April 2017

Life is a Garden

Author: Kent Thune

If you start a Google search and type in the words, “life is a,” the top completed search terms you’ll see will include life is a highway, life is a journey, life is a dream, life is a game, and life is a gift. These metaphors all work well to describe the meaning, the trials and the tribulations of this thing we call life. But the one short phrase that works best as an existential descriptor may be life is a garden.

Now that spring is upon us, life, along with gardening, begins to emerge in every form, including in the spiritual sense within ourselves. So, let’s expand upon this idea that life is a garden and while we’re at it, plant the seed of inspiration for even the not-so-green-thumbed to learn just how meditative and healthy a garden can be for the mind and soul.

Like life, a garden can begin with just one tiny seed, planted in the fertile soil of a mother’s womb; in this case it is Mother Earth, the giver and sustainer of life. The new life, that will one day become a full-grown plant, spends its first days safely tucked away under a blanket of soil, protected from the harsh elements of the outer world. But it is this harsh outer world that also provides the necessary and nurturing elements of sun and rain.

Although the plant grows farther away from its birthplace, the roots can never be removed from its home. And these roots are the foundation and primary determining factor of how healthy and strong the plant can grow to be in its adult life.

This is no different for human beings. Although we move from place to place, the roots that define us come from our beginnings and determine who we eventually become. We all go through changes, and our lives are cyclical like that of the plant world. We are all in a constant state of becoming.

The circle of life demands that, for things to live, things need to die. The gardener knows that the compost pile, where dead things are collected for later use as fertilizer, is an essential part of growth. Don’t ever throw things away! Your failures, your heartbreaks, your losses; they have a purpose. Use them to grow—to make you a better person.

And let’s not forget those other pesky things that make life more difficult—weeds! Why is it that weeds grow easier and faster than everything else in the garden? The degree to which your garden flourishes is in direct correlation to your skill at pulling weeds. In the garden, the key to minimizing work and stress is to pull weeds daily. This way, there are only a few to pull at a time. The same goes for all those little irritations that come along in the world beyond the garden. Ignore them for too long, and they’ll take over your life!

Not only are there parallels between life and gardens, life-sustaining benefits can come from gardening. Other than the primary health benefit from eating local, freshly grown vegetables, other benefits are not so apparent but equally healthy for the gardener.

According to eartheasy.com, several “unexpected” science-backed gardening benefits include stress relief, increased self-esteem, reduced risk of heart disease, vitamin D from the sun, hand strength and dexterity, risk reduction for dementia, immune regulation from the “friendly” soil bacteria (Mycobacterium), and improved overall mental health.

To summarize, gardening is much more than a hobby. It can be an essential part of a healthy lifestyle with benefits that go far beyond the physical. Fortunately, you do not need a large plot of land to be a gardener. A small space around the house or even a few well-placed pots can give you the gardening time your body, mind and soul need, all while improving the aesthetics of your home.

For the gardener, whether it’s just one potted plant near a window or a full garden with a variety of plants, the attachment to and understanding of life is unmistakable and rich. As the thirteenth-century mystic philosopher Rumi said, “Beauty surrounds us, but usually we need to be walking in a garden to know it.”

In a world that is increasingly becoming one of lifeless material objects, it’s too easy to lose our sense of what and who we are. Why do you think the most popular vacation destinations are around beaches or mountains? It’s because that’s where nature is! We feel instantly relaxed when looking out over the sandy beach and into the distant horizon on the ocean. There are no signs of the unreal world left behind—no buildings, no flashing lights, no honking horns, and no smelly exhaust fumes—it’s just us and nature.

The same goes for the mountains. When we are so far away from so-called civilization, we can breathe easier and think more clearly. Stars can be seen with unmatched clarity. Trees grow and animals thrive without threat from human beings.

But many people, especially those poor souls who do not have the good fortune to live in the Lowcountry, don’t have the ability to visit natural environments frequently. And even those of us who live just minutes from the beach can find it difficult to take the time for daily visits. So, if you are challenged to get out in nature often enough, bring nature to you by starting a garden.

You’ll discover that the four-word phrase, “life is a garden,” is not just an inspirational metaphor; it’s an equation. Life equals garden; garden equals life. Now stop surviving in the unreal world and start living in the real one. Go plant a seed. 

Kent Thune plants seeds in the garden of knowledge by teaching finance and entrepreneurship at Hilton Head Island High School, by advising clients of his money management firm, Atlantic Capital Investments, and by writing. You can follow his musings on mind, money and mastery of life at TheFinancialPhilosopher.com or on Twitter @ThinkersQuill.

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