Heart-Centered Teaching: Using Effective, Heart-Centered Gardening Tools

This is the third in a series of blog posts by Nancy Rosenow, Executive Director of Nature Explore. These posts were originally featured in 2013 and are a distillation of key ideas from her book, “Heart-Centered Teaching Inspired by Nature.”

498_131Now that we’ve begun to “prepare our soil” and provide ourselves with the deep roots needed to endure life’s tumultuous weather, we can begin to gather effective tools for cultivating our flourishing inner gardens. Over the years, I’ve experimented with a number of tools to help myself grow, and these are the four I’ve come to value most: time with nature, lifelong learning, gratitude and celebration.

Rachel Carson wrote, “It is a wholesome and necessary thing for us to turn again to the earth and in the contemplation of her beauties to know of wonder and humility.” Ah, humility. There is something changeless and powerful about the natural world that helps me put my personal challenges in perspective. At Nature Explore, we spend a lot of time discussing the benefits for children of time outdoors; I want to take this opportunity to underscore how equally transformative time with nature can be for educators. Perhaps, in your own life, you already find ways to connect with the natural world. If not, here are some simple first steps: visit a grocery store or farmer’s market to connect with the scents and textures of fresh produce; give yourself a few minutes to stare out a window watching the wind in the clouds; plan a nature walk with a friend or relative; plant a garden or even just a few fresh herbs in a pot. Repeat.

If I think of some of the happiest people I’ve ever encountered, I could universally refer to them as “lifelong learners.” The best educators I know are curious, passionate about ideas, and always ready to explore something new. They use the tool of lifelong learning to help their inner gardens blossom. Further, one of the greatest gifts we can give children is to be invested in our own learning. Our enthusiasm will trickle into our interactions with our students, creating an infectious commitment to trying new things and caring deeply for ideas.

Gratitude. We feel it on a daily basis—perhaps many times a day—but few of us take advantage of opportunities to express our gratitude to others. This is a societal challenge. Psychologist Martin Seligman writes, “We do not have a vehicle in our culture for telling people who mean the most to us how thankful we are that they are on the planet.” Expressing gratitude takes practice. I invite you to find small ways to bring gratitude into your daily routine. Making it a point to sincerely thank someone every day keeps us focused on our own gratitude while lifting someone else up—a win/win situation!

Perhaps the tool that offers the most “bang for the buck” is Celebration. We don’t have to wait for holidays or monumental life events to find cause for celebration. In fact, I believe celebration can be a daily ritual. All of us can benefit from seeking out more opportunities to celebrate life “just because.”

Here are a few possibilities to get you started…

*Pick a bouquet of fresh flowers

*Re-read a favorite book

*Cook a special dinner

*Take a walk in a beautiful park

*Enjoy a glass of wine or cup of tea by the fire

*Listen to your favorite album in its entirety, letting yourself contemplate and savor the music and lyrics

*Build a campfire and roast marshmallows

*Eat breakfast in bed

These four tools—Time with Nature, Lifelong Learning, Gratitude and Celebration—have consistently brought me balance and joy; they allow me to tend my inner garden. What tools have you discovered?

Other Heart-Centered posts: Prepare Your Soil; Self-Discovery