Sacred Gardening with Ayurveda
When Hale Pule Ayurveda and Yoga was based on Kauai, we had an organic farm. When we first acquired our property, it was an expanse of red dirt, deadened by toxins from commercial pineapple farming. To revitalize and regenerate the soil, we employed the principles of Ayurveda, using sacred and holistic gardening practices.
Over time, we created a thriving farm that continues to flourish today. And in the process, we experienced a sacred opportunity to connect more deeply with the wisdom of nature as well as to ourselves.
What Is Sacred Gardening?
Put most simply, it means approaching gardening with a reverence for nature’s innate desire for balance. It is a remembrance that everything is connected and all choices have an impact on the whole.
Plants are highly sensitive, just as humans are. Humans use five material senses and with varying awareness, more subtle senses. Scientists have observed that plants possess at least 20 different senses to monitor complex conditions in their environment, such as electromagnetic fields.1
The Ayurvedic Approach to Gardening
Ayurveda teaches us that cultivating sensitivity to the balance of the pancha maha bhutas, or five elements, is the way to nurture a human being or to grow a vital garden. Careful consideration must be given to the interaction of earth, water, sun (fire), air, and the ethers (space) or unseen energies.
When we observe and work with a garden throughout the changing seasons, we can see how the shifts in any one element will impact the overall health, growth, and production of the garden as a whole.
Observing these changes outside of ourselves makes it easier to recognize how similar elemental shifts affect us as well—causing us to feel and look differently on the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual levels.
For soil to have strong agni, it needs a natural balance of microbiology—bacteria, virus, and fungus. When this balance is disturbed, plants are unable to assimilate nutrients even with the addition of the best fertilizers.
The same holds true for our human gut health. Poor eating and stress will disturb the microbiome of our digestive tract and weaken agni, impairing our ability to access the nutritional value in our foods.
How to Cultivate a Relationship with Plants
Most plant-lovers know that talking gently to plants supports their ability to thrive. Why is this?
Plants are good communicators, utilizing much more than sound and movement to interact with others. Scent, natural chemicals, vibration, and other unseen energies are all part of their complex and beautiful language. They share information with neighboring plants and even with other organisms, such as insects and animals.
Plants will warn others when danger is near. If attacked by an insect or pathogen, a plant will send a chemical signal to their fellows so they can prepare their defenses. Plants recognize their close kin, reacting differently to plants from the same parent as those from a different parent.2
Trees will use a root network to communicate and share resources, feeding sugars into the stumps of fallen neighbors for decades after they have been cut down.3
Be quiet and peaceful with them, sing and chant mantra to them, touch them, and work with them gently and firmly as needed.
Respect their intelligence and their generosity. Warn plants before pruning or harvesting a part of them, so that they can withdraw their energy from the area and thereby experience less trauma. Ask them what they need and trust your intuitive ability to interpret the answers.
5 Tips for Cultivating a Sacred Garden
Sacred gardening brings reverence for the cycle of life. It opens a doorway through which we can connect more deeply to nature, as well as to ourselves. The following tips offer practical ways to approach gardening with a sacred sense of respect and reciprocity.
- Befriend your garden. Visit it regularly with an observant, loving attitude.
- Think holistically. Offer your plant and soil friends only natural, chemical-free inputs.
- Look for ways to simplify. Support nature in doing what she knows is best by remembering the Ayurvedic axiom that like attracts like while opposite qualities bring balance.
- Avoid unnecessary waste. Utilize everything that comes from your garden, either for consumption or to be composted back into the soil.
- Bring a beginner’s mind. As with any skill, practice with patience and bring an open mind each day. Every day is unique and full of opportunities to listen and learn.
Caring for plants or simply tending a compost pile can broaden our perspective of time, reminding us that all physical things are coming and going, temporary in nature. We may be able to intellectualize that death is essential to life, but interaction with nature is a delightful and sure way to come face to face with abhinivesha (the fear of death).
The practice of sacred gardening brings us into intimate relationship with the natural cycles of growth, death, and rebirth, reminding us that each one is an essential part of life. One cannot help but grow spiritually when actively participating in the brief life cycle of a kitchen garden or talking with trees that are hundreds of years old.