Garden of the Spirit

| October 5, 2014 | 0 Comments
Being a volunteer is about showing up for the task at hand.

Being a volunteer is about showing up for the task at hand.

.

Tag! I am it. The volunteers at the Trees for Health Arboretum in Balboa Park have asked for a volunteer’s manual. As the volunteer who has been there the longest, twenty years, I am the default author to get it done. As I start roughing out an outline of topics, I find that most of what I wish to tell the volunteers about being there is about “being there”.

The biggest lesson that I have learned from tending the garden is about being present. A friend of mine quotes a saying that the best fertilizer for the farm is the farmer’s footsteps. So, first, being a volunteer is about showing up; you need to show up for the plants as well as for yourself. The next way of being present is cultivate an awareness of the plants; be curious about the shape, growth habit, smell, origin and uses for the trees, the flowers and the groundcovers.

Another aspect of being present is to be self-aware of your purpose in volunteering; do want exercise, accomplishment, relaxation, a learning experience, something to add to your resume, social contact, validation or what? What will you do each time you arrive to manifest that for yourself? The garden is a neutral place. What you perceive to be happening there is created by your own thought processes. So notice your thought patterns as you haul that hose. What are you telling yourself with regard to being a volunteer that day? That insight is the garden giving you a chance to reflect and see your own patterns.

I did not set out to write a self-help book on spiritual harmony. Yet, as I sort through the project’s history, the goal and the methods that need to be included, it is the state of mind that keeps surfacing as the most important thing to know about being a volunteer at Trees. I begin to describe our mulching process; where/how to we get the mulch and how do we use it and why do we do it that way. The description ends up being more about enjoying the sweet exertion of the body, the walk on the trails, the rhythm and the harmony of going solo or with a team and the satisfaction of seeing the project thrive under the care. Something as simple as how to access the tools in the shed turns into an invitation to enjoy both the chaos and the order of sharing a workspace. Irrigation and hand watering segue into a talk about meditation and visualization, manifesting and gratitude.

Whenever there is a group of people who come together to accomplish something, there is a learning process. We learn once again how our visions and purposes differ. We do the social dance of how to communicate civilly, how to assert and when to acquiesce. We learn more about ourselves than about the task.

When I am not too self-absorbed in my own needs, I ask the other volunteers what they want out of the experience. We are a fairly independent group of folks. This is neither good nor bad but it does have its consequences. No one is told what to do; they take a look at what needs to be done and they choose to go do it. It can be difficult for both newcomers and those who have been around awhile since situations can turn up in the process. There appear to be no rules, but underlying mandates do exist. You can stumble across them by accidental violation and that is then a learning opportunity; learning in this way can be uncomfortable. I am still doing this along with everyone else. I will try to write a useful volunteer manual; and I am sure that the volunteers will volunteer their editing and input.

Tags: ,

Category: Health & Fitness, Local News

avatar

About the Author ()

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *