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Nurturing the Soil of Your Soul

Harvest the Wisdom of Your Garden to Cultivate Hope, Love, and Abundance

“ To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.”
—Audrey Hepburn

One of the unexpected silver-lining gifts of the pandemic, for many, has been the invitation to live more simply and closer to the land.

Quieting the mind and seizing the opportunity to commune with nature and spend time in the garden have become a new way of living for many of us. A source of solace, connecting with the land is more than just a way to pass the time: Gardening can also be very nourishing on a deeply “soul” level. As a psychologist, I love that the very root of the word “psychology” means “study of the soul.” Thinking of gardening as offering a form of therapy that can be psychologically and physically transformative, inexpensive, and serve as an empowering way to become more self-reliant can be a game changer. And, best of all, it can be incredibly fun!

This fall season of harvesting from the earth is a wonderful time to take a moment to reflect on many of the blessings and lessons in your life. Here are a few of my musings about how you can allow yourself to be guided by the wisdom of the soil to help you cultivate more goodness in your world, in a way that enriches your soul and gain a new perspective of who you are and how you can make a difference in the world.

Rediscover Your Child-Like Wonder and Awe

Living in the trance of habituation, busyness, and expectation robs you of vitality, curiosity, and the deliciousness of the magical space of wonderment. When you allow yourself to embrace the privilege of tending to the soil, lovingly planting the tiny seeds of life and carefully tending to the children growing before you, humility and awe of the joy of serving others changes the very fabric of who you are. Witnessing the challenging journey inherent in life melts away entitlement, replacing it with profound gratitude.

Most people don’t realize that expectations and their close cousin, feelings of entitlement (which I think of as “expectations on crack”), create the toxic landscape for weeds of victimhood to germinate and thrive, sabotaging our own personal wellness as well as the relationships in our lives that we value most. The simple antidote of choosing to cultivate gratitude through mindful witnessing and appreciation creates the fertile soil that makes joy possible and enriches relationships.

When Stress Is a Good Thing

This year, I’ve been deeply moved and inspired by learning from Dr. Jeffrey Bland, the founder of the Institute of Functional Medicine, about a very special plant that has been cultivated for over 3,000 years and has been celebrated for its many health benefits for centuries. He said that what makes Himalayan Tartary buckwheat particularly special is its ultrahigh density of phytonutrients. This unique heirloom plant evolved into being the powerhouse that it is because of the multitude of environmental stressors that it had to endure, like drought, extreme cold, and less-than-optimal soil. In its adaptation, the plant has developed through the centuries into having a robust immune system, from which we benefit when we eat it.

While this plant is a literal immune-system superhero, the lesson of the possibilities of becoming more powerful and vital by finding ways to cope with the challenges of life is valuable wisdom for all of us, especially during the trying times in which we are currently living. Being curious about ways you might fortify your personhood as you navigate this seemingly crazy landscape can help you access your personal power and prevent the temptation of feeling like a victim.

Make a Difference

Did you know that every teaspoon of soil has as many microbes as there are people on the planet? When I learned this from regenerative agriculture educator Dr. Philip Gregory when he was on my show a couple of years ago, my jaw hit the floor. Taking care of the soil and transforming dead or desertified dirt matter into healthy and enlivened soil is a beautiful way each and every one of us can make a difference, even if it’s just one cup at a time.

In our fast-paced world that can feel overwhelming with all the technology, climate change, mass extinction, and sustainability challenges that we are facing as a species, it’s sometimes hard to feel like you can make a difference. Knowing that with every cup of soil that you nourish by regenerating it with organic vegetation, you can make a significant impact on trillions of lives that all contribute to our global food web. The best part is that it doesn’t need to cost you a penny, because all you need to make this happen are scraps from your organic food to make compost.

Final Thoughts

Stepping fully into the radiance of who you are and finding meaning through service and gratitude is easier to do than you think. One of my teachers would often say: “You are the earth and the earth is you.” By celebrating the abundant life that is all around and within you, you will step more fully into your power, and your soul will effortlessly be nurtured in ways you never would have before thought possible.

Theresa Nicassio, PhD, Psychologist

Theresa is a wellness educator, radio host, and the award-winning author of YUM: Plant-⁠Based Recipes for a Gluten-⁠Free Diet.