Anyone seeking personal growth understands that finding a focal point for that growth can be difficult. We all hear others talk about how their lives were transformed by some thing or some life-altering event. There are endless self-help books and seminars on how to travel from where you are to where you want to be emotionally and behaviorally. Writers and speakers share ideas every day about anything from meditation, exercise and healthy eating to career change and money management, but many of us feel as though we’re standing in the middle of a whirlwind of ideas while having no real idea of how to incorporate those ideas into our reality. We want change….improvement. We long for peace of mind, success and accomplishment. Our souls ache for the epiphany that others talk about, but we wake up each day feeling like the train has left us behind and it’s moving so quickly that we have no hope of catching it. Our minds reel with questions; How do I grow? What needs to be improved upon? What does it mean to transform myself? How do I know I won’t fail? When and where do I begin?
With Spring’s careful and purposeful approach, the perfect time to start is now! Each of us have a unique need or desire for change and even if you can’t quite put your finger on what it is, the search is honestly waiting for you, luggage in hand…..you can hear the beckoning call…..”All Aboard!”
A garden is a good starting point for your journey….and may prove to be a good companion along the way. Gertrude Jekyll is a famous writer and hortoculturist who devoted her life to gardening. She wrote over 1,000 articles about gardening and created over 400 gardens in the United States, Europe, and the United Kingdom in her lifetime. She is quoted as saying that, “A garden is a grand teacher. It teaches patience and careful watchfulness; it teaches industry and thrift; above all it teaches entire trust.” In order to find the personal growth you’re seeking, you must be mindful of these things and find a way to focus on them. Build a relationship with a garden or two…or even a tree. Talk to it, listen to it…I’m certain it will begin to transform you.
How?, you ask…let me tell you…
Gardening Creates HOPE
One of the things we need when seeking positive change is hope. If we don’t have hope, we will never take the first steps to improvement. So try it. Go to your local garden center or greenhouse and buy a plant; something you have a great affection for. Purchase a flower that isn’t yet blooming (seeds would be even better), a tiny cactus, a seedling tree, a tulip bulb, seeds for a vegetable you like, or maybe a strawberry plant. If the weather where you live is still too cold to plant outside, buy a pot and a bag of (organic) potting soil. Take them home and set aside a little time one evening. Do your best not to rush through the process; read the back of the seed envelope or the tag in the plant and familiarize yourself with how to plant it correctly and what your plant needs (sun exposure, watering frequency, etc…). If you’re the studious type (like me) you can even look up articles online and view youtube videos. Absorb yourself with the knowledge and avoid distraction. Once your planting is complete, you will begin to feel a sense of hope that your efforts and attention will result in something you can enjoy. The more you plant….the more hope you create.
Gardening Creates PATIENCE
You’ve most likely heard the saying, “good things come to those who wait.” This tends to be true in life, but patience is something many of us are not very good at…especially when it comes to something we want a great deal. Learning to be patient is key to not making bad choices or rushing head strong into something that might take us down the wrong path. Gardening teaches us to wait…because we really have no choice but to let Mother Nature reveal her gifts in her own time. Be careful not to succumb to impatience because this will likely result in you neglecting your plant…ending in…well, you know. Exercise your ability to watch over your plant every day or two and notice the changes that are slowly taking place. Relate those changes to your own life and begin to realize that just because something doesn’t happen today, doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.
Gardening Creates NURTURING
The process of finding a better you requires nurturing. In order to change the “negatives” you see in yourself you must be WILLING to change them. Whether you’re trying to eat better, quit smoking, lose weight, build on your faith, get out of an unhappy relationship, or find a better job, it is imperative that you acknowledge that those changes are good for you; that you’re making the changes FOR yourself. When caring for your plants, each action requires thought and intention. By nurturing your plant (s), you are exercising your ability to care with determination. Plucking dead leaves, watering, fertilizing, and investigating potential problems (pests, fungus, disease, etc…) helps you focus on seeing the problem and figuring out how to remedy it. Exercising your nurturing muscles and relating them to your own needs can profoundly change the way you see yourself and what you truly deserve. For example, quitting smoking because you HAVE to becomes something you WANT to do for yourself. Playing an active role in caring for plants and experiencing the positive results will help your perspective change in your own life.
Gardening Creates RESILIENCY
One of the most common obstacles we encounter when seeking self-improvement is our belief that if we don’t succeed on the first try, we should just throw in the towel and accept the unacceptable. Gardening teaches us that shit happens. We might get an unexpected frost or an insect plague of biblical proportion. Maybe the neighbor dog has taken to peeing on your plants or something takes you away from home for an extended period of time preventing you from watering. This shouldn’t stop you from planting more. As in life, you should expect unforeseen problems….bumps in the road…and approach them not by yielding to them, but with determination to resolve the problem and keep trying. Learn from your errors and anticipate potential road blocks. Learning to accept that things will not always go as you hope will make you more resilient and will ward off feelings of inadequacy. If you grow a large garden, you will most likely become very familiar with this idea. As the scale of your gardening increases, your experiences successful or not will also increase. For example you may plant a bush or tree next to your house only to realize a couple of years later that it is too close to the foundation and has to be moved. You may plant your vegetables rows too closely one year, resulting in a smaller crop, which will teach you to plant them farther apart the next season. Disappointment is inevitable in life and in gardening, but deciding that low points don’t mean defeat will carry you strongly into your future.
Gardening Creates ACCOMPLISHMENT
Often times we get stuck where we are out of habit. We do something a certain way for so long we don’t even think of another way of doing it. We begin to feel powerless in our inactivity. We feel trapped in our perceptions and stifled in our acceptance of inability. Planting, growing, harvesting and communicating with nature teaches us that if we give to the Earth, it will inevitable give back. Every spin of a rototiller blade, every shovel full of dirt, every basket of weeds plucked, and every dirty fingernail is a communication to a life-giving, pleasure-giving resource for our bodies, minds, and spirits. On a large scale it can feed the hungry, nourish the onlooker, provide income, and open our minds to the endless possibilities life has to offer us….we have to offer ourselves. Connecting what we learn in the dirt to what we want to know about ourselves will result in a stronger, more hopeful, more accomplished well-being.
Gardening Creates PURPOSE
Whether you give a small amount of your time or a great many hours to your new craft, you will certainly reap the benefits of getting outside your head and connecting with nature. Each step and movement and decision and action results in thinking on another level. You will find yourself looking forward to each season, knowing that your presence in it will result in something tangible and pleasing. Your gardening travels may peak an interest in providing food, shelter, and attraction to birds and butterflies (and dragonflies if you’re like me). Vegetable gardens can create purposeful planting and a unique awareness of what you put into your body and a pride in what you’re feeding your loved ones. You will gain a sense of relevancy that you may be lacking and you will be able to put into perspective that how you live life is truly in your hands.
Gardening Creates TRANSFORMATION
Once you decide to garden beyond that one little potted plant or baby tree in the yard, you will begin to experience transformation in a very tangible way. A bare house front can become a beautiful perennial bed. A grassy stretch of yard can become a bountiful resource of good food. A boring fence line can become a rose hedge or raspberry patch. An empty windowsill can become a useful herb garden or gathering for cacti. These transformations will not only be visual, but will also become topics of conversation, resources for nourishment, teaching and quality time with children and grandchildren, and providers of gifts. You will own a sense of pride and accomplishment and an ability to create change with a little effort and creativity. You will begin to possess an entire trust in cause and effect as well as in your own abilities. You will transform yourself from that person on the train station platform with no destination, to a trusting, capable traveler of life with the perspective needed to find a better you.