In yoga philosophy, a sankalpa is a term that refers to a heartfelt desire, a solemn vow, an intention, or a resolve to do something. It could be something like repeating a several malas of a mantra each day, performing a particular practice before or after meditation, or just resolving to meditate each day. During my meditation teacher training, I did a few sankalpas which really helped me to grow in my practice.
One of my hobbies besides beekeeping is gardening, which I learned from my father and grandfather. When we moved into our house, our yard was a blank slate as most of the yard was torn up with the removal of trees. I spent the first 10 years here designing the landscape – installing irrigation, amending the soil and planning new gardens. Since then I’ve always tried to add some new feature each year (like my iris garden in 2015), just to keep things interesting.
One of my least favorite tasks is weeding (probably true for most gardeners) and ever since I started beekeeping, my gardens have suffered because I’d rather tend bees than remove weeds. As the gardens got more and more weed infested, my will to weed would recede more as the problem seemed too large to overcome. Every now and then, I’d spend a weekend tearing into one garden, but it never seemed enough.
This year, I decided to take a new approach. I decided to do a “gardening sankalpa” where I made a vow to spend at least a 1/2 hour each day in the garden weeding. Diana also took on this challenge which has helped keep things in check. During this time, we also work on our spiritual practice – repeating mantra, connecting to the earth, all creation, and our inner selves through our efforts.
One of the most troubling spots has been the path along the south side of our house which I added in 2009. There are two major problem weeds in our yard – bindweed and quack grass. Both of these took over the path from the start. During the day, the path gets full sun, so in addition to just doing the work, the beating sun is draining and not conducive to working there. This is where I started my sankalpa and after the first 1/2 hour I got 5 feet (out of 30) weed free. Suddenly, I could see that this approach was going to work and it wouldn’t be overwhelming. I could get the whole path weeded in one week and then move on to other spots. For the rest of the summer, I only need to spend 5 minutes every now and then to tackle newly emerging weeds in the path.
A couple of years ago, I decided to convert a large chunk of my lawn to a garden. I originally put in the large lawn as a soccer/baseball field for my boys. But now that they are both out of the house, it’s become a money sink with watering and a time sink with mowing. Plus, grass provides no forage for pollinators (except for the occasional dandelion that pops up).
I put down cardboard and covered it with mulch, but then I just left it alone with only a few plants. That provided a great breeding ground for bindweed and soon it was just a big bindweed patch. This year, though, through our efforts, we are keeping the bindweed under control (for the most part) and the area is turning into a pollinator heaven. While I’m out there weeding, I have hummingbirds and bumble bees flitting from flower to flower and native/honey bees enjoying the giant pumpkin blossoms. With all that going on (plus pulling up bindweed), weeding is a delight.
Another garden that has been troublesome is the one along our driveway. It was being taken over by grass (it was originally a strip of lawn). Diana started making lotions her own lotions this year, using rose petals from our yard for some of them, and wanted more roses. So, I thought I’d rip up the existing garden of irises, butterfly bushes, milkweed and black-eyed susans and put in a rose garden for her. But I wanted to wait until after the irises and milkweed bloomed for the pollinators, so we spent one morning weeding that garden, clearing out the grass. After that, it looked so good, I decided I’m going to leave it as it is at least for now. Diana will just have to do with the plethora of roses that we already have.
For the first time in several years, I feel good about my gardens again. In many ways, this is no different from my meditation practice. Just spending 30 minutes twice a day with commitment on meditation has cleared the way for me to go deeper in my practice. All it takes is a one-pointed resolve to focus both psychologically and philosophically on a specific goal. It doesn’t mean that things are all rosy because just like weeds, our samskaras keep showing up. But tackling them a little bit at a time leads to a beautiful place.