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This past spring, my husband and I moved to Pennsylvania after having lived in the South for the past eleven years.
One of the changes I found myself recently needing to take advantage of was a forecasted warmer fall day to finish preparing our garden for the upcoming winter months.
Up until that point, I had already pushed off the task of laying a blanket of mulch on our garden to protect our newly established fruit bushes and other perennial plants for several weeks, in part because I didn’t feel like working outside in the cooler weather, but even more because I had been constantly feeling the pressure to get my work done – deadlines were looming, and I was already anticipating the stress that comes from the busyness of the holiday season.
However, between the gift of a warmer day and the extended weather forecast, which was projecting some very cold upcoming nights, I found myself no longer able to ignore the work that needed to be done, especially if I didn’t want our plants to get damaged.
As I began to put on my gardening clothes, I found my mind saying to me, “You really should stay inside and get your work done.
You don’t have time to be doing this.”
To which I then paused and thought to myself, “Yes, yes, I know, but I don’t want to lose the plants that I carefully planted just months ago.”
“Okay, if you decide to go outside, then you had better hurry, so you can get back inside and get your work done!”
“Alright, I can agree to do that” I told myself as I quickly picked up my rake and started busily gathering some of the leaves I was going to shred and use in my mulch blanket.
Several moments later, I paused to observe my progress… “You’ve gathered up quite an impressive pile of leaves. Keep hurrying and you’ll have this task knocked out in no time!”
But then, just as my “raking momentum” was really starting to kick in, a small quiet voice in my head said, “Stop! You know better than this.
Give yourself permission to put aside your to-do list and instead take the time to give your full attention to gathering leaves.
What do you see?
What do you smell?
What do you feel?”
Within minutes, I could literally feel the stress that had been building up inside me melt away as I put down my rake and instead scooped up the leaves with my hands, pausing to acknowledge the beauty of their different colors and shapes as well as the wonderful, sweet smell that arose as I slowly crushed the dry leaves between my fingers.
I then found myself thinking about the amazing role that these leaves would be playing in my garden this winter.
Not only would these leaves be used to form a blanket to keep my plants warm during the harsh winter months, but just as important, the leaves would also be releasing nourishment back into the earth, replenishing some of the nutrients that had been used up last season while also preparing our garden beds for next spring (for more information about the benefits of leaf mulch and how to create it, check out this 10-minute YouTube video link).
This simple act of mindfulness, which is so nourishing for our minds, bodies, and souls (and, in some instances, soil!), and which I experienced through gathering leaves, can also be found in so many different everyday tasks and activities (for more information about mindfulness and its health benefits, click here).
The hard part of mindfulness is not the complexity of the practice itself, since it can be done anytime and everywhere; rather, it is giving ourselves permission to slow down!
In the midst of the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, I want to invite you to give yourself both the gift of time to practice being mindful and the permission to do so with the playfulness and joy that comes so naturally to children, but tends to get lost as we age.
For example, consider listening to Ammi’s Adventures: A 4-Minute Meditation for Kids.
It is a leaf-centered mindfulness practice written for all of God’s children.
In addition, knowing that the holiday season is full of stress (both good and challenging) and that people often find January to be an optimal time to reprioritize and recommit to improving their health, Healthy Seminarians-Healthy Church has created a free online program called “Restore and Renew: Strategies for Stress.”
It lasts six weeks (starting January 10, 2022 and concluding on February 20, 2022), is self-paced, and is designed to help participants reflect, recharge, relate, relax, and recommit to their health and wholeness in 2022.
For more information, and/or to register now, click here.
May all be well with you this holiday season and in the new year!
Rev. Dr. Karen Webster is co-founder and executive director of the Healthy Seminarians-Healthy Church Initiative, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and validated ministry of Trinity Presbytery (SC). In addition to being an ordained PC(USA) pastor, Karen is certified as an Exercise Physiologist, Nutrition Specialist, and Health and Wellness Coach.
Scripture: “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.” – Revelation 22:1-2
Photo credit: Photo by Melanie Kreutz on Unsplash