Heart Gardening and Head Gardening

It’s been an enlightening summer in the gardens. When we decided last year to commit to all-veganic food and flower cultivation, I’m not going to lie: I felt legitimized, but scared. 

Veganic gardening means not interfering in any deliberate way with the natural lives of Earth and its inhabitants. It means letting go of the impulse to control and repeat patterns of the past. It places the heart, not the head, at the center of all gardening.

I don’t know what’s scarier than setting aside the mind and its agenda of self-preservation and rationalization, and instead following the voice of the heart. But last summer, as we were putting down fish fertilizer on our veggie plants, a feeling of regret came over me. Why, I wondered, with all my lofty talk about compassion to all beings, did I think it right to fertilize our food plants with the liquified bodies of fish? And the more I dwelled with it, the more grotesque it seemed. My head was chattering about green garden splendor and huge yields of food, but my heart was taking me into different territory.

The mind is all about self-preservation (“I want the most food, the best gardens, jars of homegrown produce all through winter”): the heart is about self-realization (“Nothing is worth having when it’s at the expense of another”). We all hear from both parts of ourselves all day long. When we need to feel safe, we follow the familiar patterns of the mind. When we’re attuned to the higher part of ourselves, and after we’ve learned to trust the heart – which takes us into territory that’s always progressive – we take chances.

This morning, a friend asked about our tomatoes. I promised him some of the German Blacks and Cherokee Purples when they’re ready. I told him that the plants are loaded with big tomatoes, but they haven’t yet ripened. It’s been a cool, wet summer, and everything is moving slowly. He also asked how the gardens are doing overall.

The truth is, they’re doing as well as last year, but not better. They’re producing at the rate that all of our previous gardens have produced, and have shown the same extent of disease as all prior gardens. In other words, they’re doing great.

Our transition to veganic gardening has been a success. We’re cultivating the same amount of food, but without taking steps that would harm any creatures around or who wander into our gardens. A big perk is that the food gardens are now busy habitats for wildlife. Never have I had gardens that were so alive with birds, mice, rabbits, squirrels, and chipmunks. At any time, when I walk into the thick tangle of vines and plants, dozens of animals and butterflies pour out. Some gardeners would wince at this. I absolutely love it.

By choosing to garden veganically, we’ve discovered a new way of food production and relating to all the creatures we share our gardens with. And I’ve learned this: the mind wants everything to be safe and secure, and in order for things to be safe and secure, it has to be familiar. But there are times in life when the heart speaks to us about self-realization, unfamiliarity, and change.

The heart works like the North Star, leading us away from agendas that have expired or that we realize have been wrong for us all along. This North Star guidance comes through the powerful language of our hearts, which speak to us softly, but which are always speaking to us.

The mind is a louder voice. It shouts at us about staying safe and being certain. I’m not necessarily arguing against safety and certainty. But I don’t have to tell you that playing it safe leaves all the interesting doors around us closed. There’s nothing new to learn, and nowhere new to go.

And as for certainty? Certainty is nothing more than a seduction. What is certainty made of anyway? We were certain of nothing when we decided to garden veganically. How could we know what to expect? Maybe we would lose all our precious garden food to insects and wildlife. Maybe disease would level everything by July.

Our job wasn’t to know for certain. Instead, we rode the wave of curiosity: a feeling of freedom, coupled with a sense of fear. Our hearts were taking us into territory that was more progressive. It challenged us to garden with compassion. When we bumped into that urge that suggested that we go into a new landscape, we felt both expansive and afraid. But we trusted that the humbleness of curiosity carries far more power than the illusion of certainty.

Contemplating this has been very enlightening. Our gardens have evolved, and so have we. We’ve learned about what wants to live in our gardens, and what wants to live through us.

Much love,
Barbie xo

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