Since the flower bed is close to the sidewalk, I thought perhaps years of salt from winter maintenance had an effect on the soil, so my husband and I dug it all up. We built flower boxes, filled them in with fresh topsoil, ordered bulbs from some fancy garden website and just like that, the problem was solved!
There was little growth in the flower boxes that summer. I tried not to be disappointed and focused my energy on transferring ground cover from my Dad's garden to fill in around the boxes. I assumed the bulbs just needed a season to root and we would have our picture-perfect curb appeal next year.
Fast forward to year four… only 3 of my 15 bulbs took. At this point, my determination turned into an obsession. I walked the neighborhood looking at what everyone else was growing, found the trends, and bought the same plants. I transferred ground cover in batches and pulled every single weed that grew between the tiny plants. I watered aggressively trying to beat the summer heat and took every wilted leaf as a sign of my failure. Maintenance became an obligation that made me feel guilty if I neglected for even a day or two.
One particularly busy week, when I finally had a day off, the flower bed needed my attention and I found myself out on the battleground at 7 am. As I pulled the intruders and pruned the survivors, I tried hard to notice what it was I wasn’t enjoying about the experience. I asked myself, why in that moment did this task feel like such a chore.
I’m a morning person who loves to be outside. My entire indoor space filled with plants, many of which I have emotional connections to and find joy in caring for, so what was the problem? Was someone making me do this against my will? As I reflected on the question, it became clear to me that I had more control over this experience than I realized.
I was the one who chose to establish a flower bed, even though I had no experience with outdoor gardening. I wasn’t failing, I was enriching my life by learning a new skill. I wasn’t pulling weeds, I was making space for a garden to grow! This simple shift in perspective allowed me to view maintaining the flower bed as a ritual I could enjoy and take pride in rather than a chore that needed to be crossed the list.
I did eventually get a few flowers to bloom and was able to enjoy a sense of accomplishment despite the many spaces that still needed to fill in. I may never have that picture-perfect curb appeal but I know in time, I will create something beautiful and for now, that's enough.
This type of mindfulness is not a habit for me yet, but in the moments that I have tapped into it has had powerful effects. The next time you find yourself challenged by something you feel obligated to do, give yourself permission to pause for a few deep breaths, reflect on what brought you to the task at hand, and see if you can turn your chore into your a ritual of your very own.
In any given moment, I can find peace
I choose to fight back with a regular yoga practice; however, recognizing that my journey with mindfulness is still in its infancy, I am beginning to develop a personal arsenal of stress-busting rituals. Some take time, commitment, and patience. Others, I treat as an impromptu adventure or well-earned treat; for these, I often turn the woods.
I have always found my time on the trail to be therapeutic. I try hard to make it a priority to carve out time to rack up the miles and get lost in the woods. Unfortunately, during extra busy times in my life, this practice is often the first to get cut, and I find myself longing for that afternoon in the woods.
It wasn't until recently that decided to explore the idea of integrating sort but mindful outdoor adventures into my busy schedule. I began committing 20 - 40-minute blocks of time to this ritual, stopping at a trail on the way to or from various commitments.
With limited time, I start hiking a brisk pace while focusing on deepening my breath. Once I link my pace to my breath, I add in a series of arm circles and begin to hunt for the perfect stretching tree. Once I find it, I utilize the leverage of the tree’s trunk to explore areas of tension, playing with a series of passive stretches. I wrap up with few moments of stillness by taking in a few deep breaths of fresh air before a swift trek back to the car. After this time out, I often return to the day’s itinerary with a fresh perspective, feeling restored and reset.
So, the next time you are in the middle of a busy a week and you think there might be an unwanted passenger somewhere in your back seat, allow yourself to take time for a little mindfulness in the woods.
Not sure where to start? Find a tree try these poses!