Although the number of times you read or hear the term “mindfulness” may cause you to think otherwise, mindfulness is more than a buzzword. It’s a mental state of conscious awareness of the present moment that psychologists and wellness experts believe can help keep a person calm, open, and accepting of their feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. But is mindfulness a modern-day Catch 22? We live in a world filled with Zoom meetings, Slack chats, likes, follows, and hashtags. How can we achieve mindfulness amidst a seemingly constant stream of daily stressors and interruptions?
"Realize deeply that the present moment is all you have. Make the NOW the primary focus of your life." This quote comes from author and spiritual leader Ekhart Tolle, in his best-seller The Power of Now.
Set aside the tweets and posts and deadlines, and make time and space to experience your present moment. Bonsai are live, growing trees, and as such, are ever-changing. You may have an idea of what you want your bonsai to look like in five or ten years, but you must stop and take notice of your tree now, today, to truly experience it. By practicing the art of bonsai mindfully, you can adopt regular practices that will help you relax your mind and body, reduce stress, and incorporate mindfulness in other areas of your life. Let’s explore caring for your bonsai tree - mindfully.
Regular Practices to Pursue Increased Mindfulness through Bonsai
“To create a bonsai requires interaction and connection between a person and a tree.” - Eric Schrader
Pay Attention – take the time to experience your tree and it’s environment with as many of your senses as possible - sight, smell, touch, sound, and even taste.
Find Joy in Simple Acts – be open, accepting, and discerning in even the more mundane tasks of bonsai care. Recognize that watering, fertilizing, and weeding are vital to your tree’s health and happiness.
Accept Yourself – if you are new to bonsai, don’t be too hard on yourself if you make a mistake; if you’re more experienced, treat yourself the way you’d treat another hobbyist.
Sitting Meditation – Position yourself comfortably in a seat and offer yourself the opportunity of 5-10 minutes to simply contemplate your tree.
Walking Meditation – Walk slowly around your tree, whether it lives outdoors or inside, and consider how it looks from all sides. Picture how it might look in a different room or another part of your outdoor space.
Focus on your Breath – after you’ve taken a good, long look at your tree from all angles, close your eyes, breathe, and picture the tree from your mind’s eye as it will look tomorrow, next month, next year, and in five years.
Practice these exercises every day for about six months. You may not evolve immediately from harried to zen, but over time you might realize the benefits of your commitment to mindfulness - a reduction in stress and anxiety, and improved sleep and attention. That careful and patient attention will also benefit your trees by improving their health, optimizing their growth, and increasing their beauty. Your practice will further benefit you as your ability to appreciate your bonsai increases. Think of how you interact with your bonsai, and about how you can turn each interaction into an opportunity to gain clarity about yourself. As you nurture your trees, so you nurture your spirit. Remember, you are half of the partnership with a tree that creates a bonsai, and you are responsible for nurturing both halves.
This is the first article in a series that will explain how you can incorporate mindful practices into regular bonsai tasks (e.g. watering and monitoring soil moisture, fertilizing, weeding and debris removal, optimizing light, inspecting for insects and disease, and harnessing new growth) to develop your own Mindful Bonsai Practice. The next article is "How to Mindfully Water Bonsai and Maintain Soil Moisture".