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)
‘The words English owes to India’ is a title of an article in the BBC News Magazine, reflecting on a programme due to be broadcast today on Radio 4 about a lexicon of words of Asian origin used by the British in India called ‘Hobson’Jobson: A Very English Enterprise’.
One of those words is verandah which is defined as an ‘open pillared gallery around a house.’ Some of my happiest moments have been sitting on verandahs in Africa as a child. I think we are also meant to have a verandah of the mind, although we often don’t.
A verandah opens up a house to what is going on in the environment in a 360 degree way. Many houses are designed in a closed way, there is no gallery around them, no openness to the world around. In the same way our minds should be open and aware of all that is going around in the environment, there is architecture there to enable this – but this architecture has often been buried away behind defences and walls and double-glazed windows.
Another word psychologists use to describe this lack of awareness and openness is automaticity or being on auto-pilot; as if we are sleep walking through life. A shuttered existence. A house, of course, only comes to life, when the shutters are thrown open.
Neuroscience says that contemplative/mindful practices create beneficial shifts in the architecture of the mind, the mind which is neuroplastic in design. You become more empathic and relational with others and less defended and fearful. A verandah of the mind is created where you can meet people, the world, and even God in a new way.
The pillars of silence, stillness, meditating on Scripture, memorising the living Word create a living memory within us of how to live life in all its fullness – as Christ did, creating an open gallery of goodness around us. A verandah of the mind.