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“We might think we are nurturing our garden, but of course it’s our garden that is really nurturing us.” – Jenny Uglow
Two perspectives on caring for a garden
When I was in high school and my mom asked me to help her weed, it truly felt like a fate worse than death. Not only did my work never seem to be up to her (very high) standards, but I never felt confident determining a weed from a plant. (In hindsight, this might have something to do with my shoddy work.) If you’d told me then that I would choose to spend a Saturday afternoon doing exactly that, I would have scoffed in that lovely way that teen-aged girls can scoff.
Yet I love the hours I spend creeping around the gardens in my backyard. I love checking in on my plants – seeing what has grown, what is blooming, what has drooped under the weight of its own growth. I love deadheading the potted daisies smiling sunnily around my patio. I love gently staking up a plant that has grown taller than it is strong.
Yes, I even love weeding. I love that satisfying feeling when my weeder gets under the roots just right so that the whole weed pops out of the earth. I love seeing the sheer variety of plant life that Mother Nature adds to my beds. I love counting the number of buckets I fill to the brim with weeds and trimmings. I love the scents of weeding – the smell of the earth and the often spicy smell of the weeds themselves. I love the feeling of the sun on my shoulders as I work and the sensations of my body as I stretch and bend to tend to the far corners of my garden.
We receive benefits from tending to something other than ourselves
The word tend is defined as to “have care of or to look after.” (Vocabulary.com) When we tend to a garden (or a pet or a loved one or a home or …) we are caring for something other than ourselves. At first glance, looking after something can seem like hard work. It asks us to pour our precious and often scarce time, energy and resources into something other than ourselves. Yet, even the most taxing of caregiving, caring for others in serious illness, can be profoundly meaningful and rewarding. The American Psychological Association (APA) notes that caregivers who derive a sense of satisfaction and well-being from caring for their loved one report lower levels of depression during these times of crisis.
Yoga teaches us to take care of ourselves so that we’re better able to care for others
A yoga practice is a wonderful way to practice the art of care-taking. We begin, as yoga so often has us do, with ourselves. Each time we unroll our mat to move and breathe, we are practicing self-care. We are tending to our body, mind and spirit. We do this even on days when we’re tired, or when we don’t have time or when doing so feels like really hard work. We lavish this care on ourselves and we thrive. We feel better inside and out because of this investment in time and energy. As we practice, what initially may have felt like hard work becomes a joy in our days.
Yoga very rarely (if ever) stays on your yoga mat. In my experience, this has been especially true of the practice of nurturing or tending to or caring for. I credit my yoga practice for making me a more generous, loving and caring wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend and teacher. Perhaps because I have grown so intimately familiar with the benefits of receiving a dose of daily tender-loving-care, it feels quite natural and easy for me to shower that same T.L.C. upon others. It’s a gift I know I can give and that I know can make a difference.
Care-taking can leave you feeling cared for
To my own daughters, I know it looks like I’m taking care of the garden and it looks like really hard work. But, for me, when I’m out there tending to the beauty that I find in my backyard, it doesn’t feel like work at all. Like my yoga practice, this work of care-taking has become a joy in my life. In fact, to riff on Ms. Uglow’s words with which this essay begins, in the end, when I’m done, I feel like it is I who has been taken care of.
If you’re feeling burdened by the work of taking care of something or someone else, it might be a good time to practice taking care of yourself. Why not start by coming to one of our classes, so you can strengthen and tone your body while you calm and quiet your mind.