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Gardening with Youth In Oklahoma and MA Center Dallas
Digging a hole for a tree Tree just planted

Tree planting at MA Center Dallas

Dear Amma Community,

With most of us having the vaccine by May, we can look forward to some normalcy during the summer of 2021. Since outdoor activities are considered some of the safest for interactions, we wanted to focus on some rewarding gardening activities that engage all ages in the Amma community. Gardening activities for Amma families and satsangs can bring extended families back together at Amma’s centers outdoors and also doing seva in your city at parks, retirement homes, churches, schools, or community centers.

Amma is encouraging us to be outdoors, absorb some sun daily, get active physically, and plant vegetable gardens and trees. Gardening requires lots of healthy bending and stretching of every muscle and tendon. It’s Gardener’s Yoga: Bend, Stretch, Pull that weed, Plant that seed!

As Amma tells us, "Forests play the most important role in maintaining Nature’s harmony. It is only due to them that there is any semblance of harmony in the world today. We must stop polluting and exploiting Mother Nature. We have to protect her in order to ensure our survival as well as the survival of future generations."

Recently, I coached two 17 year-old twins on digging up a native Redbud tree from my farm in Oklahoma City to take home and plant as a memorial for their dad who had died six weeks before. Planting memorial trees for those who have died of COVID is another way to help nature and remember the many loved ones who died in 2020.

Trees can be purchased or dug up as seedlings that show up every year in your or a friend's yard or at Amma’s Ashrams. Six years ago I rescued and dug up fifteen 10 inch tall Maple tree seedlings from Amma’s Chicago Ashram that were in a dirt roadway. They are now almost 20 feet tall! (see photo below) I’ve heard it said that Amma’s ashram is Her body, so having the maple trees from Amma’s Ashram on our farm feels like having Amma here! Giving and planting a seedling when a baby is born so they can grow up together is a great way of gifting a family's new arrival and supporting Amma’s tree planting initiative.

Maple seedling from Chicago Ashram
10" maple seedling from MA Center Chicago grew to 20 feet in 6 years!

"Carpooling, nurturing honeybees, planting trees, cleaning the environment, waste management (reduction) and, growing vegetables were recommended many years ago (by Amma) and Amma’s children are doing that. If we all get together and do it with more focus, we will be able to transform this earth into heaven. For that, we should first create heaven within ourselves. I pray to the Supreme to grace us with the blessings to do so." - Amma

Amma was asked what should AYUDH (Amrita Yuva Dharma Dhara – the youth wing) kids do to remain focused on Amma and the spiritual practices and principles Amma teaches them. Amma said that today’s youth are the pillars for tomorrow’s world. The young have the potential to make a change in the world.

Amma stressed on how the AYUDH children could inspire others by coming together to take initiatives to protect Mother Nature. Amma said that they could organize tree planting drives, initiatives for preserving traditional organic seeds, cleanliness drives, etc. It is all about channeling the energy the youth have for the right cause.

See: Quenching the drought with Love in San Ramon, CA

Planting Project at Amma’s Dallas Ashram With Children from Dallas Bala Kendra*

*Bala Kendra is MA Centers’ spiritual values study and activity group for children. Most MA Centers and many satsangs host these. For more information about Bala Kendra in you area, you can inquire at your regional MA Center or satsang.

Oklahoma satsangs wanted to gift Amma with Iris plants for her Texas Ashram for Amma’s Birthday in September of 2019. September is the perfect time to divide Iris tubers and replant them. The Oklahoma satsangs collected 400’s Iris Rhizomes to plant along the walkway to the front door of Amma’s Texas Ashram.

We’ve noticed, whenever we give a gift to Amma, She gives back to us many fold. This time Amma gifted us with the seva help of many of the Dallas Bala Kendra youth. Their support and seva turned the Iris planting into a very special and wonderful experience for our Amma community of all ages.

Sharan

Sharan showed up first wanting to help and worked tirelessly and cheerfully wheelbarrowing and dumping dirt in the pots and tubs we needed to fill. His helpfulness was a joy to be with. Sharan worked tirelessly for over two hours, even missing lunch. (For a growing, always hungry, 13 year-old, this was amazing!)

He went in after we finished and told Triptta he was so hungry and was there anything left to eat. Amma and Triptta made sure he did not leave hungry. Sharan even thought to bring us a tray of glasses with water for this 98 degree hot and humid afternoon in Texas. He also helped plant the Iris tubers.

Sharan delivers a tray of water to the sevaites
Sharan delivers a tray of water to the sevites

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Inaya

5 year-old Inaya wanted to help with the seva. I asked her to sort the tools in the black plastic bags. Inaya said, "What is sort?", to which Sharan kindly asked her if she knew what the words arrange and organize meant. A 5 year-old got a vocabulary lesson as well as a seva experience! Inaya, in her Sunday best dress, helped sort tools and plant Iris until the heat became too much for her.

She announced, "I’m sweating! I need to go inside and get something to drink!"

It was an extremely hot, sunny, and humid day. She came back several times for short periods to help, but when she began to sweat would announce loudly, "I’m sweating and need to go inside!"

Smart girl. We adults agreed we’d rather be inside, too, but needed to finish the planting before we left Saturday.

Inaya (in peach colored top) helps water the plants
Inaya (in peach colored top) helps water the plants
Anand

Anand wanted to help. He became one of our super sevites, helping plant, water, and wheelbarrow tools and bags of soil to the rose bed and storage area. Anand brought a teachable moment for us when he brought his orange peel prasad to us for compost. Anand said he wanted to give it to us to put in the Iris bed.

We thanked him and shared, "These peels are compost, but before they are usable, they will need to sit a few months in a compost pile to heat up and decompose, and then they will become usable compost."

This was another wonderful and natural teachable moment!

Anand (with hand spade) helps Swami Shantamritananda Puri check the iris bed
Anand (with hand spade) helps Swami Shantamritananda Puri check the iris bed

Dheeksha

7 year-old Dheeksha arrived wanting to help. We had Dheeksha smooth soil in the pots for planting. She also helped us plant so many Iris! Dheeksha brought joy to the planting with her enthusiasm. She started with gloves on, but quickly shed them, saying, “I don’t need these".

Before long, she was stroking and smelling the soil, and commented, "Look, I’m petting the dirt!"

We appreciated that she liked to connect with the earth. Dheeksha wanted to know the difference between dirt and soil and we spoke about this and how compost is a farmer's black gold. It’s wonderful when teachable moments happen naturally!

Dheeksha pets the soil
Dheeksha pets the soil

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Amritashyam

Our littlest sevite was 2 years-old. It was probably long past his nap time, but Amritashyam spent much time with a hand tool shoveling dirt from the tub to a small bucket. He seemed to be enjoying himself and happy with his task. Little ones always seem to get a second burst of energy when in nature. Amritashyam then held the hose behind Dheeksha while she watered the Iris beds. He was a happy gardener!

Dad helps Amritasham move soil
Dad helps Amritashyam move soil

Next time we have a planting project at Amma’s Ashram we will definitely be calling the Bala Kendra youth to help with this seva! We want the "A" Team, the Amma Super Sevite Dallas Bala Kendra’s gardeners' help!

If an ashram is not close to you for gardening, consider contacting a senior center to see if they would like to engage children and adults from your Amma community in a gardening project at the center or retirement home. This is a great way to support intergenerational relationships. Active, able-bodied children will be the seniors' arms and legs planting for seniors. They can coach them with their years of wisdom and experience gardening. So many elders have gardening skills they can share with youth.

Amma guides us to get going growing and being outdoors helping nature and ourselves stay healthy, happy, and eating organic food. Nature and gardening are therapy for our body, spirit, and mental health!

Anaswara, Edmond, OK

(Anaswara is a retired, award-winning after-school educator)
The irises the kids planted blooming in Spring 2021
The irises the kids planted blooming in Spring 2021

Read Gardening Resources from the Q2 2021 newsletter >>

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