Scripture ~ “When they heard the sound of God strolling in the garden in the evening breeze, the Man and his Wife hid in the trees of the garden, hid from God.” Genesis 3:8 The Message
Spiritual Focus ~ “Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where Nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul alike.” ~John Muir, Scottish-American naturalist, philosopher, and conservationist
Breath Prayer ~ Inhale, receive Exhale, give
Devotion ~ One positive aspect of the pandemic is that more people are getting outside. Strolling in a garden or walking in nature keeps the body active, calms the mind, and uplifts the spirit. Another benefit, however, is that our presence outdoors can also nurture the earth in a reciprocal way. Simply by breathing, humans and the earth give and receive what each need for their own health.
This mutual relationship runs deeper than just the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide. Science has long held there are healing elements in the earth that we inhabit. Bacteria from the soil boost mood and acts as a natural anti-anxiety and anti-depressant. The Japanese practice of shinrin–yoku, or forest bathing, is a therapeutic activity that fosters our ability to take in nature through the senses and bridges humans with the natural world. It emphasizes the power of trees found in phytoncides, natural oils that protect trees from bacteria, insects, and fungi, and found to also benefit humans who spend time in the presence of trees. These oils boost mood and immune system function; reduce blood pressure, heart rate, stress, anxiety, and confusion; improve sleep and creativity; and may even help fight cancer and depression.
However, you don’t have to hike deep into the forest—just strolling in a garden will do! The Marjorie McNeely Conservatory in St. Paul, Minnesota, became a popular refuge during the pandemic. In this greenhouse, an array of tropical gardens, sunken floral gardens, palm trees and medicinal plants line the walking paths. Interestingly, even though masks were required, one still experienced a sense of healing while walking through the gardens, surrounded by the scents and colors of plants, flowers, trees and soil.
When we cultivate, tend, or simply walk in a garden, breathe in the air, or even meditate among the trees, we experience the beauty of the reciprocal relationship that we share with the earth we inhabit. These are among the sacred practices that nourish the spirit in soul gardening.