One tip for mindful exploration in the healing garden

A while back, I wrote a post about an experiment with texture in the garden. I was exploring how you could extend your sense of touch using the bark of different trees in the yard.

Why not explore the textures of the red yucca flowers and the Englemann daisies?

Why not explore the textures of the red yucca flowers and the Englemann daisies?

This exercise is a bit like mindful meditation or hatha yoga but the practice can take little time. It’s also a superb way to reduce stress, lower cortisol levels, and enhance your body’s natural healing processes.

A quick exercise to sensitize the hands is like setting an intention. The practice then begins with placing one or both hands on the tree’s bark and becoming aware of each sensation that the bark provides. Slow, calm breathing enhances the effect. Notice how the sensations vary when you open or close your eyes. Stand close to the tree and start with your eyes closed. Feel whether the bark is rough or smooth, or perhaps both in different places.

You might ask yourself:

  • Does it feel cool or warm? Would smooth bark feel cooler or warmer than rough bark?
  • If the bark is scaly or otherwise textured, what do you notice about the shapes of the bark plates under your palms?
  • If the bark is ridged, either vertically or horizontally, can you feel a pattern in the ridges and valleys or is it random?
How do you think the moss on the rocks here might deel?

How do you think the moss on the rocks here might deel?

Then check the sensations with your eyes open, looking at the tree. For some people, adding sight enhances the awareness of bark textures, shapes, temperature. For others, sight is a distraction at first. Consider how you might marry the two senses and expand the richness of feeling about bark.

This is very much awareness in the present moment. Notice how your breath has slowed and deepened, how much more relaxed and calm you feel.

As you explore texture, go beyond tree bark. Explore the sensations of touch with slick, sandpapery, fuzzy or crinkly leaves. This moves your awareness practice into your fingertips. You can even practice feeling the wood on the porch step where you sit to drink your morning coffee or the limestone slabs in the rock wall next to your back door.

This plant's leaves look like plastic. How do they really feel?

This plant's leaves look like plastic. How do they really feel?

Now when you think about adding to your landscape, ask yourself what texture you’d like. Should you choose a different tree to add variety, such as a crape myrtle with bark that peels, crumpled flower blossoms, and crunchy clumps of seed pods? Or maybe you’ve been visually fascinated by ornamental grasses. You can plan for the excitement of feeling a clump of inland sea oats in early spring with winter’s stiff stalks mixed with the soft new blades and again in late summer, when the stems arch over with the drooping weight of the oval seed heads.

Texture – just one step in increasing your connection with nature in a deliberate way for personal healing.