Happy 10th Birthday, Bodhi Tree!
In the summer of 2007, the board of the Florida School of Holistic Living gathered to consider how we could contribute in a more meaningful way to the Thornton Avenue neighborhood to which we had just moved our school. Staring at an eroded patch of sand on the property, and desiring for more green space with which to teach our students about plants, we began to create plans for a garden installation.
We had recently come into stewardship of a Bodhi Tree that was a direct descendant of the original Bodhgaya grove in Northern India, where the historical Buddha was said to have sat under a Bodhi tree when he attained enlightenment. We placed this tree as the centerpiece of our plans for the garden, in honor of the tree’s legacy and as a healing gift to our community.
After weeks of construction and preparation, on September 11, 2007, hundreds of community members gathered to commemorate the garden’s planting. Each participant added a shovel-full of soil to the planter with the Bodhi Tree, planting their prayers for peace and harmony in our community and on our planet with each bit of soil added to the planter.
Ten years later, it is hard to believe how beautifully our dreams for cultivating community have blossomed within this humble little garden. As we reflect on a decade of hosting guest lecturers and spiritual teachers, conducting workshops in the outdoor classroom, educating & cultivating passionate gardeners in our volunteer program, giving space to local classes for school children to learn more about food and medicine they can grow themselves, and warmly welcoming the community to enjoy our space and one another every Full Moon and New Moon, I sit in awe and humility of the amazing experiences the community has created in collaboration with these generous plants.
I’ve watched the young children grow into adults over years of digging their fingers in the rich garden soil. I’ve watched community members transform as the love of the plants and community opens their hearts and brings them closer to their true nature as peaceful humans. True loves have met one another time and again in the shade of the garden, and a few have even been married under the Bodhi Tree! Most of all, thousands of community members – myself included – have visited this garden to find a moment of respite from the urban hustle, and to find a rooted sense of peace during this difficult time in our world.
Images of select Bodhi Garden events over the years in our Photo Gallery tell some of the beautiful stories.
- Drum circles every new and full moon inspired healing and friendship for fourteen years from March 2006-March 2020
- Numerous winter/summer solstices and fall/spring equinoxes have been observed, including a few eclipses and meteor showers
- Annual winter festivals and spring Herb Days brought education and fellowship
- Dr. Barry Kerzin, personal physician to the Dalai Lama, gathered to share his insights in 2011
- 94-year-old Charlotte Gerson visited in 2013 to share about her family’s international healing work
On the occasion of the tenth anniversary of this space, I’m most inspired to reflect back at its humble beginnings, before a shovel ever broke through the sandy soil:
When the Florida School of Holistic Living (then the Florida School of Herbal Studies) first envisioned turning the eroded patch of sand and weeds into a more vibrant space, we had a very blank and uninspired canvas to work with. That is one of the amazing lessons plants teach us — that the natural world works a magic far beyond the limits of our own imaginations.
As I scan the “before” photos and compare to the lush abundance the garden now boasts, I think about the seeds we planted with community a decade ago and marvel at growth beyond our wildest expectations. We wanted to transform a physical space and inspire folks just like you to spare a few minutes of their busy urban lives to connect with nature. We hoped to inspire folks just like you to recognize the healing power of nature, and to see that it’s all around us, popping up through the cracks in the sidewalk, if we simply stop long enough to notice. Not only has our garden grown much more abundantly than we ever expected – the girth and span of our sweet and towering Bodhi tree as a case in point! – but so too have our dreams for the community flourished within this space. At times we’ve outstretched its borders, showing what amazing relationships within a community can blossom when fertilized with love, connection, and the cycles of nature. It’s a great lesson for our daily lives – when you devote yourself to a dream and dedicate yourself to nourish it daily with your best energy, the results will blossom forth with gifts beyond measure.
Thousands of volunteer hours have been poured into this space to make it what it is today. Join us on Wednesday September 6th for a special Full Moon Circle where we celebrate the Bodhi Garden with our regular Drum Circle as well as other creative activities to commemorate this special occasion and give honor to this special gem of green in the middle of the concrete jungle. Bring your whole family for a night of community and connection you won’t want to miss!
The Bodhi Garden has from its inception been a volunteer-led donation-driven project. If you’ve received peace, education, friendships or any nourishment in soul or body from the Bodhi Garden in the last ten years, reflect that value back to the garden with give a generous donation to support the garden’s next ten years of growth at this link. Each donation is tax deductible, and fuels the next decade of magic and memories.
I hope you can join us for the celebration on September 6th. Thanks to all of our supporters who have nourished the seeds of peace in our community for the last decade, and to each of you for planting your prayers at the Bodhi Tree to continue its legacy.
May you find peace in the garden,