Gardening for Mindfulness and Wellbeing

It seems that everyone is talking about mindfulness and wellbeing these days. Not surprising after 10 years of austerity. Perhaps it is a good sign that people want to put it all behind them and be more positive.
One definition given for wellbeing is “the experience of health, happiness, and prosperity. It includes having good mental health, high life satisfaction, and a sense of meaning or purpose.” Issues that affect us all.

It is sad that depression and stress seems to figure so largely in today’s society. Mental health has also been talked about much more lately with the return of our soldiers from places like Iraq and Syria. Perhaps with the general outcry for better social care we will start taking it all more seriously. I was surprised to be introduced recently to the Buddhist Chaplain of the armed forces and am also impressed with the way that some Tibetan Buddhist centres are developing outreach centres such as Karma Dzong in Bermondsey and Yorkshire. These are branches of Samye Ling monastery in Scotland where I attended meditation training many years ago and seem to be leading the way. They offer help to people on a much wider range of personal well-being issues in conjunction with local Councils, not just spiritual development.

One thing that sticks in my mind is the way that His Holiness the Dalai Lama always seems so positive, down to earth, and at times bubbles with joy. Not bad, for an 84 year old man who has witnessed the death of more than a million of his people since the invasion of Tibet by China in 1959. In my first meeting with him in 1992 he stressed that to be happy we need peace of mind and to achieve that, meditation was helpful. I believe he has meditated on positive and happy subjects daily since he was a child.

Here at Cascades gardens we are getting very positive feedback for our new garden guide that takes you around the stylish Lutyens style benches that we have installed around the garden. Peace and tranquillity seem to be something that appeals to everyone. I am a great believer that gardens are meant to be sat in and enjoyed. The natural balance and harmony that can be experienced from the landscape and lush growth of the planting is very therapeutic for those troubled by mental problems and stress. We have many visitors that are very old, have dementia or are mentally or physically handicapped that come with carers and we are achieving critical acclaim from the visitors, the BBC and many of the regional magazines. In April this year the Daily Mail listed us as one of the ten most inspiring spring gardens in Britain.

I am now looking for help and advice to develop this idea and garden. I believe that there may be scope for some form of association with like-minded organisations, perhaps with outreach programmes. Recently the National Garden Scheme (which we have supported for more than ten years) published a report that concluded that gardens create a supportive environment for mental health and a place to die with dignity. I am keen to explore this theme and believe that increasingly in the modern world gardens and gardening can provide a significant contribution to our wellbeing.

Next year we will develop our “Meditation Garden” further with a new Buddha and meditation area. I hope that this will add to the opportunities that visitors will have to enjoy the healing atmosphere that can be found in our garden.

Alan Clements  – 6/9/2019