transformational arts
Spiritual Gardening

In the late 70's Lee and I bought our house - the one we're still living in, and one of the first things we did was to dig holes in our ground. What freedom! We could dig holes anywhere we liked and no one would tell us not to.

After the holes came the plants. Broccoli, tomatoes, parsley, more zucchini than we could eat, celery seeds, carrot seeds. I planted whatever I wanted wherever I wanted, and invited the plants to thrive. This I had learned from reading about Findhorn.

In an intentional spiritual community in Findhorn, Scotland, so cold and rocky practically nothing would grow, a few determined and hungry people believed that what the Earth was not providing, spirit could coax.  Soon visitors galore came to marvel at Findhorn's giant cabbages and beautiful flowers.
The Findhorn Community became famous in the emergent new age field for its spiritual gardening practices: gardening that began with communication with the devas - nature spirits whose intelligence and essence informs the physical forms of plants, trees and the landscape. 
I had been attuned to nature and to the unseen forces of the universe, all my life. It made sense to me that every living entity, no matter how small, had a consciousness. Now I learned that part of every living entity was what we might call a higher self or angel - a non-material being that had a larger perspective on the possibilities and capacities of the life form it nourished and protected.

I tried it. Before I decided on where to plant the Miranda rose that I had fallen in love with at the nursery, I gazed at the garden with soft eyes. I let my thoughts and my attention wander through the garden, being gently aware. I became attracted to a particular place and knew that was here my rose would live.  I planted the rose carefully. In my mind, I asked it, "What do you need in order to be healthy?"
I heard a clear, direct answer in my mind, in words: "Water and love." 
An overflowing rush of pink emotion flooded my heart. I had never consciously sought and received information from a plant! It felt real. I immediately gave her - now that I had experienced communication, the rose clearly was no longer inanimate - more water. I hugged her in my imagination, stroked a leaf, and told her that oh, yes, I did love her very much.

Twenty years later, she is the only rose from the original plantings in my garden. This spring, I transplanted Miranda into a new spot about three feet closer to the house. She's still doing fine, sprouting deep crimson, poignantly scented blooms whose essence excites primordial memories perhaps from a lifetime as a bee. Her scent envelopes me completely. I am reminded of the story of the Yogi who wandered, lost, for two hundred years in the aroma of the cosmic rose.

And so I learned from my Miranda rose that the consciousness of plants is not far from our own. All we need to do is quiet ourselves and give ourselves time and room to admit what is possible into our realm of the actual.

Some people say that they talk to the deva, or angel, of the plant. I don't know whether the being who spoke to me was a deva or Miranda herself. Maybe the "herself" aspect of my Miranda rose is a deva. I have learned that spirit gets pretty fed up with our nitpicking about exactly what is going on. We think too much. Our desire for definition limits our ability to welcome what waits eagerly for us outside our door. Don't ask why, I have been told. The question is not why, but what. And what is not a question, but rather the finger hitting the enter key. Just one more stroke, nothing special, just hit that enter key and let whatever's out there come in.

In my years of meditating and receiving messages form the larger, completely loving and playful part of myself, I have learned a few important things: 
1. Just do it.
2. Don't ask why. 
3. Play.
4. Do not fear.

Of course, my instinct is to hesitate, making sure it's safe before doing most things, to ask why this and why not that, and perhaps that would be better in the long run....and of course, I don't play enough. Maybe the advice that you get from your higher self is the opposite, if your impulsiveness doesn't work for you.
But let's look at those three lessons.

Just do it. Did someone at Nike channel the now famous phrase? Who knows? Who cares? It sells for the same reason that it's good advice: most of us spend too much time in our heads. We then come up with very good reasons for avoiding change.

Sit long enough in a garden with your fingers moving through loam, kneading bits of clay, sifting sand, and you find yourself drifting into timelessness, our true spiritual home, the freeing and nourishing matrix of our own consciousness. We call it daydreaming. Playing in the soil of our planet has curative powers for us who have strayed so far from the wisdom of our bodies, composed of the same minerals our fingers are enjoying this day in the warm sun.

Now, look at the nearest weed, tomato plant, or leaf of grass, notice its beauty, its scent, the way it sits. Say hello to it from that place where you are three years old.

Listen for anything. What you are aware of in your mind, or perhaps in your body, may be a response from an entity on the other side of your hello. Don't worry about whether it=s the tomato or the leaf of grass. Consciousness doesn't hang onto boundaries. Only we do.
Lesson number two: Don't ask why.

Many years ago, a rabbi asked me to explain why so many people admired the Beatles= admonition to ALet It Be.@ Wasn=t Aletting it be@ the same as abdicating our moral duty to watch carefully, warn of danger, speak up against injustice, take action to save lives and prevent further decay? Well, when you put it that way, of course. But that=s not what the Beatles were talking about, I think I told him. It=s more like Bobby McFerrin's telling us, "Don't worry, be happy!"

Let sleeping dogs lie.
Leave well enough alone. 
Live in the moment.

Of course, if the big dog is not sleeping, but looking hungrily at you, run!

If what is next to you is not well enough, maybe you've got a cure for it and you should step in. And if the moment is painful, leave. 
But when things are presenting themselves in a manner which you find intriguing, why not let yourself go along for the ride? In the middle of making love, do you stop to think about why you are making love? If you do, the lovemaking stops, and something else, even for a moment, takes its place. 

Now here's a point closer to the hear of the matter: as Nelson Mandela put it, we are afraid of our own brilliance. When the door to unmitigated success swings open, there is something that jumps up quickly, tugging at our sleeves to please run away fast! Take us home where it's safe, familiar, unchanging.

What if we sit in our garden and open up and hear a cry for help from a plant with which we hoped to enter into pleasant conversation? Not to worry. The moment you relaxed enough to hear that voice, you entered a version of yourself unbounded by your normal limitations. You felt it as a deep relaxation, perhaps accompanied by a feeling that your head had become larger, and neighborhood sounds somewhat more muffled than usual. The you who hears the voice of the plant is a larger, more exquisitely focussed you than the one who drives and talks on the cell phone at the same time. This larger you has a direct line to the source of healing - or, if you will, to the Source of healing. (Capitalization is optional. Just remember that. There may be a day when you know that Some Things Come With Capitals. Cross that bridge when you come to it - actually, when you do someday come to that bridge, as soon as you notice the bridge, you'll also notice that you're flying above it and have become a big, white bird.)

So you hear the cry for help. Smile on the cry for help. Ask what the problem is. Hear the answer, and allow yourself to know what the cure is, in that very moment. Don=t all of a sudden jump up, run into the house and grab your book on organic gardening. You may find the answer there, but you will have lost your place in the question. Love and fear are the dichotomy we live with.

And number three: Play!

Just play. Play while you are solving knotty problems. Learn to redefine work so that it is more playful. Keep a stupid thing that amuses you in your pocket or in your desk. Play is also about whole focus. In pure play, we lose our self doubts. We move into eternity, into the ground of our true nature.
Play in the garden. Lie in the grass, smelling the earth. Let yourself pretend.

Letting yourself become intimate with the earth in this way is a wonderful way to begin to garden spiritually.  Spirituality is the way we exist fully conscious of that aspect of our life which is not limited to what we feel through or inside our skin. Spiritual gardening is gardening with total respect for the ground, the plant, and yourself, all part of the union of growth and creativity. In this kind of play, we listen and watch carefully. We humor ourselves and our whims, because a whim is a message from our intuitive self. It whispers, "No, don't dig there. Here, two inches to the left."

OK, honey, we can tell ourselves, chuckling at how silly it feels to call ourselves honey, and doing it - digging those two inches over that way, rather than where we had originally planned.  Our inner adult may say, ABut then the line of plants will be crooked. Besides, what can two inches matter?

 It matters.  Let your intuitive self be the boss for an hour in the garden. If you're lucky, you'll have so much fun that you won't notice that your intuitive self just takes over. You'll be too busy enjoying the much more relaxed, marvelous life you're living.
Do not fear.

Leiah Bowden
August 13, 1998
(c) 2005

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