Gardening is a spiritual practice for me. It attunes me to the grand energy for life that permeates this beautiful earth. It gets me in touch with the cycles of existence and the rhythms of the seasons. Mucking around in the soil opens me to the wonders of this verdant creativity that is evident all around us. Watching the seeds grow then transform into their abundant leaf and fruit awakens me to the miracle of existence and the generosity of the impulse for life.
When spring returns, I love to go into the garden and hold the sun-warmed, moist soil in my hand and feel it fall lightly through my fingers to the ground. I wonder at the millions of microbial life forms not visible to my eyes that will do their work to nurture the plants I will seed. What is this sacred intelligence of nature that guides and grows the seed in the soil to the mature beauty and magnificence of flower and fruit? Call it the Spirit of Life, or God, Big Mind, or the Evolutionary impulse, or the Great Mystery. My head tries to give this Verdant Energy a name. My heart simply fills with awe and wonder at the crazy beauty of it all. Albert Einstein said “My sense of God is my sense of wonder.” This wonder is best expressed with a simple ‘Thank You!’ and ‘Amen!’
Gardening draws me deeply into the present moment. As I dig into the soil, I become mindful of my connection to the earth and all life: I am of the earth and my life is part of its life. The breath I breathe in this moment is as an earth-being. A being that has taken 13.7 billion years of evolution to be made manifest in me now. All that has come before has made me possible in this moment. All the thousands of beings that contributed their life energy and passed it on in their DNA, through a long chain of transmission over millions of years, have made it possible for me to be aware of my breath in this moment. I share this long history with all the life-forms in the soil I hold in my hand. We are all of the same substance and come from the same source. We each carry the vital information written into our DNA that gives rise to the particular manifestation of life we are in this moment. The awesome realization of this momentous reality takes my breath away, for a moment!
Gardening connects me to the world-wide community of people who grow food to feed themselves and their community. It deepens my appreciation of the challenge of farming and how the variability of weather, seasons, soil and sunlight makes our food supply vulnerable. Through gardening I become aware that I have responsibility to steward the earth. It reminds me of the ancient spiritual tradition that the sacred human duty is to ‘till the earth and keep it’ (Genesis 2:15).
Working my little garden plot in this corner of the earth connects me with all the dynamic forces of life that permeate this blessed universe. It draws me into communion with the Spirit of God, the Source of Life, from whom all blessings flow.
Henri Lock is the United Church Chaplain at the University of Victoria. He is part of a religiously diverse team offering spiritual resources to the UVic community through the office of Multifaith Services.
*This article was first published in the print edition of the Times Colonist in the Faith Forum column Oct 26 2013
You can read more posts from our multifaith blog, Spiritually Speaking HERE