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Cultivating IMS’s Indoor Garden: A Conversation with Our “Plant Whisperer,” Kathleen Conrad – Insight Meditation Society

Cultivating IMS’s Indoor Garden: A Conversation with Our “Plant Whisperer,” Kathleen Conrad – Insight Meditation Society


The pure world is a giant a part of what makes sitting retreat at IMS so particular. Hundreds of acres of woods present a peaceable backdrop for all who come to mirror on the Buddha’s teachings, and parts of the pure world adorn the rooms inside our facilities, too. All kinds of crops and timber reside in our meditation halls, hallways, coatrooms, and different areas.

Affectionately referred to as the “Plant Whisperer,” Kathleen Conrad has cared for IMS’s indoor botanical backyard for almost twenty years. Here, she talks with IMS Staff Writer Raquel Baetz about how she got here to take care of IMS’s indoor backyard, her favourite plant at IMS, and what’s on her plant want record.

How did you come to IMS and what’s your position right here?

I’m from Napa, California, and I started my somatic/meditation follow with Robert and Alyssa Hall on the Lomi School in Mill Valley in 1970. That expertise led me to Spirit Rock after which to IMS. In 2003, I joined the housekeeping staff after a two-month retreat on the Forest Refuge and have been right here ever since. Today, my position entails housekeeping on the Teacher Village, aiding IMS co-founders Joseph Goldstein and Sharon Salzberg, and taking care of all of the crops at IMS.

How did caring for the crops develop into a part of your job?

Jeanne Demers, who was the housekeeper on the Forest Refuge once I first arrived at IMS, began my coaching with the crops. She launched me to the consultants on the Hadley Garden Center who I additionally realized lots from. I lined for Jeanne on the Forest Refuge when she was on go away after which joined the staff on the Retreat Center and started to assist with the crops there. For a few years, I shared the plant care with different members of the housekeeping staff. During the pandemic, I turned the principle plant individual for all of IMS.

Do you might have a favourite plant?

I created a Bodhi tree for Joseph that’s one in every of my favorites. I made it from the Bodhi tree on the Forest Refuge that was donated by Amita Schmidt, one in every of our former resident lecturers. I’ve realized lots from that tree. For one factor, a tree shouldn’t be a home plant, so that you solely have to water it about as soon as a month. Michael Freeman, who initially made this Bodhi tree, got here on retreat one time when it wasn’t doing too effectively. He taught me find out how to take care of it. It wanted much less water and extra solar. He additionally taught me new methods to make Bodhi timber from current ones, giving me extra religion within the course of.

Since then, I’ve made about 10 Bodhi timber, together with the one I made for Joseph. I made one for Sharon, too, and that one is now virtually as large as the unique. I put all of the Bodhi timber outdoors in late spring and summer season as a result of the solar and the weather actually strengthen and empower them.

What are a few of the challenges you face with caring for the crops at IMS?

The warmth and the air-con within the buildings are large issues. The warmth dries the crops out within the winter and the crops don’t just like the air-con blowing on them in the summertime. Many of the crops we’ve tried on the stage within the Retreat Center meditation corridor have needed to be moved due to the air-con. Though we’ve acquired a monstera there now that’s doing effectively.

Some of the crops develop scale, that are tiny bugs that appear like armadillos. They feed on the sap of the crops they usually’re arduous to do away with. Mealybugs may also be an issue. They appear like cotton sweet and in addition feed on the plant’s sap.

Are yogis in a position to assist with the crops?

There have been instances when yogis have helped me with a plant, and I’m so grateful to these individuals for his or her care and help. Generally although, it’s greatest if yogis go away plant care to me, significantly with watering them. Yogis are welcome to depart me notes with the entrance workplace at both the Retreat Center or Forest Refuge if they’re nervous about one of many crops, and I’ll ensure to test on it.

What’s in your want record for the crops at IMS?

Many of the crops are donated by yogis and employees, and we’re grateful. But what’s donated doesn’t all the time work effectively within the spots we’ve got. It could be good to have a funds to have the ability to purchase crops with the particular situations of a specific spot in thoughts.

For instance, the hearth and the windowsills within the Retreat Center higher strolling room are difficult. That room will get sizzling from the heating within the winter, and there’s not plenty of daylight. As one other instance, the Retreat Center eating corridor doesn’t get sufficient solar, so we’ve stopped placing crops on the tables in there. But within the Forest Refuge eating corridor, we’ve got an aglaonema on the desk that likes low gentle, so it’s doing effectively.

The crops at IMS should inform a few of the historical past of the place?

In the Retreat Center meditation corridor, there was once a dracaena. We known as it the “dinosaur” as a result of it had been there so lengthy. It was there when His Holiness the Dalai Lama visited [in 1979], and all these different superb lecturers had taught in that room in its presence. Knowing that it was there when all these lecturers have been there too is deeply shifting. There are cuttings of it all through IMS as we speak.

Any remaining ideas on the crops and your work with them?

There’s simply one thing about crops. I feel they assist us acknowledge our interconnectedness, they usually’re like mild bodhisattvas. They emanate this peace and love. It’s one thing very constructive. You have the troubles of life and the world and then you definitely see a flower and it’s so uplifting.

It’s been so rewarding taking good care of them, and I’m grateful that the crops deliver pleasure to everybody. I’m completely happy once I could make the crops completely happy, despite the fact that caring for them could be difficult at instances. Plants train us about persistence, magnificence, awe, and impermanence. Afterall, there’s a discourse by which the Buddha taught the Dharma with a handful of simsapa leaves.

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