NOTE: This article also appeared in our October 2021 Newsletter and can be found in our externally managed newsletter archive here.

Maple LeavesThese past two years with the Covid pandemic, I have spent considerable time at home. Getting to be outdoors while tending to my garden has been a source of great solace to me. It has been my gym, my retreat, and my meditation space. Part sun therapy, part earthing, part Taoist practice, part cardio and strength training – getting into the flow of nature through gardening is an activity I can completely lose myself to. With both my children in college now, taking care of my yard has provided a much needed outlet for mothering. Just as our children teach us, the introspection that comes with taking care of plants lend me insight into life.

Before the pandemic, like most people, we hired gardeners to maintain our yards. The weekly sounds of the lawn mower and blower were ubiquitous. For twenty years, it was easier to give the responsibility of caring for our surrounding green space to someone else. On the surface, my garden looked verdant. But, as I started to take over, installing drip irrigation, adding mulch, and digging deeper, I saw how my lawn was more weeds than grass, and how the plants had problematic growth from lack of care. I was aghast how all this was hidden by the facade of greenery.

Spider WebsOne of the main features of my front yard is a privacy hedge. We planted this to buffer noise and dust from our busy residential street. These plants shielded us like a giant filter that had not been cleaned for years. They were thick with overgrowth and covered with dust and mold. The center of each bush was filled with dried leaves, twigs and spider webs. In search of sunlight, the branches stretched out, long and thin, pulling the main branches down with the weight of their leaves. Along my back yard, I have a chain link fence and some of the hedges’ branches had fused with it. Without proper trimming, the hedges grew right through this metal mesh.

As I trimmed and cleaned my garden, I realized that nature always finds a way. Although the plants had not received good care, they managed to appear lush; however, inwardly, their branches were in disarray and misshapen. I learned how important it is to keep the heart of each bush open. This meant the main trunk needed to be cleared of dead leaves and new sprouts that divert nutrients and block sunlight. It was not easy to cut away perfectly healthy stems, but it was necessary to allow the plant as a whole to grow better. By cutting the branches to avoid blocking each other from sunlight, they started to grow sturdily upwards, and were able to hold the weight of new growth.

RakeSimilarly, for humans to grow well, we, too, need to keep our hearts open, clearing away things that do not serve us. Constant maintenance is necessary so our offspring can easily access our love and grow strong. When we fail to take care of ourselves, when we feed our doubts and demons, and allow them to darken our hearts, we risk growing astray in search of the light we lack, and possibly disrupting the growth of our children. Cleaning my garden was a great reminder that the best love a mother or caregiver can give children or dependents is to take better care of themselves. This way, they have more to give and can be a shining example for them. Too often, mothers and caregivers put themselves last.

As a feng shui master and a proponent of our environment, I could not help but ponder the deeper meaning of my work in my microcosmic garden as a reflection of our macrocosmic global garden, and that of our relationships with our children. How much do we take for granted because everything on the surface looks fine? How much are we losing by letting others take care of our natural resources, and by letting technology be the teachers of our children? I have come to see how vital it is for us to be accountable for our green spaces and how neglect translates to the realities of global warming, climate change and a younger generation searching for the light of authenticity and true guidance in the chaos of an uncharted digital world.

Person with Outstretched ArmsMore than ever, I am seeing the necessity of this pandemic as Mother Nature trying to reclaim her children. We have been given the opportunity to hit the pause button. We must take this time to simplify our lives, to understand what we really need, and realize how much we can really take care of and maintain. When we live beyond our means, we place stress on our system, our family, our financial resources, and our humanity as a whole. We must be mindful of the temporary illusion of gratification we get from unnecessary purchases or services that can do us and our future generations more harm than good.

As we approach the last months of yet another year, I marvel at how nature reminds us to stay warm as trees change into their autumn colors. I invite you all to go outside today, take a deep breath, look up at the sky, and smile at the sound of rustling leaves signaling the season of letting go. On this note, may you be inspired to take a moment and reflect on what this year’s lessons have been for you. This is the perfect time to re-evaluate what is truly important to you and focus on your priorities. Go through your home, declutter, and get started on your next year’s feng shui readjustments. Getting this done early will allow you to enjoy the winter holidays. Make a list of what you wish to give and what you really need in preparation for 2022, the year of the Water Tiger.

Qi Gong Practice: "Shaking Off the Leaves"

Start by standing with your feet at shoulder width, arms to your sides slightly away from your body, hands relaxed. Shake your wrists, arms, shoulders, hips, and bounce on your feet. Your whole body should be relaxed and shaking up and down. It is an action to release all tension and stress from your body. The breathing for this exercise is done by inhaling through your nose and exhaling, blowing through your mouth. Sustain this exercise for 1-2 minutes. Slow it down and come to rest in a standing pose, arms loose and slightly away from your body. Close your eyes and feel energy buzzing and circulating through your whole body. Practice daily or anytime you need a break.