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)