Ever walked along a Chinese garden, public or private, urban or rural? It’s interesting maybe for you to know that if you did, it taught you how to deal with your personal demons. The topic today is spiritual gardening, or insight-gardening, or how to make the most out of your spiritual garden design.
I’m at a crossroads. I have land and I’m trying to figure out how to do the best design project I possibly can. So, I’m stuck filling everything with trees at the moment. I’ve planted so far 3 trees up front and 5 trees out back. It’s a small piece of land, so it’s quite a bit. Pollinating cherry trees, a fig tree in front of my bedroom window that represents my Buddha nature, an apple tree right behind it, citrus and almods, and others.
I’ve been remembering my childhood a lot lately, healing past wounds and doing some therapy on it. I found a therapist who understands both childhood programming as energy therapies according to Chinese Medicine, which is a great combination and it’s working so well I’m kind of shocked.
As I look at the piece of land I have in front of me now, I feel pretty much the same, an empty canvas waiting to be rekindled out of past lawn mistakes. And here I am thinking that maybe in a way, it’s possible to confront this regenerative situation with a spirit of wellness, well wishing and kindness, stepping away from previous years of suffering and trauma.
So, Chinese gardens are built with spirituality in mind — how to overcome specially difficult obstacles. An interesting garden in my hometown in Southern China, has this wobbly path of curves dancing around fields of flowers and ancient trees, which make it fun to walk along and cross the bridge on the lake (water represents the ever flowing impermanent sense of living which is ever changing) And along the long branches and small hills, there are statues of the very complex Buddhist Cosmology, which represent the path of self-forgiveness, compassion for all living things and delusion-breaking.
It’s really interesting how in the midst of the chaotic mess which is Chinese culture, this tradition in garden landscaping is still not only very present as it is a way of life to walk in the gardens in the morning, carrying the birds in bird cages for their morning routine of Tai Chi. Every day, people flok to the gardens for this routine, where they present the morning with wonderful rememberences of the old days less dictatorial in nature of work, study and politics.
There isn’t anything lazy or out of place in Chinese gardens. Everything is utterly methodical with the very specific goal in mind: peace. It’s safe to say chinese people can be blunt and assertive, but they are not bellic. You don’t see China involved in most conflicts unless there is a direct threat to their way of life. You see them involved in taking over the world over at the free market and western financial disasters, though. The way governments over the years have really disrespected chinese culture and ways of life, has been immense. A good book came our recently: “Sisters Song”.
An interesting idea that most people don’t have is western interference and how the cultural appropriation of certain things only isolated China more. It’s safe to point out that a country which had a very deadly cultural revolution, will protect it’s culture from whatever danger they encounter. So, this urban landscaping is very much engrained in the daily habits, which aim to promote a better understanding of how a person should behave: peacefully, compassionately, striving to be better.
The small temple-like gazeebos are made to rest from the hard sun, and sit down for a bit while contemplating the hardships in peace, a way in which we can sit down and contemplate the good things we have and how we can strive to have better.
Stairways to reach temples and other adoration sites, can be found to be quite steep most of the time. I onced climbed more than a hundred steps to reach the most incredible place I’ve ever been in my life, with a view over what is called “Summer Garden”, one of the most beautiful pieces of human-made landscapes you’ll ever see. The movie “Hero” from Zhang Yimou shows smalls bits and pieces of it, but you only recognize it if you’ve been there. If you want to reach the Great Wall, you used to have to climb a lot in the old days.
So, in this spiritual landscaping idea, we can take a lot from the sense of accomplishment of it. We can not only design the way in which we want our spiritual paths to be, but also how we want to overcome our obstacles, with designing our objective in mind: self-transcendece away from suffering.
The more I study how the Chinese landscapers build their gardens, the more I’m interested in Spiritual Gardening for transcending my difficulties. It’s not only the act of gardening, not only the design itself, but the whole integration of ourselves with the garden, who it contains and who is allowed in. It’s a beautiful way in which to learn how to design life, too, as we so often find in permaculture — garden design for life design and life design for garden design, regenerating ourselves, our cultures and our landscapes.
It would be interesting if there wasn’t a cultural appropriation on this, but if we learned cultural appreciation and respect and maybe try to bridge into our own lives this type of landscaping, creating a bridge away from racism into appreciation of life.