Thursday, May 5, 2016

Sowing the Seeds of Recovery

By Nancy Hall, MA, NCC, LPC

Gardening can be both extremely satisfying and utterly maddening. Seeds are sown with boundless hope. Sprouts are celebrated, nurtured, and tended. Exhaustive reading and research reveals how much sun is needed, when to water, when to transplant, how to protect against pests, when/if to fertilize. We can do everything according to the best gardening guides…and come up with nothing.

So why do we bother? Because we also might be rewarded with a bounty—herbs, berries, vegetables. So much, that we end up calling friends and family members: “Do you guys want some tomatoes?” “How about some cucumbers?” We then turn our researching skills to canning and preserves.

Even when our harvest is disappointing, though, gardening provides us with a chance to engage with our surroundings in a different way. The smell of the soil. The feeling of the soft earth. The tender way we handle seedlings.

Gardening can also help us learn to let go of expectations and control. We have to find satisfaction in each step along the way. We learn to tolerate disappointment and frustration. We also learn to receive and trust joy and satisfaction when efforts are rewarded.

The Awakening Center is starting a gardening group to help participants address their eating disorder recovery in an experiential and symbolic way. Each group session will center on a recovery theme that relates to the stage of our plants. For example, in our first meeting we will prepare our pots for planting. As we paint our pots, we will discuss what it means in our recovery to create a safe space for ourselves.

Other themes will include setting physical and emotional boundaries, nurturing our plants and ourselves, flexibility and patience as our plants and our recovery grows, and connection to the earth and to others. Through these topics, we hope to tap into meaningful processing and skill building.

If you’d like to join this group or if you want more information, you can contact Sheana Tobey at

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