Gardening and Metta Practice
We gardeners often view our time in the garden as a moving meditation. It’s often what I consider yoga with a specific purpose. If this is how you view your gardening, you may want to add rich layers into your moving meditation. One such practice you want to consider is metta. Metta practice, also called metta meditation, is a loving-kindness meditation. At its heart it is simply the practice of directing well-wishes towards other living beings. It’s perfect as you work the soil, tend your plants and commune with the creatures that visit or call your garden home.
The original name of the practice is metta bhavana. Metta means platonic love or kindness, and thus, ‘loving-kindness.’ The word bhavana means development or cultivation. The practice centers on cultivating the emotion you feel in your heart and directing it towards others. Although traditionally associated with Buddhism, the meditation could have easily been born out of Christian roots given its goals. Metta is done in stages, much like gardening.
1. Focus on yourself, feeling loving-kindness (metta) for yourself. Become aware of yourself in the present. Grow your feelings of peace, calm, and tranquility. This is often easily achieved when you are alone in your garden. Let these feelings grow in strength and boldness. Repeat to yourself: “I am safe. I am happy. I am healthy. I am at peace.”
2. Next, you think of someone special in your life, a loved one. Paint a picture of them in your mind and remember all their good qualities. What is special about them? Once you feel the connection, repeat the following: “You are safe. You are happy. You are healthy. You are at peace.” Since metta is designed to extend loving-kindness to all living creatures, for an animal devotee, this could be a cherished pet.
3. Next think of someone you know but not very well. However, it should be a person you have no reason to dislike. You can say you are neutral to this person. It could be the clerk at the grocery store. Or a neighbor you see but do not know by name. Picture this person in your mind, then repeat the following: “You are safe. You are happy. You are healthy. You are at peace.”
4. The next one is a real humdinger. You will think of someone you actively dislike. Someone that irritates you or has hurt you. The goal is to NOT get caught up in the emotions against this person. You are simply identifying them in your mind. Repeat the following: “You are safe. You are happy. You are healthy. You are at peace.” Send them loving-kindness. For the gardener, this could be some of those darn beetles destroying your rose bushes.
5. Finally, you will think of all creatures everywhere or all people everywhere. Extend loving-kindness to your garden, your neighborhood, your community, your country and throughout the world. You can picture this as waves of love extending from your heart to all beings everywhere.
If you’ve been doing the practice while gardening, at this point, you have probably finished your weeding, transplanting, or seeding. You will be ready to just relax. Gradually move out of the meditation. This will bring the practice to its end. The practice can be done as often as you have time. Like a garden, the more it is tended, the more it grows. Happy metta and cheers!