Gardening as Healing

In 1997, the director of Shumei’s Hong Kong Center strongly encouraged members to begin Natural Agriculture farming and garden projects. The Tsuen Wan Farm happened to belong to longstanding Shumei members and in the following year, the Natural Agriculture farming project got underway. It was then that I began volunteering there full time.

My experiences with growing food go back to my early childhood. When I was 10 months old, my father passed away, and with five children, the eldest being only seven years old, my mother faced a big challenge. Our neighbors offered guidance to my mother on farming a vacant lot adjacent to our house. In the field, we were growing vegetables and raising chickens for our personal consumption and for sale to others. We continued farming there until I was nine when construction on a large apartment building began on the site.

I still remember my mother telling me not to eat the vegetables for one or two months after the insecticides had been applied—the food was still too toxic and dangerous to eat. I often asked whether it was really safe to eat it at all. My question was never answered.

I would not return to farming until many years later at the start of the Tsuen Wan Farm project. It was an outdated farm and required a lot of labor. Water had to be carried by hand in barrels filled from a pond. Still, I was very happy to be a part of this effort. I had the realization that this was a good way to grow vegetables. Natural Agriculture and its practices had suddenly become my great passion in life.

When on the farm or in a garden, I forget about my worries and problems and I have the greatest peace of mind. I love and care for the plants. Natural Agriculture has taught me to observe and respect nature; to be caring and to have gratitude for what is happening in the fields and in the surrounding natural environment. It is a sort of loving communication that takes place and I receive a special happiness. A happiness that somehow surpasses what I have with people.

After three years on the farm in Hong Kong, I relocated to the U.S. My second brother had purchased some land in California on which we were to start a family farm. I was extraordinarily happy about this and grateful to my brother who understood my passion for growing Natural Agriculture food. But before we could get to growing, tragedy struck. My brother was suddenly killed while on a tractor in the field struggling to remove a tree stump. It was a great blow to us all. Sadly, with my brother gone, my family lost hope in the farm and my much anticipated dream of growing food there with him was dashed.

Several years later, in 2009, I was asked to volunteer at a defunct garden in Pasadena. Located behind Shumei America’s national center, the garden plot was small and needed a lot of work in preparation for growing food. As with the Hong Kong farm, I was once again in a place where I could be happy with nature and find peace of mind. Despite the complicated busy city surroundings of Los Angeles, my life was becoming simpler and peaceful again. Nevertheless, I quietly yearned and prayed for a larger space, a yard of my own, where I could grow more and further my practice with Natural Agriculture.

My dream came true in 2014 when my husband and daughter purchased a house. On my first visit I was so surprised to see it had a huge back yard. I hadn’t shared my wish for such a yard with my family, but there it was, a large enough space to grow many vegetables! I was so happy that I named this the “Happy House” – all of my wishes and all of my family’s wishes were fulfilled with this purchase. I was so grateful for this gift and I quickly began preparations for a Natural Agriculture garden in the back yard.

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Sadly, it wasn’t long after moving into the “Happy House” that we began to have challenges, painful challenges with each other. I was so unhappy about the situations that arose.

Although the pain and worry within me was great, and my level of gratitude had sunk to almost nothing, I still found a happy and peaceful respite in the garden. As time passed, and I continued developing the garden, love and gratitude slowly came back into my heart. It seemed the garden provided me a healing experience during this difficult time.

Subsequently, I grew spiritually and no longer had to ask why something was happening. Rather, I figured challenges have a deeper meaning with a higher purpose for which all parties, if handled properly, would find greater benefits down the road ahead. I learned how to peacefully accept life’s experiences with gratitude.

In 2014, my sister and I began visiting my departed brother’s wife who was suffering from cancer. Once a week we would drive three hours roundtrip to deliver the Natural Agriculture vegetables we each had grown in our gardens. My sister-in law still felt a lot of pain from the loss of her husband – it was as if her heart and mind were closed to others. Nonetheless, we continued our visits, and I believe the vegetables we had grown with love and great care helped her to open up to us. Before her passing the following year, all three of us had developed a wonderful connection with each other.

From this experience I have learned that the passion I have for growing Natural Agriculture food empowers me to help others find greater health and happiness. I may not be completely at peace with people, but when the food I have grown is involved, I’m sure there is some extra power involved – both physical and spiritual.

Today, I am happy. I have a peaceful mind in the garden. I hope you have a chance to have your own garden. Then perhaps you too will experience nature’s power to bring us happiness.

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