Since purchasing our first house last summer, I’ve taken up a new hobby: gardening.
My mother, too, is an avid gardener, and her mother before her. Growing up I remember spending what seemed like endless hours wandering greenhouses and nurseries, and while I was allowed to pick my favorite flowers to add to the mix (for some reason I always reached for Marigolds), surprisingly, I was never that interested in gardening itself.
I say “surprisingly” because now that we have our own home, gardening has become one of my treasured hobbies. It has also become one of my most natural and cherished spiritual practices. In fact, the deepening of my spiritual journey and my growing interest in gardening seem to be parallel, and I don’t think that’s a coincidence. Gardening requires the same traits as many of the most formative spiritual practices—patience, attentiveness, diligence, self-control—and in turn cultivates in us many of the postures that draw us closer to the Divine, including mindfulness, creativity, and curiosity.
That’s why, when it came time to plant my own garden, I wanted the guidance of someone who felt the same way about the hobby-turned-spiritual practice. Luckily, I knew of a woman at my church who did garden consultation—Gretchen Champoux of Sacred Spaces Design. Together, we were able to create a garden that has quickly become one of my favorite places, and I look forward to continuing to cultivate it as both a garden and a Sacred space as the years go on. (Because we’re always cultivating—in gardens and in life.)
As summer slowly fades into fall into the Northern Hemisphere, I wanted to share some of Gretchen’s reflections on gardening as a spiritual practice as well as tips on how to use nature to create a Sacred space—no matter the season. Read my interview with Gretchen below.
When did you come to experience gardens as a sacred space and gardening as a spiritual practice?
Gretchen: I didn’t know it at the time, but the world of gardening was salve to my soul before I even had a garden of my own. I had just moved to Seattle from southern California to begin college. Everything was new and uncomfortable in the way that most big life transitions are. I felt utterly displaced but also home at the same time. That’s when I began working at Ravenna Gardens, a local garden shop in my neighborhood selling plants, pots, and helping neighbors with their gardening questions. While still living on campus, I would bring home sickly houseplants to nurse back to health, a bundle of lavender, or a scented candle smelling of cedar. This became a weekly ritual. Adorning my living space with life and helping others do the same gave me life in ways I had never imagined and set me off on a somewhat unexpected vocation of helping others create garden spaces that speak to their souls and spirits.
In what ways does gardening contribute to the spiritual journey?
G: Gardening connects us to life’s natural rhythms, the gifts of each season, the wonder of creation and the natural world. For me, gardening and gratitude go hand in hand—as I come home from my other work as a psychotherapist my husband will often “catch me” slow down as I walk the path towards the front door and smell what’s blooming (right now it’s acidanthera, an amazing fragrant bulb in the gladiolus family) or taste what is ripening (such as those prolific ‘SunGold’ cherry tomatoes). I can’t help but experience the garden. When I do, I am pulled to the present moment so much so that I can paradoxically lose sense of time—especially if I’m digging away!
What are some ways that seekers can turn their ordinary places into sacred spaces—whether inside or outside—no matter their location or season?
1. Nature “Combing”
We have a habit (or practice!) in our family of always being on the lookout for natural found objects (pinecones, a pretty leaf, feathers, rocks, acorns) and arranging them on a bookshelf, in a basket, or on our mantle.
2. Fresh Flowers
whether this be from your own garden, a friends, or a neglected alley patch, this is a failsafe way to bring the outdoors in year round. I have even displayed a vase of dandelions.
A planted container is a garden but on a smaller scale, which is exactly why they are great for small spaces, indoor or out!
Thanks Gretchen! Learn more about Gretchen and her work in the world below.
Gretchen Champoux is owner and designer of Sacred Spaces Design, a garden consultation company that specializes in container design, planting plans, and the finer design details of your garden space. She is also an ordained minister and psychotherapist specializing in the areas of spirituality, fostering healthy relationships, and personal growth. She lives, works, and tends her own garden in Seattle, WA, along with her husband and two boys, Milo and Rémy. You can contact her at sacredspacesdesign.com and gretchenchampoux.com.
In what ways has cultivating a garden or simply spending time in nature contributed to your own spiritual journey?