7 Principles of Reverent Gardening

Raised beds at Cortesia Sanctuary

We have gardened the same 2 acres at our 22-acre Cortesia Sanctuary, outside of Eugene, Oregon, for over 25 years. The zeal of our youthfulness has matured into the content of elder years. From the start, however, we challenged ourselves to practice gardening with a philosophical foundation of reverence for life. To guide our efforts to honor Nature via gardening and land stewardship, we created seven guiding principles.

As the garden season unfolds, now would be a good time for thoughtfulness in your gardening efforts. We offer you the 7 Principles of Reverent Gardening for inspiration and instruction. To quote our motto: “Plant a seed of hope, respect the Earth, and harvest your good efforts.”

7 Principles of Reverent Gardening

  1. All of Earth is a Garden
    Conscientious stewardship of a garden is a means to practice the Reverent Gardener’s ethic of service: To enhance the well-being and ecology of Earth, nature and humanity by gardening with respect, courtesy, gratitude, and reverence.
  2. Nature is a vast web of interdependent lives and events of which humans are only part
    By becoming a student of nature’s complex system (microorganisms, insects, plants, animals, minerals, soil, natural forces such as wind, rain, sun, etc.), we can perceive and understand nature’s subtle and dramatic workings in our garden. Consequently, we can garden to restore, regenerate, and sustain nature’s integrity.
  3. The value of Nature is as much for itself as for humans
    We should be grateful for the opportunity to co-create daily with nature, and to know when to simply be a witness of nature at work and play in our garden. In the spirit of cooperation rather than domination, not every human intervention may be appropriate.
  4. Gardening is an opportunity to engage in honorable effort and right livelihood
    In partnership with nature, we can be a noble steward — for a moment, an hour, a season, and a lifetime. We can learn to be patient, observant and curious, having faith in the mystery of nature. Above all, we can learn to evoke in our efforts awe and wonder, and wisdom.
  5. The process of gardening is as desirable as the end product of our efforts
    Gardening allows us to learn about nature and ourselves. We should strive for a balanced philosophy and practice that embraces the wise and creative use of intuition as well as an honorable and intelligent use of science and technology. Such gardening “tools” should cause the least harm to all without sacrificing the garden or nature’s overall integrity.
  6. A garden should be beautiful as well as nutritious
    We should strive to create a peaceful refuge that nourishes and nurtures, giving optimally nutritious food for the body and replenishing food for the soul. The highest compliment to a garden is to perceive it as an inspiring sanctuary.
  7. Give back to Nature and your garden more than you take
    Live like you won’t be here tomorrow; have reverence and compassion for Earth as if you will be here forever. Therefore, sustain and regenerate your garden’s soil, recycle waste, and conserve water. Encourage diversity of plants, native vegetation, and desirable wildlife, large and minute. Foster the use of heirloom seeds and seed-saving. Use the least toxic inputs for both soil and plant. Grow only as much as you need and can share with others while offering a portion to the garden’s wildlife. Finally, do what you can to educate others on how to be an Earth-friendly, reverent gardener.

Meadow garden at Cortesia Sanctuary

Feel free to visit our website for more inspiration:

About C. Forrest McDowell, PhD

I am blessed to be a co-steward for over 30 years of the beautiful 22-acre Cortesia Sanctuary outside Eugene, Oregon, with my partner, Tricia Clark-McDowell. My lifelong interests in wellness care, psychology, nature, music composition & performance, writing, and meditation fuel my celebration for life. My form of service is founded upon the elemental practice of kindness and reverence for life. Of course, to understand the value of deep respect for life, we also have to accept irreverence as part of human nature and to know that it can be very disruptive and destructive to peace, safety, beauty, joy and love.
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