4 rules for a mindful garden

September 7th, 2013

This is a simple set of instructions that I always give children when they visit my backyard garden. Beginning when she was three years old, we invited Georgia’s class to our garden for a field trip each year. She is now 14, and I am far older, and yet the instructions still apply. Children find them easier to do than adults.

Life is a garden and we are the gardeners. Here are the rules for a mindful garden:

1. Be kind. Every time we are kind to another, we are kind to ourselves, because we have left our stingy self-centeredness behind. It’s important: kindness is the supreme religion. It’s not hard: pure silence is the ultimate kindness. We already know how to do it.

2. Don’t throw rocks. The garden path is paved with stones. For children, it’s tempting to pick one up and loft it into the ponds. For adults, it’s tempting to pick one up and loft it at each other. Consider how very often we blame others, and the circumstances around us, for whatever displeases us. It’s not my fault, we say, it’s you, it’s my job, it’s my parents, it’s my kids, it’s my neighbor that’s causing all the trouble, tossing rocks with wild abandon. To maintain peace in your garden, don’t pick up a rock if you can’t set it down.

3. No running. There’s no hurry and no one chasing you. Running in my backyard is a sure way to fall headfirst into the murky mud beneath you. How much of life do we miss because we are racing headfirst toward some place else? A place we never reach? You have all the time in the world to savor the life you have.

4. Pay attention. Bring all your attention to what is at hand. You’ll wake up to the glorious view before you and realize you’re right at home where you are.


It’s Mindfulness Reminder Week on the blog. I’ve reprised some of my most popular posts on mindfulness at home and work. To learn how to put the preaching into practice, come to the Plunge Retreat in Boise on Saturday, Oct. 5.

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  1. Love this! Four simple steps that could easily become a mantra–and applied to just about everything (from the little to the big) in our lives.

    Comment by Sarah — June 1, 2010 @ 5:02 pm

  2. Thank you!

    Comment by Erja — June 1, 2010 @ 5:45 pm

  3. Of course I love this. And you. Thank you. Printing, sharing, living this. Really.

    Comment by Christine LaRocque — June 1, 2010 @ 8:35 pm

  4. I was in attendance at Rime when you came to tell these very simple rules, and they touched my heart deeply. I cried through most of your talk. Thank you for touching my heart on that day.

    Comment by Tasjha — June 2, 2010 @ 1:56 am

  5. Thank you Karen. Your words continue to save my life.

    Comment by Kirsten — September 8, 2013 @ 1:37 pm

  6. When you write about your house and garden I am always riddled with (in my mind impertinent) questions.
    But what I like is that the garden is so old (I don’t know about the house), it makes one aware that all of the gardens and houses in our lives, we are their guests and caretakers (not their owners) and in return they shelter and comfort us. They come and go, and we move in and move out. It is a lot less personal than we tend to think.
    It is like breathing in a way….
    Have a wonderful day.

    Comment by Simone — September 9, 2013 @ 1:53 am

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