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The 4 life lessons I learned from my Dad’s garden.

With "Prescribing Nature" a key wellness trend* in 2019, I was reminded recently that nature not only heals but teaches us too

When I am in my parent’s home, I try to take a moment to walk around the garden. The garden is really lush and green with flowers in all colours and a diversity of large trees growing. It always feels fertile and green and it makes me feel relaxed and grounded. My parents built this house when I was a child and when we moved in, there was nothing but soil. I’ve watched this garden grow over the years. Piece by piece, my dad has planted grass, trees, flowers, herbs and more to create a little oasis of nature. An avid gardener, he has dedicated the time to look after this garden for more than three decades.

I was walking through the garden recently and it struck me that the garden has much to teach us about life.

Life is the right combination of vision and patience

Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others

Jonathan Swift

This garden serves as a constant reminder to me to be patient. Like many people, I have a habit of taking on too much. As creativity is my top VIA strength, I have plenty of ideas but am short on patience. I set a plan and have to remind myself I can’t complete all the pieces simultaneously. This garden required a vision of what it could be but then the patience to begin with the first seed and allow it to grow over time. It has taken decades for that vision to be fulfilled. It’s the same process for developing your life. Know what your vision is but then have the patience to allow it to unfold for you, one piece at a time.  

Nurture is key to your growth.

An empty lantern provides no light

Unknown

This garden has grown to be so beautiful and lush because someone has cared for it and thankfully Irish weather provides it with all the rainwater it needs. In short, it has been nurtured to grow. There is a lesson for us all in this. As people we are unnurtured and overworked. We don’t check if we have had enough rest, love or other vital requirements to thrive as human beings. Without regular nurture, our bodies, minds and spirits are starved. Nurture is caring for yourself in the same way you would a small child; Beyond basic needs of food and shelter, do you have enough time, rest, love and fun in your life?

When I get stressed or have mini crisis of confidence, I can usually link it back to lack of self-care. I take on a bit too much work, neglect my diet or half-ass my meditation practice for a week or so and bam! Out of sync, creativity out the window and productivity falling. I can still function but am I flourishing when I do this? Definitely not.

If we forget to water a plant for a week it dies. Think of yourself in the same way. It’s not ok to overlook self-care because life is busy, to leave it until next week. Each time we do this, we fade and then have to repair ourselves. Better to keep the lantern glowing brightly then to keep switching the light on and off.

Life is about cycles and change

We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us

Joseph Campbell

Every year in autumn the flowers begin to die, leaves begin to fall, and the garden begins its natural cycle of renewing itself.  In Spring, the flowers which appear to have died will begin to bloom again. But some parts of the garden won’t return. Certain plants will die, trees may become damaged and the decision needs to be made to remove some elements of the garden and focus on other parts which will continue to grow. Life is like this, a continuous cycle of death and rebirth.

You are the gardener of your own life. It is important to take stock of life regularly and know what you want to invest in and what you want to let go of. Each year some parts of you will die and others will be reborn. You can choose what you take with you and what you leave behind. Like a flower bed which must be weeded regularly, we must use these cycles to clear out what we no longer need to make sufficient space to nurture the parts of our life we want to invest in.

Life should be a balance of planning and spontaneity

Life is the right combination of holding on and letting go

Rumi

The thing I love most about this garden is it has not been made to be “perfect”. There are carefully sculpted flowerbeds with beautiful flowers of every colour but beside each part which appears organised, there is a wild part – purposefully left to do its own thing and allow nature some freedom to grow and animals to nest. I love this because I am surprised by something new every time I walk through it. This is what I want life to be like. There are always things that we must plan and arrange but the wonder of life lies in the uncertainty. Embracing uncertainty gives room for life to surprise us, for spontaneity to occur and for fun to happen.

*2019 Wellness Trends, from the Global Wellness Summit

Photo by Erda Estremera on Unsplash

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