Sweeping the Garden

Yoga is the process of getting quiet and clear enough so that we can direct our attention inwards. Furthermore, yoga is the process of becoming trusting and daring enough to apply what we have learned through our practice in our everyday life. In Zen teachings, these aspects of practice are described in the phrase, “sitting quietly, and sweeping the garden.” Sitting quietly is the internal work we do on ourselves to plug into who we are, our dreams, our goals and our deepest intentions. It’s the practice of getting on our yoga mat regularly, sitting for meditation and any other practices that bring us into the present moment and help us tune into our truth. We discover what matters the most to us, the illusion of separation, and how we want to move through our life. We learn what inspires us and begin to connect our practices to our actions.

“Sweeping the garden” is the practice of taking the wisdom we have learned through our practice and applying it in the world around us. The Yoga Sutras state that for our yoga practice to become truly compelling we must arrive at the understanding that we practice not only for ourselves, but we must also see how our practice positively impacts the lives of those around us: our friends, our family, our community.

Furthermore, the practices of meditation and asana provide ample opportunities to develop the tools we need to keep sweeping our chosen gardens. We learn to be steady and strong, but also soft, sweet and full of ease and we can apply these ways of being when appropriate. We learn the skills of non-reaction and non-attachment as we make peace with the unfolding and impermanent nature of life. We learn to ride the waves of praise and blame, gain and loss and are content to play the hand that life is dealing us. The practices of the heart teach us that standing in this place of our integrity with kindness and compassion is the true practice of yoga. Our practice of “sitting quietly, and sweeping the garden” teaches us the exact skills we need to take our dreams and inspiration and share it effectively with our communities.

What the phrase “sweeping the garden” means is that we begin to apply the knowledge we have discovered about our humanity and the world and share this wisdom in how we live our life every day. It’s learning to put our values into action through intention and compassion. My teacher Rolf Gates says, “You know you are in the right garden because you would pay to be allowed to sweep it. You know you are in the right garden when your practice feels like indispensable preparation for another day of sweeping.”

I wish you happy sitting and joyful sweeping. Here’s some questions to help guide your sweeping:

  • What gardens are you sweeping?
  • How are your values reflected in the gardens you choose to sweep?
  • What practices do you use to prepare yourself for another day of sweeping?


Colin Brightfield

Founder, Jai Rhythm Yoga