This is the fourth article in our seven-part series “Establishing a Mindful Bonsai Practice”. Throughout this series we are focused on incorporating six key practices into daily bonsai tasks to develop a Mindful Bonsai Practice. We believe that this regular practice will help you and your trees realize the benefits of mindfulness - for you, a reduction in stress and anxiety, and improved sleep and attention; and for your bonsai trees, improved health, optimized growth, and increased beauty. Ultimately, a mindful bonsai practice will enable you to more fully appreciate your bonsai trees, and the natural world around you.
Remember: creating a bonsai requires interaction and connection between a person and a tree.
This article is focused on weeding bonsai and debris removal. Keep this sentiment from Marie Kondo in mind; “The objective of cleaning is not just to clean, but to feel happiness living within that environment.” Weeding may typically seem like a mundane task, until you open your mind to change your perception.
In bonsai, the term for cleaning (either your work surface or the top surface of your bonsai tree’s soil) is soji. The top layer of bonsai soil can become hard which prevents good drainage. Weeds are especially bad for bonsai trees, not only because they clog up the soil but also because they take precious water away from the bonsai! Weeds can also be home to insects that you don’t want near your trees (more to come on pest removal in the last article of this series!)
Follow these six steps to establish habits that will enable you to practice weeding mindfully:
Pay Attention – Examine the top layer of soil around your tree. Do you notice weeds carpeting the soil? Can you see the base of the trunk or is it covered with moss?
Find Joy in Simple Acts – Remember how good you feel after gulping down a glass of cold water on a hot afternoon. A freshly weeded and clear bonsai tree will experience the same joy after being watered, without debris blocking its ability to absorb water.
Accept Yourself – You don’t have to be Marie Kondo to weed your bonsai! Aim for regular cleaning, not perfection. Every little weed you remove from the container will benefit your tree.
Sitting Meditation – After clearing the top layer of soil and gently spraying your freshly weeded tree with water, sit back and relax for a few minutes. How peaceful and content does your bonsai look now?
Walking Meditation – Take yourself for a short walk around your neighborhood. Notice the difference in landscape design and maintenance from lot to lot. Which lawns, porches, or decks bring you the most joy? Think about how you can incorporate that look and feel into your own personal space.
Focus on your Breath – If you’re nervous about damaging your tree by weeding too much, pause before you begin. Close your eyes and give a four-count “box breath” a try. Empty all of the air from your chest and keep your lungs empty for a four-count hold. Then, inhale through your nose for four counts and hold the air in your lungs for four counts. Keep your shoulders, neck, and skin on your face relaxed and loose. Finally, release the hold and exhale smoothly through your nose for four counts. Gently repeat this circuit for five minutes.
Stay tuned for next week’s article in this series, “How to Mindfully Optimize Light for Bonsai Trees”!