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Nov 20
Dharma Teachings
Karme Choling’s Garden Gate

Slogan of the week: Stop, Drop and Touch the Speechless Sky

by Jan Enthoven, Master Gardener at Karme Choling Meditation Retreat Center

Many people ponder how humanity can continue its proliferation on planet earth with its limited material resources and a rapidly widening ecological footprint. I am just a small-scale organic gardener who has been cultivating his plot of land, first in Holland for ten years, and then in Barnet, Vermont for the last twenty years.

The question I ask myself is how can we (all humanity) grow our food sustainably so that future generations will still be supported by the elements, the microorganisms and the plants and animals of our embattled planet? How can I help foster an interest and appreciation, also among hardened skeptics, for the magnificent, dazzling interconnectedness of life on earth?

Though the challenges ahead are clearly daunting, there is a growing enthusiasm around the world, from China to Vermont, to eat organically grown food and shrink our carbon footprint. For example, the United Nations just came out with a study, called ‘The Right To Food,’ in strong support for agro-ecology: ‘agriculture should be fundamentally redirected towards modes of production that are environmentally sustainable and socially just.’

I will now take you to Karme Choling’s garden gate.

I have developed a ritual where, before entering the garden, I consciously unload all my psychological baggage: preoccupations, expectations and judgements of all kind, so I can enter with an uncluttered mind.

Just as trees drop their leaves every fall, quite elegantly, if I may say, you, too, can let go of your busy, scheming mind (for a moment). You might feel naked and exposed, at first, but it will create a very fresh atmosphere, full of creative possibilities. This way, you step into the garden with your doors of perception (and your senses) wide open.

Instead of being weighed down by feelings of responsibility or fear that a superbug descended on your garden overnight, you allow yourself to be surprised, whether painful or pleasant. (You ‘take it as it comes,’ as Jim Morrison sang.)

Even when an old familiar voice whispers in your ear to speed-up and not loosen your edge of cleverness and productivity, you can train your mind to ‘hold its horses.’ If fact, you might discover that, if you allow yourself to relax for a second in this open space with no agenda, the garden starts to communicate with you in much more intimate and subtle ways.

Not only do the flowers appear more vibrant, you also smell the earth with subtle distinctions, you feel the breeze against your skin, you become more receptive to your co-workers’ needs and you feel ready to relate with whatever challenge pops up.

This easy trick, or method, of ‘stop, drop and meet the world of the senses free from commentary’ can be repeated many times through day. In the middle of harvesting a long bed of spinach, for instance, you remind yourself to stand up for a moment, look at the skyline and feel the richness of the space around you. There are many variations on this theme. See what works for you.

Photos courtesy of Anemone Fresh.

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7 responses to “ Karme Choling’s Garden Gate ”
  1. Your answer shows real inteillegnce.

  2. Really loved the article. Especially about the part where you described shedding all your negative thoughts before entering the sacred space of the garden. A few years ago when I quit using drugs and was new to a profound way of life without chemicals, I spent countless hours in my parents garden. I was living with them at the time and made a habit to spend at least 1-2 hours gardening. Pulling weeds, watering, edging, planting, tasting, and just basking at the center of the herb garden and letting the wind blow the different smells my way.

    There is something magical about plants that I grasped at an early age but have now come back to understand. No glass of tea I brew is complete without fresh peppermint or lemon mint from my own garden.

    I miss that old herb garden at mom and dads.. I should go back this spring and tidy up the mint before it takes over that area.. Gotta love mint. Nameste.

  3. Thank you for the thoughtful article Jan. Your garden seems to offer the same instruction without words.
    I hope to enter the gate again soon. All the best from (snowy) Maine.

  4. Tune Faulkner
    Nov 25, 2011

    Beautifully written Jan, thanks for sharing your insights on the global issue of food for our planet. Also thanks to Anemone for the stunning photos

  5. Leila Bruno
    Nov 24, 2011

    the clarity and warmth of this piece seem so in line with how a garden speaks its power — i feel the earth wisdom coming thru you Jan. deep thanks to you for writing it

  6. Hi Jan, I love to grow my own garden and visit gardens of different kinds. I am curious about the orange heart shaped seeds in one of the images shown. Are they edible or ornamental and how to find them and grow them?
    A friend of mine called them Chinese Lantern. Thanks for your response.

  7. Linda V. Lewis
    Nov 24, 2011

    Jan, I would love to see more articles on gardening, esp. those related to the seasons–like what does one do in the fall, what maybe one does not do in the winter, what one can plant in the spring and when, and how one might best harvest through the summer and fall. Also I would love tips on herbal gardens, city gardens, and how ’bout roof top gardens?–or at least what might be possible to grow on porches and balconies. Perhaps you could also share tips on what plants get along with others, advice on planting in accord with the sun and moon and on considering the height of various plants.
    I know you have infinite wisdom on gardening and I have witnessed the beautiful mix of your flower and vegetable garden over the years. As our planet gets smaller and the population now has reached 7 billion, more practitioners are turning to a dominant vegetarian diet, so such follow up articles could help us, wherever we are, in being truly more sustainable.
    Bravo so far!

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