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Garden of the Spirit: How Tending the Earth Transforms the Soul

One of the profound ways I stay connected to my divine nature is through gardening. Living in a modest home on a small lot in the Pacific Northwest, I have spent the last four years slowly transforming my space into a sanctuary filled with flowers, plants, and visual beauty. Whenever I feel anxious or frustrated, I head outdoors to breathe in the fresh air.

This simple act of stepping outside helps me shift from my headspace to a more embodied and expanded state of awareness. In times of confusion and frustration, it’s crucial to remove ourselves from the environments that foster these feelings. Changing our physical and mental state can profoundly impact our well-being.


Gardening allows me to nurture something external while helping my internal state realign with divine energy. The beauty that surrounds me in the garden induces a state of coherence, reconnecting me with my heart and the earth. I step out of the “world” I’ve been creating in my mind and into a “new world” where my thoughts quiet, and my emotions find calm.

Often, frustration and confusion arise from identifying too closely with the separate self, believing that I must solve every dilemma or change the world to fit my expectations. Gardening anchors me in present-moment awareness. In the now, I hear birds singing instead of my mind's chatter. I see newly budded flowers, notice plants calling for water, and become fully present to the immediate beauty before me.


Reflecting on my college years, I recall my parents moving from the suburbs of LA to a high desert area with no traffic or congestion. They bought a larger home on five acres, which required tremendous effort to transform into a beautiful haven. Participating in that process taught me the value of working the land.


I love the story of a man who revitalized a large parcel of land over several years. When someone remarked, "God has given you a beautiful parcel of land," he replied, "Indeed he has. But you should have seen it when he had it all to himself." This story highlights the paradox that tending the land not only restores it but also nurtures our spiritual well-being.

My father spent countless hours irrigating, weeding, and tending to the land, ensuring the cherry and peach trees thrived. Harvest time was a testament to his efforts, yielding delicious fruit and a sense of accomplishment. My parents ran a U-pick operation for cherries, which brought them great joy and connected them to the earth and the Divine.  It allowed them to share their bounty with family and friends in the form of delicious tree-ripened fruit. A magnificent gift to all.

 

Now, I find myself emulating my father's habits, frequently stepping into my garden throughout the day.  So often he would say, "I am going out to check on things."   Now I find myself saying the same words. These moments in the garden shift my consciousness, grounding me and reconnecting me to my divine nature. The process is calming and serene, a practice I highly recommend.


The paradox is that when we tend to the land, we tend to our spiritual well-being and undergo a profound transformation. Through gardening, we connect with our divine essence and discover a deeper sense of peace and purpose.


Peace and Blessings to all,

Rev. Denese Schellink


Notes:    Research has consistently shown that spending time in nature has profound benefits for our physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. Here are some key findings. 

Physical Health Benefits:   Reduced stress levels lower our cortisol levels a key stress hormone, study published by “Environmental Health and Preventive Medicine” found that spending time in forests, known as “forest bathing,” can significantly lower cortisol levels and blood pressure.  

Improved Immune Function:  exposure to nature boosts the immune system.   Research in “Environmental Health and Preventive Medicine” highlights how forest environments can increase natural keller cell activity which plays a crucial role in immune function.  

Mental Health Benefits:   Reduced anxiety and depression.  Time in nature has been linked to reduced symptoms of anxiety and depression, published in “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences”, found people who walked in nature decreased neural activity in the prefrontal cortex, a brain region linked to mental illnesses. 

Spiritual and Emotional Benefits: Enhanced sense of Connection:  being in nature fosters a sense of connection to the larger world and can enhance feelings of spiritual well-being.  Studies indicate that nature experiences can elicit awe and wonder, promoting a deeper sense of spirituality and interconnectedness. 

Mindfulness and Presence:   Nature encourages mindfulness and being present in the moment, a study in the “Mindfulness” Journal found that nature-based mindfulness practices can improve emotional well-being and reduce psychological distress.  

Increased Creativity and Problem-Solving:   Time in nature boosts creativity and problem-solving, as found in the “Journal of Environmental Psychology”. 

The benefits of being in nature, gardening or walking, are extensive and impact our body, mind, and soul.   Daily engagement can reduce stress, enhance immune function, improve mental health, foster a sense of connection and spirituality, and boost cognitive abilities and creativity.   Enjoy a more balanced and fulfilling life by communing with nature.  

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