, creating an amazing opportunity. I learned about gathas. And I looked at the online holiday site, curious about what unique celebration might be available today. 

Gathas (pronounced gattas) are short poems or verses that are recited during routine activities throughout the day. They are designed to return us to the present moment, helping us to be mindful and aware. In his book Peace is Every Breath, Thich Nhat Hanh writes, “When we settle into the present moment, we can see beauties and wonders right before our eyes. Reciting gathas is one way to help us dwell in the present moment.” In his book, Hanh includes gathas for many ordinary tasks, including gardening. 


When I looked up the unique holidays for today, I discovered that May 3 is Garden Meditation Day. It all came together…my desire to be in the garden this evening, the use of gathas to practice mindfulness in the present moment, and a celebration focused on meditating in the garden. Isn’t life beautiful?

Meditation doesn’t have to be practiced sitting in a lotus position with eyes closed. Meditation is the awareness of what’s going on, right now, in my body, in my breathing, in my feelings, in my world. Garden meditation is the act of focusing on what I am doing, moment by moment…digging, planting, creating, watering and even pulling weeds. As I garden, I don’t dwell on the garden of the past or project toward a garden of the future. I remain right here, in the garden of right now, enjoying each task. 


As I mindfully dwelled in my garden, I created little flower containers from the two vintage cone colanders. Greg secured the colanders to the wood fence, using heavy duty staples. I cut a 14″ round coco fiber liner in two and formed each half into a cone shape, which I then slipped inside each colander. I filled the containers with potting soil and tucked in white impatiens and trailing dichondra. I LOVE the finished look. These are so adorable and they were so easy to create. 

I filled two battered metal buckets with flowers, setting the containers on and near an old wooden chair. The colander planters are secured on either side of the chair. Above the chair, the minnow bucket hangs from a sturdy hook, completing that garden vignette. 


As I meditatively planted and watered, I mindfully recited gathas: 

Planting

I entrust myself to Earth/Earth entrusts herself to me/I entrust myself to the Divine/The Divine entrusts itself to me. 

Watering

Water and sun/green these plants/When the rain of compassion falls/even the desert becomes a vast fertile plain. 

Lighting the candle within the minnow bucket

Lighting this candle/offering the light to the Divine/the peace and joy I feel/brightens the face of the Earth


I am refreshed by my meditative time in the garden this evening. The gathas were simple and beautiful reminders that kept my awareness on what I was doing. And my creativity was fully engaged, free to play. It was the perfect end to the day. I look forward to writing my own gathas. However this one of Thich Nhat Hanh’s resonates:

Ending the Day

The day is ending/my life is one day shorter/Let me look carefully at what I have done/Let me practice diligently/putting my whole heart into the path of meditation/Let me live deeply each moment in freedom/so time does not slip away meaninglessly. 


Day 136: Deep Relaxation

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My planned first for the day was a line dancing lesson. As I wrapped up the day close to 7:00 pm, finishing up a showing with a delightful young couple, I knew that wasn’t going to happen! Deciding to save line dancing for another time, I now had to come up with a first, relatively late in the day. At home, browsing through possibilities, I realized my body was drawn toward deep rest. One thing I’ve learned during my journey these past few years is to listen to what my body is telling me. For my first today, I practiced intentional deep relaxation.

I regularly practice meditation and frequently include relaxation as a part of that practice. It is very easy to allow stress to build up in the body and settle into the muscles, creating tension and pain. When I’ve been overly busy, or have had too many long days and short nights, stress and tension accumulate in my neck and shoulder muscles. A painful stiff neck or shoulder is my signal to relax and meditate. Taking 15 to 20 minutes to consciously relax the muscles and allow stress to drain away restores and refreshes me physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Tonight I tried a deep relaxation technique suggested by Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk who writes and teaches about mindful living. He says that deep relaxation is an opportunity for our bodies to rest, heal and be restored. As we relax, we send love and care to each part of our bodies, holding that part in our awareness as we breathe in and out.

I wanted to be very intentional about relaxing, so I created an environment to support and encourage it. Candles were lit throughout my darkened bedroom. I combined dried lavender, white sage, sweet grass and a bay leaf to create a soothing and cleansing potpourri to burn on a small piece of charcoal. And I had 40 minutes of soft, meditative music playing on my phone. I was ready to relax!

I don’t normally lie down to meditate, as I will too easily slip beyond relaxation and into sleep. I decided this evening to get comfortable lying down and that if deep relaxation took me into slumber it was because my body needed that rest. Lying on my bed, snuggled beneath a heavy blanket, candlelight flickering and music playing, I closed my eyes and focused on taking long slow deep breaths. Beginning with my toes, I held them in my awareness and said, as breathed in and out:

Breathing in, I am aware of my toes

Breathing out, I smile to my toes

This is mindfulness. This is bringing my attention to myself and willing myself to relax my muscles. I moved my awareness up my body, mentally cradling each part, repeating the above statement about my knees, my liver, my arms, my heart, my shoulders, all the way to the top of my head. Sending love and care and gratitude to each part of me, smiling, spending a little extra time being mindful of any sore spot, I relaxed so deeply. Muscles unknotted, my breathing grew deeper and I felt myself sinking into sleep. I let go.

I didn’t sleep long, and waking slowly, I felt wonderful. I could have rolled over and slept until morning and will return to pick up where I left off shortly. Thich Nhat Hanh says, “When you direct the energy of your mindfulness to the part of your body that you are embracing with love and tenderness, you are doing exactly what your body needs.” This was exactly what I needed tonight and I’m grateful that I listened to my body. This was self care at a high level.

Day 109: Chocolate Nut Cake Recipe from Blood Sugar Solution Cookbook

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I’ve been on Dr. Hyman’s Detox Diet for 54 days now. I’ve eliminated sugar, gluten, flour and dairy from my diet during this time. I continue to feel great! I have more and more energy and stamina, sleep better, and joint pain in my knees and fingers is almost entirely gone with flexibility continuing to improve weekly. I don’t have headaches, except an occasional sinus headache, and haven’t had indigestion or acid reflux since I eliminated sugar. And, I’m now 20 pounds lighter than when I started this change in eating.

I’ve discovered what I can eat, and haven’t found it difficult to eat healthily and well. I purchased Dr. Hyman’s Blood Sugar Solution Cookbook, which contains 175 great recipes. At this point, I’m beginning to transition. I’ll rarely include sugar or processed white flour in my diet from this point forward. I’ve become a believer in the harm both do to the body and the inflammation that they cause leads to most of the diseases that plague us. The same with gluten. I used to love bread. Now it will be something I have as a rare treat, if at all. I’ll also continue to limit dairy products, which can cause the body to create too much mucus. (Ewww!) Dr. Hyman suggests trying gluten or dairy sparingly, one at a time, and see how your body reacts. If there is a return of inflammation in the body, continue to avoid it or limit its use. This is a lifestyle change for me, not just a diet.

This time of year, candy is everywhere! I haven’t eaten a lot of candy, in the past, but around Easter time, I  would enjoy a marshmallow Peep or two! Or perhaps a peanut butter chocolate egg. I’m happy that I bought treats for the kids and grandkids, without indulging in the goodies myself. For my first today, I decided to try one of the dessert recipes in my new cookbook, Chocolate Nut Cake. This treat does not contain any sugar, flour, gluten or dairy products. It was simple and quick to make and doesn’t require baking.

Mix together in a blender or food processor (I think a food processor works best), 10 pitted dates, ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder, ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons coconut oil, ¼ cup almond butter, 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup, 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract, ¼ teaspoon sea salt. Blend until smooth, about 3-5 minutes. Spread mixture into a greased mini loaf pan and place in freezer for 30 minutes. When cold, slice into 6 pieces.

A healthy, anti-inflammatory dessert will be an occasional treat for me, rather than a daily snack. I love Dr. Hyman’s philosophy concerning desserts. He says, “The most important advice I can give you is this: stay present in the act of enjoying your treats when you have them. Savor them in small amounts. After all, birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, graduations, holidays and rituals are the traditions that make life truly sweet! I want you to live to eat, not the other way around.” I love that. Stay present with your food and the act of enjoying what you eat. I’ve been a mindless consumer of food for far too long. I love the ritual of preparing something healthy and eating it in a very mindful way. Food then, and the preparation of it, becomes an art and a spiritual practice.

And the chocolate nut cake? Rich, velvety and luscious. I savored every bite.