Life Self-Care

What I Learned From Volunteering In An Organic Garden

I’ve had a pretty tough year, so when winter rolled around in Cape Town, I decided to take a couple of weeks off in the sun and do what I know feeds my soul AND happens to be on the top of my self-care list – travel.

But, I didn’t just want to disappear to a foreign city where I could drink wine and eat pastry’s all day (although that would have been wonderful) – I had an undeniable urge to be outside, to dig a hole and to be in the UK…

Sounds random right!

I couldn’t explain it either, but instead of trying to ‘figure it out’, I looked at ways in which this could become my reality.

Enter Bluebell Organics – an organic garden operating out of an old Victorian walled garden in the North of England. I arrived with my urge to dig a hole still intact and a little apprehension as to what I’d gotten myself into. What I got was a week of being outside, digging multiple holes, learning about organic gardens, meeting the most wonderful people and a series of subtle messages that I was deaf to in my normal routine at home.

Here are some of those messages I heard and which I will be implementing on my return:

Take breaks!

While we were on a tight schedule in the garden getting it ready for an open day – there was still time mid-morning and mid-afternoon for a tea-break. This meant everyone had to down tools and congregate around whoever made tea and in most cases, something delicious to snack on. We’d connect, have a cuppa and then head back to whatever we were doing.

Now I’m not sure what your day looks like, but mine generally starts at 8am with breakfast at my computer, and ends around 6pm when I get up to start dinner. Very few breaks, very little time to just take a breath and indulge in a few minutes of doing nothing but connecting with someone else or myself.

What this has led to is a feeling of exhaustion and it fuels that feeling of ‘if you’re not working, you’re not being productive’ . Even as someone who gets to make her own hours, this is a very common trap to fall into and one which I most certainly want to get out of!

Everything has its time

When you’re dealing with plants this becomes abundantly clear… We can plant the seedling, water it and do everything the instructions say, but we cannot control when or how the plant will decide to shoot up, flower or bud. We can only do what is needed to give it the best chance at growing and producing delicious fruit or veg – nothing more.

How wonderful would it be to be able to apply this principle to life! While I’ve been practicing patience, I still sometimes get stuck in wanting to control things into being, obsessively thinking/worrying about things to make them happen faster, better or in the way I want them to happen. This is totally wasted energy and would be much better spent elsewhere.

Connection is medicine

Connecting to people and to the earth is the best medicine I could ever give myself – especially after the emotional roller-coaster I’ve been on. Connecting to the warm, generous people I was working with, showing them my vulnerable, sore bits – allowed the support that I needed in, and in a way that was so unexpected it almost took my breath away.

Trusting in the Universe

For this trip, I made a conscious effort to just trust that the Universe would have my back and deliver what I most needed at the time. This means not trying to control an outcome, not having any expectations and living in the present as much as possible.

Was this easy – no it was not!

I am so conditioned to control that I found myself trying to imagine what I wanted it to be like, especially in the face of so much uncertainty. I really had to practice bringing myself back into the present at every moment, and just letting things unfold, as they needed to.

Getting comfortable with uncertainty

I’d always heard people say “it was so much better than what I could have ever imagined”, and I really wanted that kind of experience. I’m happy to say that I got it!!

There is a whole world of possibility out there, but when we are conditioned to control because we’re uncomfortable with uncertainty, we limit ourselves to the very small world of our imagination. We can only imagine things we’ve experienced or been exposed to, what about all those things which lie on the outside of that? This is where I’d like to spend more time 🙂

Simplify things

Something has to be said about focusing on one project or task at a time and energy conservation. I’ve never been a supporter of multi-tasking, so this is not what I’m speaking about here. But, what I have found myself doing is being involved in multiple projects on various levels which keep things interesting, but play havoc with how I feel energy-wise.

In the garden, I was tasked with various things, but never all at the same time. If I was planting fennel, then that was all I was doing until it was done. If I was digging out the harvested kale, then that is what I was doing until the field was clear. Just one thing at a time, no scattered thoughts no unrealistic expectations.

Of course I understand that not everybody has the opportunity to just pack a bag and disappear into a walled garden for a week to reconnect, and I’m deeply grateful that this was open to me. But there are ways to move beyond what you’re experiencing right now, so if any of this resonated with you, then get in touch and we can see how to bring your dreams into reality!

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