For many years now I have found myself entering into a peaceful zone when I garden and work outside in the yard. When I was single I spent many hours in my yards and I filled them with flowers and colorful garden art. My yards in the past were small to modest in size, yet I still managed to spend hours and hours wiling away the time and enjoying digging in the dirt. When my husband and I bought our first home together we were fortunate to find an older home, built in the 50’s, in a neighborhood where most homes have very generous yards and with existing trees and plants. Our back yard, sometimes referred to as the Fairchild Park by some family and friends, is home to a majestic oak, a giant redwood, a cherry tree, a plum tree, a pear tree and a pomegranate tree. We have also added a dogwood, a miniature Japanese maple, a red bud and other various plants and a stone patio.
This past week our neck of the woods saw rainy day after rainy day. I don’t normally complain about the weather and I usually appreciate each season for its own unique beauty and the gifts it brings with it for our natural world. However I was beginning to long for some sunshine. Saturday morning arrived sunny and gorgeous after a long rain all night. My morning began with taking care of some overdue chores like cleaning bathrooms, cleaning a cat box, getting some laundry going and cleaning the kitchen. After several hours of chores I began to feel grumpy and irritable and I looking longingly out the window. When I finally headed to our backyard to do some yard work there were still vestiges of the doldrums hanging on. As I began to plant some new flowers I’d been given for my recent birthday, and as our whole family worked together to finish clearing up some downed limbs into the green waste can or our wood pile, all the gray feelings dissipated and my disposition grew as sunny as the day.
After hours of hard work I grabbed a refreshing beverage, a magazine to peruse and I went and lounged on a patio chair. Ahhh, “Now this is the life!” I thought to myself. I also ticked off in my head the many of the ways I am so incredibly blessed in this life.
Now before life in the Fairchild household begins to sound unbelievably idyllic and peaceful I feel it only fair to share that there are times when I am in the “zone” of gardening and my twin daughters will scream, cry or begin to fight over some game they are playing. Shrieking children do not really fit into my peaceful garden world and this can be a struggle for me. Whining and shrieking children have the same affect on me inside the house too. In my perfect world I would be grooving to good tunes, painting, writing, gardening, dancing, swimming (let’s ignore the fact we don’t have a pool) and enjoying a peaceful environment. We can’t always have that perfect peaceful world, especially when we share our space with significant others, children and pets.
When I really begin to struggle with a chaotic (and messy) living space that sets my nerves on edge I try to take deep breaths, remind myself of what is really important, remind myself that this particularly annoying situation won’t last forever and if all else fails I can choose to do one of several things. 1) Engage the children in laughter, dance or some such fun to change the energy and mind set in the room. 2) Go outside to soak in the natural world or at the very least look outside. 3) Take a brief time out in my bedroom or my art room. 4) Retreat to the bathroom and hide for 5 minutes. 5) Grab a book, run a hot bubble bath and have quiet time reading for an hour.
I have also contemplated for many years the following quote: “peace. it does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. it means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.”
When I consider this quote I know that I have a ways to go in being able to remain in the peaceful mind set no matter what is thrown at me.
Do you have a peaceful place?
Is it a place that you can count on to help you relax and/or feel rejuvenated?
If you are feeling anxious, stressed or unsettled are there things you do that help you to relax, unwind, or feel better?
What if you are in a funk or feeling grumpy? Are there things that lift your spirit and help to center you again?
Don’t get me wrong. I think we’re living in an amazing age, as miraculous and futuristic as anything out of Star Trek and Jetsons episodes of my youth. I love being able to talk on my laptop face-to-face with someone on the other side of the world or to download a book or piece of music in a minute. The problem for a lot of us is figuring out how to disconnect from all this intensity for some peace and quiet. And how much of the time-related stress in our lives comes from trying to accommodate every single person who wants a piece of our day? Do you suffer from the “disease to please,” striving to satisfy all those who make a claim on your time? Many of us are torn between the desire to be generous with our time and the need to conserve our own energy. It takes only a few seconds to read a 140-character Twitter message, but the cost of the total distraction lasts far longer. The thinner we spread ourselves, the more we skitter over the surface of our lives, never going deep. And since we can be tracked down just about anywhere, anytime, it seems there is literally no escape.
In the pages that follow, I’ll teach you how to wean yourself from the addictions that sap time and energy, to clear out all the debris and distraction—in much the same way that a snow globe becomes calm and clear when you stop shaking it and allow the flakes to settle. You’ll see, for example, that we can stay at our desks or in a traffic jam and, however momentarily, genuinely give our attention to the present moment as a way of finding inner peace.
I want to show you how to coexist peacefully with the inevitable, the inexorable march of time. As a Buddhist, I’ve long studied the question of how to live authentically and joyfully in the present moment, and how to remain mindful, centered, and harmonious no matter what challenges come my way.”
In my own head I am shouting “Yes! Please show me how to find inner peace and coexist peacefully with time!”
- Rest in the breath while letting go of all thoughts, concerns, plans, worries and preoccupations.
- Be mindful of the physical sensations you feel right now.
- Feel the good earth beneath your feet or the seat that cradles you.
- Chant a mantra or sacred phrase again and again, with pure, undivided concentration and focus.
- Make eye contact with another being, and feel compassion and loving-kindness for whomever you are with.
- Smile at someone, hug someone, or help someone.
- Go outside and make contact with nature through the sky, clouds, trees, a flower, a body of water, the earth between your fingers, or any other manifestation of the magnificent natural world.
- Read sacred words from the world’s wisdom traditions and scriptures.
- Take a bread, a sacred pause, an “honorable rest” – whether for Sabbath or just for an hour or two – at least once a week, if not every day.
- Listen to music, sing, dance, create, pray, and play.
This Earth Day may you take some time to close your eyes, breathe, feel the sun on your face, a light breeze caress your hair, the vibration of the living earth beneath your feet, and your life force flowing and beating strong within your body. Whether you dig in the dirt, lie on the grass, swim in a lake, walk through a forest, take the time today to connect with Mother Earth. Feel and recognize how she supports all of us Earth children with the air we breathe, the food we eat, and the water we drink. This planet we all come home is a miraculous creation, as are we all.
This planet and the beauty of her nature have left me with feelings of awe again and again. Nature has also been a place for me to turn when life has been difficult and painful. Sometimes rooting myself in nature has been the best kind of encouragement. Even in the middle of turmoil I find that my problems will fade for a spell when I work in the garden, dirt embedding itself underneath my fingernails. Working the soil and planting seeds or bulbs always holds the promise of new growth, new life and beauty yet to come.
In my neighborhood there is this one bush that is ablaze with yellow blooms for a short time frame every spring. Every year I admire it’s beauty and this year I was struck by a deeper meaning to it all, which was recognizing the eternal optimism of nature. Every year the flowers bloom again. No matter what has come to pass throughout the year we can always count on there to be new sprouts and new blooms. It reminds me that even though there are ups and downs to life that we just have to remember that spring will always show up and the flowers will always bloom. We can count on it.