By Liz Koch – Originally published in the Santa Cruz Sentinel 2010
Why is one garden more inspiring than another?
It is not just how many flats of posies one buys that touches our hearts. Rather, it is a felt sense that can inspire and literally transform the way we feel. It is this magical quality that defines a “healing” garden.
Healing gardens have existed throughout human history as intentional spaces where the magic of healing is evoked. Sometimes called restorative gardens, they are a part of an ancient healing tradition found in almost every culture and time.
Creating intentional healing gardens, where you can touch the earth, hear the bees humming, bird singing and water flowing, and feel the sun’s warmth and the softness of air, is part of our Western history and is integral to the infirmaries that were often located within monastic communities.
“Many hospitals have re-introduced healing gardens,” says local master gardener and energy healer Patty Dunks, “ because these gardens have the incredible potential for supporting and speeding up the healing process.”
Speaking for the Way of Life health lecture series on Feng Shui For Your Body on April 30th, Dunks attributes the ability for a garden to provide a “field of healing” to a variety of qualities, including the flow of energy, or what is commonly known as Feng Shui; the balancing of the five essential elements of earth, air, fire, water and sky, which is literally the composition of the garden’s ecosystem; and the personal resonance with individual plants.
“Each person resonates with different plants” says Dunks, “so it is important when creating a personal healing garden to include the plants that you feel a particular kinship with.”
To gain a sensitivity to plants, author Stephen Harrod Buhner, in his book “The Secret Teachings Of Plants: The Intelligence Of The Heart In The Direct Perception Of Nature,” leads the reader through a series of mental, emotional and sensory explorations meant to help recognize how limited and cut off we are in the modern world to varied modes perception.
These subtle modes of perception, although not easily tangible, are called biognosis, which means direct “knowledge from life,” Buhner writes.
Our relationship with plants, Buhner suggests, goes far beyond our dependency on using them for food and medicine: there is a vibrational relationship to the plant kingdom inherent in our physical bodies. Buhner urges us to come to our senses and develop our heartfelt perception as a means of communing directly with the plant world.
Learning directly from plants is an ancient indigenous way of learning, Buhner says. This learning relied neither on the analytical capacity of the brain nor the techniques of trial and error, he says, but happened because our ancestors received information directly through the “heart of the world.”
In other words, we can receive directly from and be informed by the plants themselves.
“The plants can speak to human beings” says Buhner, “only if human beings will listen and respond to them in the proper state of mind.” This “state of mind” is currently recognized in research as electrical i.e. vibrational or neurological coherency. Research shows that simply viewing nature provides benefits to our health.
“Being in a healing garden lowers our blood pressure, our pulse rate, our respiratory rate, and slows our body’s output of the stress hormone cortisol,” Dunks says.
Just being in a garden is a step toward health. Embarking upon growing a healing garden can not only create beauty and a delightful space for family and friends to gather, but it can also provide the perfect conditions for fostering vitality and good health.
Why Getting Dirty Is Good For You
Patty Dunks points toward evidence that the old remedy for improving your well being – playing in dirt is good for you. Gardening or putting your hands in soil is now officially good for your health! I searched a bit and found many sources connecting the theory that micro-organisms are doing the job of keeping us both happy and healthy.
Excerpted from: http://davethegardenguy.typepad.com/davethegardenguy/2011/05/getting-dirty-is-good-for-you.html
“Mycobacterium vaccae, a bacteria that is common in soil, has been found to activate a specific group of neurons in our brains that produce serotonin. Serotonin is found in the brain and the blood and is a very important neurotransmitter, which helps regulate a whole host of functions… Many antidepressants work by serotonin pathways or serotonergic systems. Antigens derived from the bacteria, which is non-pathogenic and saprophytic in nature, altered stress-related emotional behavior in mice. The tests and results of studies in London and Bristol showed that the bacteria caused an increase in serotonin metabolism within the prefrontal cortex. The conclusions from the 2007 studies included “a novel hypothetical framework for investigating the relationships among immune activation, serotonergic systems, and mental health.” This added to previous work showing “unexpected improvements in quality of life scores” to clinical cancer and inflammatory disorder trials. Another trial using the soil bacteria to treat psoriasis showed Mycobacterium vaccae “gave long-lasting clinical benefit to most patients, with minimal side effects.”
Another source is Discover: The Magazine of Science, Technology, and the Future . In an article by Josie Glausiusz titled Is Dirt the New Prozac sums the meaning up like this:
“The results so far suggest that simply inhaling M. vaccae—you get a dose just by taking a walk in the wild or rooting around in the garden—could help elicit a jolly state of mind. “You can also ingest mycobacteria either through water sources or through eating plants—lettuce that you pick from the garden, or carrots,” Lowry says. Graham Rook, an immunologist at University College London and a coauthor of the paper, adds that depression itself may be in part an inflammatory disorder. By triggering the production of immune cells that curb the inflammatory reaction typical of allergies, M. vaccae may ease that inflammation and hence depression.