Strategies to Cultivate Your Self-Care Garden
Updated: Dec 17, 2022
Chinese Medicine offers us nature-based advice about how to harmonize with each of the seasons. The advice for sleep in autumn (“go to rest early and rise early”)* shifts a bit in winter (“go to rest early and rise late”)* and so we have a beautiful continuous string of seasonal wisdom.
With global warming, which makes the seasons so unsettled, and with the awareness that each of us are also in our own season of life (sometimes we’re in a fiery hot period or a cold desolate winter) and even in our own cycle of the day (rising in the morning like spring and cycling through to sleep like wintertime), this seasonal advice is fabulous but can also be modified to be thought of more as a layering or stacking atop in which all the seasons might be simultaneously present. (Sorry if this is getting too much like the Matrix, but this is what I’ve been thinking about.)
My garden that I planted in early spring of 2022 (which really is actually more like wintertime energetically and even temperature-wise) still contains kale and parsley and oregano. As a novice gardener who doesn’t quite know what she is doing, this is amazing and unexpected and great! As a bonus, the kale actually sweetened in taste after it got colder. A little bit of adversity brought the sugar to the surface. It’s super delicious and I’ve been throwing a handful into (almost) everything that I make.
What I want to offer you here is a reminder that you can plant seeds continuously across the year in the garden of your own life. As we begin to approach wintertime, the ground might seem frozen but there is so much life beneath the surface. Wintertime is a great time to go inside and settle your energy so that you can spring forth when the frost begins to thaw.
You also have the opportunity to imagine and envision (these are qualities associated with springtime) what you would like to sprout in the future. Maybe it’s an exercise routine or a gratitude practice. Maybe the planning is enough for now or maybe you feel a little springtime invitation to move towards these goals.
The invitation here is to reconnect and to imagine what your life would look like if you were feeling integrated and continuous, like those seasons stacked atop each other that I spoke of at the beginning.
And then, from that vision, begin to take a look at some teeny tiny changes (small like kale seeds) that you could begin to plant.
The problem with gardening, especially if you’re new, is that it takes awhile to see change. There’s an element of faith involved as you hunker down and keep watering the soil.
I’m here to remind you not to lose heart. Most of the time, your seeds will sprout. And while crop failures will occur, these are an invitation to start again. And when you do begin again you will have a little more wisdom, enough to adapt and adjust.
If you’re overwhelmed, that’s ok. You don’t have to plant the whole garden bed, or even necessarily water your seeds every single day. You do need to have a little glimpse of what you’re looking for.
And after that you can start to cultivate your soil by cultivating little habits and thoughts and actions that will start to get you closer to where you want to be.
May your kale and everything else that you plant flourish across the many seasons of your life.
*from chapter 2 of Huang Di Nei Jing Su Wen, translated by Paul Unschuld