Some Zen thoughts in my garden

I need to get out more. Just looking through the windows onto the garden makes me realize that I should be out there sorting things, not only, for the rapidly developing Spring but also Summer which is already shouting out its needs like a petulant child.

It will have to be done or my Da Mo meditation exercises will become a neurotic series of lists of things to do – not really what the founder of Zen Buddhism had in mind.

This little garden has all the potential for being a Zen garden – well to the limit of my understanding that is.

I have been told to avoid stress and anxiety as part of the hoped for cure from my brain injuries and Da Mo has been a great help there. He has also helped me endure these last months of enforced carefulness where I have to avoid bending up and down, making sudden movements, drinking more than three glasses of wine a week, lifting anything heavy or staying up late at night.

So as the morning sun rises above the strange man-made mound behind the garden, I finish the Da Mo exercises in a spirit of calm and give my own Salute to the Sun, the first of our tai chi moves which continue to take me away from everyday concerns – well at least until the end of those 66 becalming and exhilarating moves.

Not once did I think about the awaited call from the neuroradiologist who, I am told, will ring any day now to confirm my next MRI brain scan. There is nothing I can do about it, I think, as I make my way back into the house, so there is no point in getting concerned about it.

Similarly, there is no point in thinking about what they will find when they look at those images inside my head. Whatever is there is there.

Much more concerning and irritating is the question of those bamboo canes.

This is probably why I will never make a Zen Buddhist even if I wanted to be one.

The canes are supporting the various climbing plants which will eventually make the garden’s surrounding flint walls a vertical garden of roses, clematis, passion flowers, honeysuckle and climbing fuchsias.

At the moment they just form a forest of annoying eye-distracting sticks.

I know they should stay for another year but I just don’t want them there. Zen would tell me, I am sure, not to think about it, but it is too late: I know that even whilst thinking about how I shouldn’t do something, I find myself doing it anyway.

Maybe I don’t need calming exercises when I am already as becalmed as a yacht on a windless day.

That is why I am pleased to do my kung fu patterns – they are nothing to do with calm, well not the way I do them. They wake me up, send out a flow of adrenalin and, unpredictably, leave me feeling even calmer than before.

When I am better, I am already thinking, I must get that punchbag for the garden. So when the Summer flowers fill this place with colour, the bees buzz and the birds sing, I know I will be getting better and then I will have something to kick and punch. Now there’s a thought.

Do they have punchbags in Zen gardens?


  1. I always think of ‘garden’ as a verb rather than a noun – and now having only a balcony, I do miss it. Having said that, in the flat I have two pots of hyacinths, four pots of daffodils, one gigantic hippeastrum, half a dozen pots of pelargoniums (should that be pelargonia?) – both scented an unscented), a couple of ivies and a couple of baby strelizia. I think they should keep my going.

    I’m thinking of passionflower and jasmine for the balcony. I’m sure I’ll find room for some herbs as well – I’ll just need to leave room for a chair or two!

    BTW: It is still difficult to post comments sometimes – it won’t recognise the cursor (so I become a curser!).

    Enjoy the garden whatever you do!

  2. So true about the word Garden being a verb, Claudio…this new tiny garden has become the first outdoor space that I could sit in without having to list what needed to be done all the time.

    I am still filling it with plants though – probably over-filling but Nature is chaotic so why not us!

    Pelargonii, I think, Claudius meus.

    I love the idea of passionflower and jasmine on the balcony. In my last house, there was a spectacular jasmine growing by the kitchen window – on a Summer’s day, with windows opened, the perfume filled the house. In the Spring, some Goldcrests choose it as their nesting site.

    Passionflower is just so sexy – don’t even start me on it!

    I am sure a balcony can be a garden, just as a window box can be too.

    Annoying about the comments link being unreliable. Not sure what to do about that. I probably need a cleverer person than me to have a look.

    Good luck with the balcony and all those plants.

    I have always liked the word Strelizia. If I had to be an exotic Eastern European Duke in a minor novel or even more minor musical, I would have to be the Duke of Strelizia.

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