Exercise of the Zen Gardener

For a few years i was President of the New Paltz Gardens for Nutrition. Partly to inform and partly to inspire I printed copies of a monthly newsletter. My contribution was a column, and often it focussed on a fictional character called the Zen Gardener. He did things in the simplest way, seemingly raising crops without the pulling and sighing which so many of us experience.

Take weeding for example. Most of us weed with long tools like the scraping hoe, and a pitch fork, or maybe just with a hand claw and gloves. Not the Zen dude. No he knelt on the ground and with a slight smile gently touched the weeds and, after a little silent communication, his hand emerged from the soil holding the plant with leaves and roots unbroken. It was like watching a maestro conducting — with each beat another weed left the earth.

I watched him closely for a while and I saw that his motion changed a bit now and then. Sometimes he seemed to follow the roots horizontally parallel with the ground. At others he would make a slight circle with his wrist. Perhaps there was a small prayer…a request of some kind that they leave their home. Sometimes his eyes closed.

When he left for the day his garden had been weeded. He did not look back.

So here is your part. Turn the story into an exercise. Go to a bed you would like to “work” on. But instead of struggling, instead of gloves, instead of tools, recognize each weed. Pinch it gently and try various ways to easily remove it from its bed. Notice that once you find the way it will work on others of the species. Thus crabgrass is lifted in one way; plantain in quite another. If you can remove each weed from the bed without breaking its root, you will have passed the test. If not, you can always take it again. What gardener makes only one bed.

Leave a Reply

Notify of