I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about and, working on the how and what that makes a true healing garden. Gardens, like all of Nature, inherently have healing, restorative powers. Even a few minutes spent amidst trees and flowers lifts the spirits. The fresh air, bird song and horticultural beauty collectively work on improving our state of being. Research has demonstrated the benefits of gardens but honestly, this has been accepted wisdom through the ages and in every corner of the globe. Long before words like stress, blood pressure, body conditioning were known, humans still understood the value of spending time in gardens and planted spaces. Gardens heal in active as well as passive ways. Like art and music therapy, horticultural therapy is applied in many areas of health care.
The act of gardening is excellent for all sorts of conditions. Simply focusing the mind on a task outside of oneself is therapeutic. Nurturing and caring for plants results in being more confident and satisfied. The physical demands of keeping a garden get the body moving and exercised. Moods are improved, tempers cooled, attitudes adjusted and energy restored – what else can do all of these so effectively? And who in today’s world cannot do with some healing?
In a gentle, quiet manner, the garden keeps loneliness at bay. Sit in a garden for some time and as you still your mind, let the wind and birds speak to you. Fill your eyes with what the plants show you of their splendor. Suddenly, you are connected to the surroundings and no longer lonely. Nature has a way of filling up the empty spaces within.
When we hear about healing gardens, we immediately think of medicinal plants. However, that is actually, a physic garden – a garden that grows the plants to be used to treat various ailments. Very common in days before modern medical practices took over, today, we are more likely to keep herb gardens that find their use in mostly culinary efforts.
A healing garden can and may include such medicinal plants but it is much more than that. This garden is designed so any person who visits is positively influenced by it. It is not only beautiful and calm but contains elements and structures that allow for reflection and repose. To contemplate, meditate, observe and walk in such a garden, is to soothe the broken heart and calm the agitated mind. A well designed healing garden will do its work without calling any attention. Like the loving, beneficent hand of a mother, it caresses the soul and heals the spirit. One is transformed. Repeatedly spending time in such a place can only lead to inner and outer peace. Perhaps our world leaders ought to meet in healing gardens.
This garden does not need to be large or elaborate. Actually, the simpler the better. Good plantings preferably with a tree or two, a place to sit, the sound of water and, if possible, a path to walk are the basic elements. Come to such a garden and surrender yourself. Let the healing begin.
(c) 2014 Shobha Vanchiswar