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Finding God in the Garden | Meditations in the Garden

This guest post was written by Nicky Schauder of Permaculture Gardens.

In today’s fast-paced world, finding a moment of peace can often seem like a herculean task.

Yet, amid the chaos, nature always allows us to slow down, to reconnect with ourselves and the divine. This is never more true than in the garden.

man gardening

For several Lenten seasons past, I’ve given a webinar on “Finding God in the Garden.” This somewhat edgy webinar delves into the mystical, supernatural, and spiritual facets of gardening, showcasing it as not just a hobby but a spiritual retreat. 

I have asked several farmers, theologians, and priests to be a guest on the webinar, but other than one friend, most have declined, and so I often feel the call be the one to speak about finding God in the garden.

I hope to draw out some highlights of that presentation below and explore the parallels between gardening, spirituality, and the profound lessons nature imparts.

Embracing the Mystical in Gardening

Gardening, for me, has always been more than a technique; it’s about touching the ineffable. I don’t pretend to be a theologian, I’m not. I’m a gardener, but I’ve always had this inkling in my heart that there was something deeper in cultivating a garden, and that’s what attracted me and my husband Dave to permaculture.

Permaculture is a design system that connects your house, with you, your garden, your family, your animals, and pests so you can get to practice sustainable living.  

gardening

It wasn’t just that permaculture was a system or a gardening technique, there was something hidden in this permaculture process that could be applied to everyone universally.

Indeed, permaculture has certain core principles such as observing and taking feedback from what you observe, starting with small and slow solutions, and creating systems that are self-perpetuating and cyclical. There are at least 12 of these principles and they can be applied anywhere in the world where you want to live regeneratively.

For Christians like me, each season of Lent is an opportunity to reflect upon how the state of my soul. It’s a season in which many of us are preparing for our Lord Jesus’ resurrection in Easter, and during which I am most active in preparing the soil, the seeds, and the garden.,

During the coronavirus quarantine where we were self-isolating and homebound, we were in many ways on a spiritual retreat. When we could not go anywhere else, many of us went to our gardens

If you’re enjoying this post from Nicky, check out some of her gardening programs to learn about permaculture and growing food in small spaces. 

A Moment of Meditation

Gardening can be an active form of meditation, and if you allow it, the garden can be the place in which you can be still and the most alert to absorbing all the things you don’t notice. The sunlight, the wind, and the thoughts in our heads.

If we let it, we can make it an opportunity to turn off distractions, immerse ourselves in the serenity of nature, and perhaps hear God’s voice in the gentle breeze. This approach to gardening elevates it from a simple pastime to a meditative practice, providing solace and a pathway to a deeper spiritual connection.

Prayer and the Garden

My garden prayer is that the mysteries of God’s kingdom could be revealed to gardeners in nature, in our gardens, and also that we display God’s character in our work, particularly when we cultivate the gardens from which we bring our daily food.

You may already have a rich spiritual life, but go out to the garden today and if you have any thoughts, or any meditations in the garden, jot them down. Then make a little class out of it, teach your children or your grandchildren a little bit about that wisdom that you’ve acquired in the garden.

No matter how rich or poor you think yourself to be spiritually, you are always richer when you return from the garden.

boy with some wheat and a book

Want to Dig into Gardening?

organic gardening

I want you to imagine increasing your harvest with proven techniques that won’t consume your time.

I also want you to imagine decreasing disease and pests with time-honored crop rotation and companion planting.

Check out my dear friend Melissa’s Organic Gardening Workshop. ​​Melissa is a 5th generation homesteader with 20 years of experience growing her own food. In fact, she raises more than half of her family’s fruits and vegetables with a day job and on only a half-acre. 

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The Theology Behind Gardening

So why start a garden in the first place? 

Yes, we garden:

  1. To grow our own food
  2. To heal ourselves by growing herbs
  3. To find God in the garden

But the third reason that my husband Dave and I teach gardening is to attune ourselves to the inexpressible, to the spiritual world of things we can’t quite put our finger on. I said in the beginning, I’m not a theologian myself, but regularly, I draw upon lessons that I’ve learned from talks and books about the theology of gardening, sacred scripture, and my own personal prayer. 

Diptych of two trees

This image is called a diptych. A diptych according to Dictionary.com, is a painting, especially an altarpiece, on two hinged wooden panels which may be closed like a book.

Some theologians such as John Cuddeback, have spoken about the natural world and the liturgy for the faith as a sort of diptych, two books that must and can only be interpreted in the light of the other.

So normally, that parameter is how the two phases of the diptych are chosen. We have the tree of salvation seen in a deeper, more mystical way again as the cross of salvation on the right. So if you have on one side the book of sacred scriptures, nature is that other book that interprets the sacred scripture and vice versa. I thought that looking at nature and scripture in this diptych way was very interesting.

The Eighth Day: Renewal and Growth

In Christian theology, there is also this concept of the eighth day. This is a principle of permaculture too. The eighth day represents a return to the start.

There are seven days in a week, but the eighth day comes to represent a return to the first day. This time, however, the eighth day is a return to a similar spot with more understanding, after more growth

When you go Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, that second Sunday, that 8th day, is the same as the first, but it’s better, it’s deeper, it’s an improvement, at least that’s what you would hope it would be. And it’s the reason that in the Christian faith, we celebrate things like the octave of Easter and the octave of Christmas. Our festivities are not just one day, i.e. Easter Day, but are actually a week including the Sunday after.

It’s the reason that sometimes you look closely at the shape of a baptismal font, and find that it comes in an octagonal shape. That’s what the number eight represents:  going “further up and further in,” as C.S. Lewis says in his book, The Last Battle

playing the piano

In nature, we see this representation in several ways. One of them is music, through the harmonic scale, where we have an octave on the piano, and the first C is different from the second C in where the scale ends.

So permaculture is like that. It gets better and better each year and with each iteration.

Recently we have been busy developing our gardening app called SAGE. It is in our opinion the first of its kind marrying technology with permaculture. The process of creating this app has been quite similar as we observe how people use the app and then iterate from there to make it better. It’s a cycle of software improvements that are delivered at regular intervals.

SAGE product development

Just as the eighth day symbolizes a new beginning with deeper understanding, so each cycle in our garden offers us the chance for personal and spiritual renewal.

Uncovering Patterns: Nature’s Testament to the Divine

One of the early chapters or lessons in studying permaculture has a great deal to do with studying the patterns in nature

They say that all the patterns in nature emanate from something called a Core Model. There are so many patterns in nature. There are growth patterns like spirals and branching patterns that have to do with transporting fluids or blood or water.

sunflowers in the garden

From geometry and math, we learned that we have different spirals. An Archimedean spiral is one in which the measurement from the center to the outer part grows steadily by one unit.

A Fibonacci spiral is one in which the measurement of the radius grows exponentially: first, it is one, and then it’s one plus one, so you have two, and then it’s one plus two, three, and then it’s three plus two, five, and then five plus three is eight, and it’s a summation series in an order that we can explain even mathematically.

This Fibonacci sequence is connected to something called the golden ratio or the golden mean that artists have used to make beautiful art. We see this Fibonacci spiral in nature in the form of shells, artichokes, the unfurling of ferns, and sunflowers.

In sunflowers, it’s not just one spiral, but it’s several different spirals going in different directions emerging from that same point of origin. 

So a great homeschooling exercise or even just a plain fun exercise even if you’re not homeschooling, would be to challenge our kids or ourselves to find spirals in nature.

These patterns are not just beautiful or scientifically intriguing. These patterns in our gardens are reminders of the divine blueprint that shapes our existence and our spirituality.

Concluding Reflections

As I tend to my garden, I see it as an act of faith, a living prayer, and a reflection of the divine mysteries interwoven into the fabric of nature.

I am grateful for my ability to garden and to know that it is a sacred act accessible to all of us, and I’m grateful to you dear reader for accompanying me on this exploratory journey of finding God through permaculture gardening.

To get the replay of the God in the Garden webinar I’ve given in the past go here.

How do you seek God in your garden?

Unless otherwise credited, photos are owned by the author or used with a license from Canva or Deposit Photos.

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