Taking care of plants and animals as a method of self-care
For millennia, humans have turned to gardening as a way of stress relief. Some cultures such as Japan have terms like forest bathing to describe spending much time immersed in nature. But in urban environments, garden spaces are limited and apartments are too small and modern lifestyles make us all too alien to nature.
Nelson and I have always lived in apartments since we married and never had the fortune of having a garden to cultivate and grow. My parents, on the other hand, have a large garden full of tropical plants and trees ranging from fruits to vegetables, flowers to spices. Both my parents are gifted with green thumbs. But I used to be the opposite. Plants would come to reside with me to meet their certain deaths.
In 2007-08, I took one of the most life changing courses I have ever taken. The IAC (International Academy of Consciousness) was offering a 1 year course called "Goal: Intrusionlessness". In this course, we had an opportunity to dive deep into ourselves, and identify aspects that are limiting us or holding us back. At this point in time, I didn't have the healthiest relationship with myself. I was stuck at a point of not exactly liking myself for who I was. We had two instructors for the course Nanci Trivellato and Wagner Alegretti. And Nanci was my personal mentor. During one of the personal energetic mentoring sessions, she shared with me a tip to improve my relationship with myself. She said to take care of a plant and to focus on something other than myself. I can't remember if we explicitly discussed the outcomes, but I now understand that this has allowed me to bond with something deeply, therefore allowing for a greater connection to self.
There are countless studies such as this one that explores the many possible benefits of gardening and green space on mental and physical health. Some benefits of interacting with plants and nature are: Stress reduction and relief Boost creativity Improves physical health - Boost immune system, lower blood pressure, exercise and physical activity involved with gardening or being in nature Improve your connection to earth and nature. Grounding. Improve your connection to yourself Delight - let us not forget how delight is an underrated basic human need.
13 years fast forward to present, I am a mom of over 50 indoor plants of varying sizes, a cat, and I am also nurturing many meaningful relationships with family and friends. Over the past decade, I have established a great rapport with plants. I hardly let plants die at my hands. Now, I take so much pleasure in connecting with them, intuitively navigating how to take care of them, and helping them thrive. I also propagate and distribute plants among my friends now. Nelson says "not only your plans have plans, your plants have plans"
Connecting with plants has allowed me to try to pay attention to their very subtle yet unique "energy". Their life force or chi is distinctly different from ours. I have learnt to tune into the minutiae of even the tiniest plants that I steward, it has facilitated a sort of a precision with even my own energies. This has allowed me to notice the subtle shifts in my mood or my energy. Also I became aware of how plants began to thrive when I cared for them, gave them love and paid attention to them. And something shifted in me and clicked when I realized "what if I nurture and care for myself?! Will I thrive the way these plants are?" - that was such an aha moment. I just had to care for myself the same way I cared for my plants - with love, kindness, and attention. I wouldn't credit all of the progress I made with improving myself to taking care of a few plants. But I definitely give them credit for giving me a beautiful urban oasis that I love to be in, that welcomes visitors to Neuma Mind Spa and where I can create, recharge AND live the most aligned version of myself. Also they have most certainly helped me connect with myself better in some way or form. Try taking care of a plant today and see what shifts happen within and around you.
PS: I came across this wonderful resource that has a lot of information about forest bathing. I recommend you read some of it.