A Lazy Gardener Breathes into the New Year

Fluffy splitbeard bluestem (Andropogon ternarius) seeds are a fantastic focus while feeling your breath.

Fluffy splitbeard bluestem (Andropogon ternarius) seeds are a fantastic focus while feeling your breath.
N. Jordan Franklin, ©2023 HGIC, Clemson Extension

Technology is a useful servant but a dangerous master.– Christian Lous Lange (Nobel Peace Prize winner, 1921)

How often do you stop to breathe? What about stopping to feel your breath? I mean, really feel it? Until recently, I rarely had done either. Most of the time, I’m on auto-pilot, following a schedule, a routine, or good and bad habits I’ve developed throughout my life.

Most peoples’ daily routines include some combination of sleeping, bathing, dressing, cooking, eating, caring for relatives or friends, commuting, working, personal errands, activities, and hobbies (if you’re lucky), etc. You get the picture. If this were all we humans did, we would be busy and stressed. Full stop… Busy and stressed.

Over time, technologies have developed to improve our lives, in theory. Some may argue that, during this fantastic technological era, few inventions have changed our world so profoundly and quickly as the smartphone. Today, nearly all recorded human knowledge is available to anyone via a powerful three-by-five-inch computer conveniently stashed in a pants pocket.

But at what costs? The enormous amount of online information can be overwhelming and confusing, to say nothing of distractions from social media and other online nonsense. Season all of this with climate change, coronavirus, and seismic cultural shifts, and a recipe for disaster is a-brewin’.

Many of us have been in survival mode for the past few years. Studies indicate mental illness is on the rise in the United States, with some estimates showing a 20% to 30% increase since 2020. It’s an unsettling trend.

Technology seems to be in control. Luckily, we have a way to turn the tide, and it doesn’t have to cost you a dime. Interested?

For years, many gardeners intuitively have known that gardening is therapy. Horticultural therapy is a profession joining plants and gardening with traditional therapeutical forms. The University of North Carolina School of Medicine describes the practice as a holistic therapy rooted in the principle that plants and people share the rhythm of life. Both grow and change and respond to nurture and climate. Participants tend their plants and gardens and cultivate their body, mind, and spirit.

Mindfulness, or being spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and physically present in the moment, is a quality that brings peace into people’s lives. A vital component of practicing mindfulness is living with intention.

Merriam-Webster defines intention as a determination to act a certain way. Intention requires slowing down, being deliberate, and eliminating distractions to focus on the present. While gardening requires intention, mindfulness doesn’t have to include gardening.

Meditation is a powerful yet simple practice to achieve mindfulness. And though it conjures images of bald men in robes, sitting for hours in far-off monasteries, you can do it anywhere at any time. All it requires is stopping to breathe and feel your breath.

Simply breathe in, focusing on cool air entering your nostrils, then breathe out, focusing on warm air exiting your nose. Repeat as many times as you like. When thoughts enter your mind, and you notice you are not feeling your breath, note it, then return to your breath. It may seem challenging at first. But just like learning any new skill, it’s called practice for a reason, practice, practice, practice. As has been said, a little meditation helps a little, while a lot of meditation helps a lot. Visit HGIC 4384, Meditation, for more information about meditation practices.

Did you know? Clemson Extension offers online, weekly yoga classes every Wednesday from 12:00 – 12:30 PM with Registered Yoga Teacher and Health Extension Agent Ellie Lane, RYT 200-HR. For more information, see Yoga for Every Body.

If this document didn’t answer your questions, please contact HGIC at hgic@clemson.edu or 1-888-656-9988.

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