Sophie Walker on the meditative quality of gardening

The Japanese Garden - Sophie Walker

This summer, I’ve been really enjoying taking care of my modest little garden (if you can even call it that) and a few houseplants. I didn’t know how to articulate the particular state of mind I get when gardening until reading this quote. I find that tending to my plants does not simply involve the physical act of say watering, it becomes me.

They become a part of my psyche so that I know when to water, when to prune, when to clean their delicate leaves. I especially love this part of the quote: “it requires sensitivity for something beyond ‘I’, beyond ‘self’”. It seems that the more I step beyond myself, the more I feel connected with everything else.

“The garden is a tool of daily practice—something that is closely associated with Buddhism and Shinto. The very act of tending a garden requires care, it requires sensitivity for something beyond ‘I’, beyond ‘self’. The task at hand demands full engagement with no thought of anything else—it is a wholehearted act. Poet monk Basho said that because of this, ‘many a great thought occurred while weeding the garden’.”

— Sophie Walker on the connection between Japanese gardens on religious practice, in a Phaidon interview.