I live in northern Indiana and right now, despite the warm weather, it is harvest time. It is the time when the combines and tractors start to take to the field to gather corn and soybeans (in our area) and wheat (in other places). It’s the time where our farms gather enough food to feed most of the people in our country. It’s something quite unique.

I am not a farmer. It is not my thing. But I do like to garden and spend time cultivating earth, building posts, and doing all the things necessary to get what I want out of that garden. Unlike other people, we do not depend on the garden, but it is a nice supplement to our groceries. As well, there is nothing quite like picking a vegetable and throwing it on your plate, especially a tomato for a BLT. 

But there is something about gardening that is quite meditative for me. I don’t do it for the food, which is nice. Rather, I do it to be in tune with nature, with our earth. I do it because it slows me down. I cannot rush a garden no matter how much I want. And when it does start to grow I cannot slow it down. It goes as it will and it makes me go at that speed too. I must follow its cycles, be in tune with it, nurture it, spend time with it, almost dance with it, if you will. This allows for a new type of world to emerge: one where time is not spent rushing from one thing to the next, but cultivating and sustaining life.

The dance that it takes to have a garden is really a spiritual one. I tend to think of spirituality as connectedness to something greater than the self. Oftentimes we think of this as the divine, as God. And I don’t discount that and, if I’m honest, I often feel closer and more connected to God when I’m in the midst of gardening (yes, pulling weeds makes me feel more spiritual). But, the way that we use the word “spirituality” today marks something more broad than simple religious connotations. Instead, it makes the connectedness to the “other” that we all must feel at some point in our lives if we are to be human, even if that feeling is to the process of evolution or planting a garden or doing a dance. They all tap into the spiritual because they all lead us to that which is beyond the self.

So, gardening is one of those things that takes me beyond me. I am no longer stuck in my own crap but have extended myself. I am beyond by being one with earth. I can look at the garden and know its needs, whether that be for weeds to be pulled or water to be had or more sun. I can’t always meet these needs, but I am mindful and aware.

And this helps me as I cope with my mental illness. I have noticed that having things that are dependent upon me cultivating them helps me tremendously. When I need to do something it makes me feel better to get it done. So, when I needed to build a TV stand, that helped. When I need to work in the yard, that can be a help. And when the garden needs me I need it as well. It brings my mental state to a point where life is simple and not running. It is a meditative place where pulling a weed is like doing mantra and where all work is, in the words of Brother Lawrence, “practicing the presence of the divine.”