We recently spent about 90 minutes with ten 9th grade students from Sidwell Friends School at Wangari Gardens, cleaning out garden plots and organizing community spaces in preparation for winter. It's amazing what can get accomplished when you have multiple hands to help out.
Among the tasks was to pick kale that was still growing in abundance from one of our plots. Kale is one of the plants I have learned to appreciate since getting involved in gleaning and gardening here in DC. It's a low-maintenance plant that produces from spring through the hardest of frosts in the winter, and is also good for you.
As we wrapped up our time together, I asked the group, after a moment of silence, to reflect on an image or a memory from our time together that they can take with them, knowing that bringing intentionality to an image carries itself with us for a longer time. One of the kale pickers said that she will remember how relaxing it was to pick the kale. She was one of the students who had never picked kale, but quickly learned that you cannot mindlessly pick it (or, as I've seen noted other places, "mind full" and "mindful" are very different experiences). One has to connect with the plant, noting where the top of each stalk is, and gently taking each leaf and stem below it. It is not something that can be done while multi-tasking. It is being mindfully present with each stalk and each leaf for a brief moment.
These are two simple examples and affirmations of how easy it is to experientially teach mindfulness. We had not talked about mindfulness, but these two students got it, and by taking a moment to intentionally connect with it, it starts to infiltrate their being. As good friend Janie Boyd has taught me, spending time in the garden is good for the soul. It's as simple as that. I will get to work with many of these students once a month over the school year. I look forward to deepening this practice with them as we strive to do good in the world.