I was never much of a gardener or an active seeker of green space in my younger days. Growing up in the sprawling metro of Delhi (India), most of my encounters with ‘green spaces’ were on the dusty playgrounds at school and the postage-stamp sized front-lawn of my grandfather’s home. Watching the ‘Maali’ (hired gardener) labor valiantly to keep my grandfather’s small garden green during the Indian summers wasn’t exactly a sight that filled one with Joy.
But, every once in a while, while leaving that house on a summer evening, there was this heavenly perfume from the “raatrani” (night-blooming jasmine) flowers that would bid me a fond farewell at the main entrance. It was an impression that stayed with me till my next visit, an invitation to return and sit with my grandparents often. It was as if the garden was saying to me – your young eyes only see the labor involved in growing the grass, but there is a deeper vein of joy that runs through the flower beds.
And so, here I am. Three decades or so later. For the past fifteen years or so, twice I have gone through planting my own new lawn in new homes. Twice I have worked on building flower beds, planting shrubs and flowers, mulching, weeding, pruning, seeding, re-seeding, over-seeding, and much more.
Have I found any Joy in all of this work over the years? Satisfaction of a task well done? Yes. Happiness at watching the leaves burst through overnight on apparently “dead as a door nail” branches of perennials? Yes. But Joy?
For that, one has to dig a bit deeper. It is in that moment when you realize that all that work of weeding, pruning, dirt under the finger-nails and more is indeed preparation. It is a form of cleaning, of creating purity in the (heart) space, to allow for the light-filled seeds of Joy to take root. And then, a mixture of patience and love, of water and light, blooms forth Joy in the heart at the sight of the first flower (of meditation).
Yes. Joy, while not often seen, takes root within us when we adopt the attitude that the garden is not really for us. We are doing greater work in planting trees, shrubs and seeds that will outlive our temporary feelings of satisfaction and happiness. We are planting reminders of love and joy.
And perhaps that is what my grandparents were trying to teach me with their garden. It is the sweet perfume of our love for our work that creates Joy. It is That perfume which outlasts and outlives us, and in its farewell, provides us with the seeds of invitation to return.
So, excuse me as I take your leave. I have to go find a “raatrani” to plant by my front door. A reminder, an invitation to Joy, for my next guest.
P.A. Join us as we share some sweet perfume from the garden – in our weekly twitter chat – Sunday, May 6at 9am ET in #SpiritChat – Namaste.