Someone sent me this beautiful photo of the mindfulness garden at the Chelsea Flower Show this year.
Then I read this quote very quickly afterwards:
‘Human love is not a well laid out little paradise in which the tendrils of the heart remain deeply entwined. An expansive space is needed, the unfathomable ‘ground’ has to open up or, to put in more personal terms, the gardener has to be allowed in.’ (Paul Mommaers, quoted in The Silent Cry, Dorothee Soelle, p.129).
In thinking about mindfulness, what does it mean to let the gardener in? In Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) perhaps we allow the gardener in when we access our wise mind through mindful awareness practices.
In Acceptance & Commitment Therapy (ACT), perhaps we let the gardener in when we are in touch with our observing self.
It is a certain kind of gardener though, non-judgemental and compassionate. Perhaps we automatically see certain negative thoughts as nettles and try to avoid them. The mindful gardener within us enables us to grasp the nettle, or realise it is not a weed, it is just a thought, a passing event. In the garden of the mind, then, the nettles come and go, they don’t take root when we reframe them and face them, and let them go.
The mindful gardener can sustain her attention on the garden, can switch attention back the garden when her mind wanders. But also has an open awareness to whatever is in the garden.
She can name whatever is there. In the garden of the mind the bindweed is the ruminative thought patterns, the secondary processes, that take us out of the present moment. Naming them, noticing them, but not getting caught up in them and returning to the present moment is an important skill. Again the bindweed then cannot take root.
The mindful gardener is able to be in the present moment, in communion with all their senses and the garden around them.
The best gardener is merely helping the garden grow itself, and fulfil its potential. The mindful therapist is helping the client help themselves, accessing their own human capacity to be mindful, aware and attentive.
In mindfulness from a Christian perspective we believe that we can let in another Gardener. The Gardener who made us. This Gardener works in a way that releases our inner freedom, so that we can spontaneously do the good that needs to be done. The garden of our mind, can be as beautiful as the gardens of the earth.
(photo by Wendy Reed)
A meditative drawing is an act of discovering our embodiment mindfully.
I have been running a course looking at mindfulness from a Christian perspective for a church in Ealing. One of the important questions that has come up is, ‘what do you do when a difficult emotion, thought, sensation emerges?’
I have been looking at the Lindisfarne Gospels over the last few weeks in the British Library, before it goes to its brilliant summer exhibition in Durham. On the page that is open, within its glass case, is a letter ‘P’ shaped like a dragon.
It made me think of difficult emotions I have separated myself from, which I have imagined to be dragons. I have kept myself from experiencing them with a glass wall of separation. Mindfulness helps to bring down that glass wall of separation, whether it is our body, thoughts, or emotions that we have separated ourselves from.
One of the other things that kept me trapped was the thought that I had to be strong, and not show vulnerability and so it was hard for me to tell someone else I was struggling. But as I practiced mindfulness I had to face the difficulties and experiences I was keen to avoid. That can seem overwhelming.
At that moment it is really helpful to let someone else in, a wise friend, a doctor, a counsellor. When I did that I was able to face the difficult thoughts and emotions and begin to name them and draw them accurately. They began to lose their power, and began to dissolve.
I am trying to draw this Lindisfarne dragon. It has such complex plaited interlace, initially I think I can’t recreate it. But the more I pay attention to it, the more its pattern begins to make sense and not seem overwhelming and beyond my mapping.
I believe we can do a lot to help ourselves. But the most important lesson I have learnt is to let others in to help us with our vulnerability. The dragon drawing isn’t finished yet.
Kind acts leave real ripples. Emotional drawing…
One simple kind act
Like one pure drop of water
Ripples from center.
Art Prescription: I don’t watch the news much. I think it sensationalizes negatives and leaves people feeling depressed about the world we live in….And that is just NOT the whole picture! People are good and generous, and acts of kindness occur daily all around us, they just don’t make the evening news! Be the water!
I will be drawing on my experience in the banking world, counselling and psychotherapy and the world of ministry to help those in the workplace explore and understand their own stress levels, the archetypal relationships that exist in work with others, the importance of releasing creativity through contemplative practices that enable a ‘mind shift’ into inner freedom and flow.