Gardening Retreat at Dharma Drum Vancouver Center Oct. 19, 2014

The reason I signed up for the gardening retreat was simple curiosity. I always thought that meditation meant sitting on a cushion until your legs are numb and your back is sore! How can you meditate while you are gardening? So I decided to find out!

On the morning of the retreat, the Dharma teacher tells us that when we start doing gardening work, we should focus on three things: breathing, smiling and focusing our consciousness in the current moment. Actually, there is a fourth thing, which is even more difficult: No talking, not even talking to yourself!

The weather is perfect for gardening: a cool, sunny autumn day. I take a deep breath, relax and put my mind on the weeds. I can feel the texture of the leaves in my hands. The roots are tightly bundled up. It is amazing that one small weed could have such strong roots. In fact, the work is quite interesting. Wait a second! I just realized that I am talking to myself! I have been talking to myself all this time. Gardening meditation is going to be more difficult than it looks.

Over the rest of the afternoon, I keep catching myself talking to myself. I am amazed how my mind keeps being occupied by my own internal conversations. It does not leave space for anything else. This reflects how much "I, me, mine" still dominate my thoughts. In fact, it is so very difficult to keep the mind free of thoughts.

After the gardening, we experience walking meditation. When I am walking, I usually multitask. I swing my arms, move my neck, or jump up and down trying to move as many parts of my body as possible in order to maximize the exercise. During the walking mediation, however, our teacher tells us to move calmly and purposefully. We must try to relax all of our muscles and concentrate on the moment when each foot touches the ground.

Learning to meditate while gardening and walking is an eye-opening experience. It helps me understand that anything can be meditation, as long as one can relax and focus the consciousness in the current moment. When I am doing this meditation, I think to myself, "This is not easy, but I am glad I tried." Then I think, "Oh no! I am talking to myself again!"

(Shared by Ivy Lee from Vancouver, Canada)

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