Friday, May 31, 2013

Money Plant Going to Seed

Money plant is fading and going to seed. Since the daffodils ended, i rely on money plant to hold the color in the gardens--2 dozen white ones in the white garden and probably a hundred pinky-purples in the bulb garden.

Now i pull out the ones in the foreground that have gone green in order to better see the blooming iris or geranium behind.

This is what we do in meditation: bring our meditation object to the foreground and allow other sense impressions to fade to the background. We choose whatever meditation object interests us the most--hearing, breath, sensations of the body, loving-kindness.

Yesterday, during a 7-minute introductory meditation in a high school class, 3 students reported fixing their attention on the breath so that they didn't even hear sounds in the hallway or outdoors. (I had the windows open for hearing meditation.) Attention on the foreground is the beginning of concentration.

I'm concentrating on "weeding" my flowerbeds, so that the natural beauty can come to the foreground, and i can pay attention to that.

Photo from

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Little by Little

Every May, Melissa asks me over to her house for lunch. But first, we stroll around her gardens, and i give her ideas for what to plant where or what to move where. Her backyard is quite shady, and when i first went, she was frustrated by the underperformance of the full-sun plants she loves.

Sweet Woodruff
She first focused on her backdoor garden and soon had a lovely calm shade garden with hosta, hellebore, and bloodroot.

This year, her front door garden is stunning with a sweet
woodruff ground cover.

I drove into her driveway, parked beside her car, and looked across the yard to a colorful, partially sunny wet spot. Delightful.

Poco a poco, little by little, Melissa becomes happier with her various flower beds.

Over time, we can focus on different themes in our meditation: breath, hearing, sensations of the body, loving-kindness, or any of the hundred meditations in my book The Meditative Gardener. One by one, our inner meditation garden becomes richer and deeper.

And our meditation becomes a pleasure.

Photo from

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Anti-Inflammatory Kale & Mindfulness

Red Russian kale has reseeded itself not only in the vegetable garden, but also in other nearby beds. I have hundreds of kale plants and wish i could send you some.

As it is, i'm patiently potting them into 6-packs to take to Perennial Swappers tomorrow evening. I know from experience that a couple dozen Swappers will only take so much kale, so i'll have to compost most of the seedlings.

I am rich in kale. Kale is so rich in vitamins and minerals that it's called a superfood:
  • more iron than beef
  • more calcium than milk
  • 10 times more Vitamin C than spinach
  • incredibly anti-inflammatory (Inflammation is a major cause of heart disease.)
Mindfulness is superfood for the heart-mind because it has the ability to cut down and then replace inflammatory thoughts. The days i don't meditate are the days i become irritated at something or someone or other.

Eat more kale; it's good for the heart. Practice more mindfulness; it's good for the heart and mind.

Photo from

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Rhododendrons Rooting

Rhododendrons root by "layering." Pull one of their branches down to the ground and put a large rock on it. When you come back 6 months later, the branch will have roots growing on its underside.

My rhododendrons have rooted their branches without any assistance from me, so, to thin them, i rip out some of these low-rooted branches.

Our habits of mind root themselves in our psyche, sometimes without our noticing. Label those thoughts. Label every thought you notice.

You don't need to judge the thought or wish you hadn't had it or tell yourself you "shouldn't" think such thoughts. That's just the ego trying to exert control and make the whole exercise so unpleasant that you'll just drop it.

The ground doesn't say, "I wish that rhododendron wouldn't grow here. I don't want its roots." The earth accepts whatever is given to it.

Label that thought.
And the next one.
And the next one.

It doesn't matter if you don't have exactly the right label. The label is not the point.

We simply want to notice our habits of mind.

Illustrations from

Monday, May 27, 2013

The Month of May

20 years ago, i graduated from Antioch University New England on May 3 with a Master's degree in Counseling. As a reward to myself, i dedicated the month of May to gardening. Then i started my job hunt in June.

Whenever i can, i love dedicating May as my major gardening month. What a great excuse to be outdoors, watching flowers come and go, my finger on the pulse of life.

Vermont Insight Meditation Center, where i teach, dedicated this month to a May Meditation Challenge. 72 people signed up to stabilize their practice by meditating every day. If they already had a steady practice, their commitment was to sit twice a day. My own commitment was to meditate outdoors every day. My cushion and shawl are sitting right beside the door to the deck.

Vermont Insight sends out an inspirational quote every morning.

What inspires us to meditate? What inspires us to place our fingers on the pulse of our life, on the pulse of our breath, the pulse of our thoughts and pay attention to our one and only precious life?

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Sprinkling Life with Mindfulness

I came home from the Garden Club plant sale with a sprinkler. Another sprinkler. I am weary of buying plastic sprinklers that stop oscillating for one reason or another. Fortunately, this sprinkler was free.

I like to have a sprinkler near every outdoor faucet for ease of access.

When the hot weather of life stresses us, it's good to have a mindfulness practice nearby to sprinkle our life with.
  • The stress of traffic --  Driving with loving-kindness
  • The stress of co-workers-- Practicing loving-kindness
  • Anxiety about the future -- Bringing the mind to the present moment
  • Worrying about the past  -- Bringing the mind to the present moment

Wherever you are--in the garden, at the kitchen sink, or in the car--simply become aware of the body breathing or the body sitting or standing.

Sprinkle your life with mindfulness.

Photo from

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Memorial Day

Walker Farm
It's plant-buying weekend. The parking lot at our local farmstand is so crammed that a sheriff's deputy stands in the middle of the road as a warning for traffic to slow down.

People used to buy plants to decorate the graves of loved ones. When i grew up, this holiday was called Decoration Day. But when all the secular
holidays moved to Monday in 1971, the name Memorial Day prevailed. Or, as one friend said, Happy Death Day.

This weekend we buy beautiful pots of flowers and 6-packs of seedlings, thinking of the flowering, fruitful life ahead.

Flowers and vegetables are impermanent, and they are a beautiful, subtle reminder of our own life span.

Friday, May 24, 2013

It's Raining

The next 5 days are forecast to be cloudy and rainy. Yay! I can transplant!

Foremost on my list is to place creeping thyme between stepping stones. Creeping thyme is very low, which means its roots are quite shallow and will dry out quickly in even a brief blast of summer sun.

I dig into the sandy gravel between the stones and place a divot of thyme. Then i bury it up to its neck with compost. The rain will do my watering for me. Hopefully, the furry little green spot will establish itself in the next few days and thus survive the summer.

Sometimes our lives seem dry as we repeat the same routine every day. This is it? We glance at a spiritual path, but we hardly have time for a spiritual practice in the blast of information that surrounds us.

We can begin with the Noble 8-fold Path:
  • Wise View            -- We aim to decrease stress in our lives.
  • Wise Intention     -- We follow through with our aim
  • Wise Speech         -- We notice how we talk, to ourselves and to others
  • Wise Action          -- We act in accord with our conscience, and this puts our mind at ease.
  • Wise Livelihood   -- We earn a living in accord with our conscience, putting our mind at ease.
  • Wise Effort           -- We aim our effort in wise directions and forego some unskillful bits.
  • Wise Mindfulness -- We keep body & mind together.
  • Wise Meditation   --  We meditate regularly.

In this way we establish little green spaces in our lives that cool our minds and bodies even in the toughest situations.

Pour some cool, refreshing water into your life. Choose one wise action today.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Spring Cleaning the Flower Bed

There's a plant sale fundraiser in every little town around here this coming Saturday morning of Memorial Day weekend. I'm busy dividing plants and potting them up, using the rich-looking soil from a compost bin.

Offering plants for the Garden Club plant sale is a great excuse to do some "spring cleaning" in my flowerbeds. A month ago, the plants looked small and well-spaced. Now they're buxom and crowding their neighbors like a metropolitan subway at rush hour.

Generosity is the first of the supreme qualities (paramis); renunciation (disguised as "spring cleaning") is the 3rd. By virtue of taking on this exercise, this intention, i also practice energy (#5) and determination (#8). And underlying all this digging, dividing, and driving the plants to the sale is a mild flavor of loving-kindness (#9). I love my flowers, i love my garden, and i love sharing it with others, one plant at a time.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Finding a Home in the Garden

My gardening friend, Ruth gave me seeds for white money plant 3 or 4 times before it finally established itself in my white garden.

I have scads of purple money plant, but how to make the white feel at home?

Just tossing the seeds into the white garden, they got lost.

The next time, i planted the seeds in a nursery bed, then the next year (Lunaria is a biennial), i transplanted the flowering plants into the white garden. Then the gardener weeded them out after flowering, but before they had gone to seed. Sigh.

Next year, back to nursery bed, etc., with instructions to the gardener to let them look ratty and go to seed in the white garden. This year: Bonanza!

How long does it take for us to feel at home in meditation? How many practices do we try? Zen, Tibetan, Vipassana. Yoga, tai chi, qi gong. Finally, we find a place where our heart can rest. Finally, we feel at home with our practice and our teacher.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Investment in Gardening

What is the return on your investment in gardening?

Now is the time when we are spending money at the garden center. Then we go spend time in the garden and spend our energy in our flowerbed.

What's the difference between spending and investing?

We are willing to spend--money, time, and energy--in order to satisfy a desire. We invest for the long-term with a hope of increasing our wealth.

Do we spend time in meditation?
Or are we investing in our well-being?

Photo from

Monday, May 20, 2013

A Lot of Work

My yard is quite beautiful right now with blooming crabapples, redbud, and a Kwanzan cherry. Eye-popping flowerbeds are crowded with the last pale yellow narcissus, blue forget-me-nots, and pinky-purple money plant.

Visitors to my garden sometimes say, "That's a lot of work."

What they mean is that the garden is a lot of time, energy, and caring.
  • Children are a lot of work.
  • Relationships are a lot of work.
  • Maintaining a house and household is a lot of work.
  • Working a job is a lot of work.
  • Keeping track of a checkbook and savings is a lot of work.

"A lot of work" is another way to say "stress," and this is the Buddha's 1st Noble Truth.

Hidden inside even the things we love--children, spouse, home, (and maybe our work :)--is a lot of stress.

According to the 2nd Noble Truth, the cause of stress is desire (literally, thirst or hunger), and in the 3rd Noble Truth, the Buddha tells us how stress can come to a complete halt.

I'm not ready to halt gardening, but i have discovered my gardening "mission statement," which brings me a lot of joy:
I garden in order to give plants away.

Today, i'm potting up plants for the Garden Club plant sale this weekend. Joy overcomes stress.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Frost in the Gardens

While i was away on retreat, my garden withstood a mild frost. I worried about my plants and berated myself for not putting milk jug cloches on the fledgling tomatoes. What was i thinking? That May would remain warm? That change wouldn't happen? That change wouldn't happen to me and my garden?

I surveyed my losses yesterday: 18 zinnias, 3 tomatoes, and 6 cryptotenia (an edging for 1 flowerbed). And the banana tree leaves down at my neighbor Connie's are pretty well singed.

Death comes to the young. Even in the midst of burgeoning green growth, some plant children have died.

The mystery and lesson of life confronts us, and we avert our eyes. We don't want this change.

I buy zinnias and tomatoes at a Historical Society plant sale. Now i have new plant children, and they make me smile.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Watering the Seed

Photo by Lynne Weinstein
Blessed rain in its many forms:
downpour, shower, mist.
Rain soaks into earth,
and into my psyche.

The dry April drought deterred me from planting seeds. Now i am lubricated with life-giving, seed-germinating rain, and i suddenly sow seeds with ease.

The seed of enlightenment is growing in your heart.

Sometimes, it seems it has landed on the dry soil of dissatisfaction and distress and will never send down its roots. We nurture the seed of enlightenment with loving-kindness. This is the inner rain our tender heart needs to loosen that parched feeling that desiccates our mind as well.

Water the seed of enlightenment that is growing in your heart--now.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

It's Raining!

It's raining! Finally!

We had only a sprinkle or two of April showers, so the May flowers have been beautiful, but dry.

I much prefer that the sky waters the garden than that i drag a hose around in one hand when i have a trowel in the other.

All during April, the class i was teaching on Embracing Change had the assignment of noticing raindrops. But no rain. The class ended Tuesday night, and then it began to rain.

May is a beautiful month to "embrace change." A new flower blooms every day. An old flower dies every day. Yet the change is exhilarating. How can that be?

Today, notice openness to change and resistance to change. How does openness/resistance show up in your life?

Photo from

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

A Banana Tree Grows in the North Country

I'm moving my houseplants outdoors for their summer vacation. It's a good opportunity to divide and repot the houseplants or at least to refresh the potting soil.

The 5-foot tall banana tree, as usual, has a one-foot tall sucker in its pot, so i divide the little one off, into its own pot. Then i keep the little one, and i take the tall banana tree down to my neighbor Connie, so she can plant it at the corner of her driveway and the private road we live on.

I like the visual joke: a banana tree growing in New England. I like to imagine the neck-snapping moment of visitors driving on our road: Is that a....? No, it can't be. Banana tree?

Generosity freely offers a gift from the heart. The donor reaps joy. Well, in this case, it feels more like glee, but joy comes in many different flavors.

What's your favorite flavor of joy?

Monday, May 6, 2013

Aging Daffodils

The earliest daffodils are going by, so i'm diggng up the biggest clumps and dividing them. (What are those little, short daffodils doing in the middle of a flowerbed, anyway?)

Yes, i know i'm supposed to divide bulbs in the fall--when i can't see them and when i'm not thinking about them.

When we are youthful, we can't see the truth of aging, and we don't want to think about it either. Then in the autumn of our lives, aging becomes a familiar. Whether we befriend it or demonize it, our relationship to aging is up to us.

Before my daffodils get any older, i'm going out with my shovel to divide another clump.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Wanting and Not Wanting

I want to start a raspberry bed, but the person i share a bed with says, "No."

He has his reasons:
  • raspberries are thorny
  • he doesn't want to mow around them
  • i am growing old

"But, honey," i say, "it'll save us $120 a month." We pass the farmstand on our way home, and in June and July, i stop every day to buy a pint of raspberries for $3.99.

He's a Mc, so appealing to his Scotch frugality usually works. But not this time.

He used to be a salesman, and he's taught me to respond positively to each rebuttal:
  • i'll do the picking
  • i'll mow around them
  • if i die tomorrow, you can just mow them down.
I want. He doesn't want. Thereby turns the screw of relationship and the wheel of samsara, the endless back-and-forth-ing of life.

This wanting/not-wanting plays out in our very own minds. Why haven't i put in a raspberry bed before this? I didn't really want one.

So, instead of projecting my frustration (with myself) onto him, i and the raspberry bed will wait.

I know from experience that he does not like change. But, then, one day, he changes his mind.

Photo from

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Wild Food for Wild Women

My women's group came over for lunch and to tour my garden, so
I served a wild lunch to these wild women.

Stir-fried fiddleheads, wild leek miso soup, and roasted jerusalem artichokes. Fritze brought sorrel and nettles. (Oh, i love nettle soup.)

Every woman in this group is on a different spiritual path from all of the others--i'm the only Buddhist, Deb is a Congregational minister, Josephine is a yoga teacher with a strong affinity for Hinduism, Sam is a non-practicing Jew, Barbara is earth-based, and Fritze refuses any and all categories.

Nevertheless, we've been together for 19 years, and we love each other. You could even say we're wild about each other.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Transplanting Our Meditation Practice

Those cuttings that i took in March rooted (mostly). I potted them in April. And now, in May, i'm transplanting them into the flowerbeds. 4 flats of begonias, 4 flats of purple wandering jew, 2 flats of coleus, 1 flat of spider plants, 1 flat of cryptotenia, and more.

One comment i consistently receive from visitors to my garden is: "That's a lot of work."

If we are committed to our meditation practice, we reap a lot of insights over time. Looking on from the outside, people might think we spend a lot of time meditating. (Every day! Where do you find the time? or A retreat? Oh, i could never do that.)
When we are doing something that gladdens our heart, we reap the invisible benefits of joy and calm. We cut back on some of our activities in the mundane world.

Meanwhile, other people are dashing about, living their lives, thinking they don't have enough time to meditate--or to garden.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Meditating with a Squirrel

The meditation center where i teach is sponsoring a May Meditation Challenge and sending out daily inspirational messages. (You can sign up here.)

For those who have a sporadic practice, the goal is to sit every day.
For those who have an established practice, perhaps you could sit twice a day.
For myself, i've taken on the challenge of sitting outdoors every day.

I do love sitting on my deck and listening to the fullness of birds singing all around me. This morning, a gray squirrel sat 2 feet away from me. I watched her breathing, and she watched me breathing.

I can hardly wait to go meditate on my deck again :)

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Fiddlehead Ferns

Fiddlehead ferns are ready to harvest. Quick now! Before the fiddleheads unroll into ostrich ferns. We are looking for the fiddleheads with the brown tissue paper covering (i.e., not fuzzyheads nor "red" heads:).

Fiddlehead ferns, like many other wild edibles, should be quickly blanched in boiling water. Then throw that water away and steam or stir-fry this delicious sort-of-asparagus-tasting vegetable.

Don't wait. Waiting assumes that things will be the same, or sort-of-the-same tomorrow. As the Dalai Lama says, "We don't know which will come first: rebirth or tomorrow."

The fiddleheads are being born into ferns. Don't wait. Tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow, the fiddleheads will have disappeared into lush fern foliage.

Photo from