Inner Gardening: The Art of Becoming

“Spring is a time of earthly regeneration, the time of birth and rebirth. The seasonal energy is one of emergence, expansion, and the drive to implement the visions begun in winter’s dreaming.”
-Ruth Barrett, adapted from ‘Women’s Rites Women’s Mysteries’

 

The Spring Equinox and official first day of spring arrived Saturday, March 20th. The energy of spring is all about AWAKENING. It is a time of growth and rebirth. Starting fresh, beginning anew.

We need this right now, don’t we? The invitation to turn a fresh page, start a new chapter.

In our Yin & Mindfulness classes happening online this month we are exploring some spring contemplation questions. While these classes masquerade as a simple remedy for the stresses of life and a strategy for slowing down our hectic pace, my favorite part of teaching these classes is allowing them to serve as a gentle portal into personal development, soul growth, and inner healing.

We are currently planning out our “inner gardens.” While I’m sure you’re quite familiar with the idea of planning out a garden in your yard, have you ever stopped to consciously plan out your inner garden?!

The first and most important step in planning out any garden is to ask yourself, what am I actually planning to grow? The same is true for our inner garden, ‘What do I wish to grow more of in my life?’

And the second step in yard gardening is the logistical one that comes down to a matter of space. If we’ve planned to cram too much into our garden, it threatens the survival of any one plant in the garden, so we might have to make some cuts – to allow the space for growth to occur.

In addition to scaling back our plan in order to leave space for growth, we also need to do the important step of removing the old. Pulling out the old, dead roots in order to create a fresh canvas for new beginnings.

The same is true again for our inner garden – after getting clear on what it is we hope and intend to cultivate in our lives and in our selves, we must also ask ourself, ‘What do I need to let go of in order to create the SPACE for this?’

And here’s where I want to challenge you. We are so accustomed to looking at our outer lives and making the assessment that this is the entirety of who we are. But the act of inner gardening occurs on the inside.

It absolutely might have an external result or manifestation – think about growing more love in your life by letting go of harshly judging yourself; the result might be not only an improved relationship with yourself, but deeper, more loving and truly understanding connections with everyone around you as well.

Your letting go might need to happen on a few levels: the tangible level if you’ve got too much stuff crammed into your calendar and to-do lists; the physical level if you’re needing to find a way to let go of tension, pain, and stress in the body; the mental level by letting go of limiting beliefs, negative spirals of thought, untruths about yourself and your worth; the emotional level by letting go of heavy feelings, stuck emotions, the past we hold onto; and the spiritual level by letting go of old and repeating patterns, as well as healing old triggers and wounds.

When a plant grows into its full potential we get to benefit from the external manifestation of this, the beauty that it brings to our lives. But we rarely think about all the inner work that the plant had to go through in order to bring you it’s hallmark spring color.

The fully formed flower doesn’t just pop up in May saying, “Hello! I am suddenly here out of nowhere!” That’s what we see, but we know that a lot occurs behind the scenes before we are graced with that chapter.

And that’s the work that’s occurring now, around us in nature, and within us as well.

In the earliest moments of spring, before we see any external results whatsoever, while we feel discouraged at how looong it’s taking for spring to truly arrive, so much inner work is occurring just beyond the surface of nature.

And this is the time to begin planning out YOUR inner garden as well. This is the time to honor the inner work that occurs inside of you just beyond the surface.

After the dark there is awakening. But before awakening, there is a letting go, a clearing out of the old. And as the Eastern philosopher Lao Tzu wisely reminds us:

“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.”

– A How-To on Inner Gardening: The Art of Becoming –

 

#1 Connect with Your Inner Self
The first practice that I recommend is to sit quietly for a few minutes in meditation – this could be seated, lying down, in a chair curled up in the sun, indoors or out – close your eyes, begin to breathe slowly and deeply, and present to yourself the following contemplation questions:

Who am I when I’m not doing?
Who am I when I’m not thinking?

 

These questions may feel foreign or confusing at first; they could provoke some anxiety or restlessness. Don’t feel pressure to ‘figure it out’ with your mind, the idea here is to simply sit with the questions as you breathe.

This begins to orient us to the deeper layers of who we are beyond the level of the body and mind.

It reminds us that beyond all our many external actions of going and doing and cultivating our outer worlds, we also have a heart that beats with desire and passion, that speaks to us as the voice of the soul – if we know how to listen.

We also have a soul that wants nothing more than to reach its potential, to grow into its highest manifestation in this life, to be explored deeply with all its wounds and darkness, as well as honored for its many gifts and shining brightness, to be reintegrated into the fabric of our heart and mind and body.

This heart and soul is also you. Sometimes, we just forget. So it’s time to get reacquainted.

I’ve heard it said that while prayer is considered speaking to God/Universe/The Divine/our Higher Self…meditation is the act of listening.

Close your eyes and listen deeply: Who am I when I’m not doing? Who am I when I’m not thinking?

 

#2 Plan Your Garden
The second practice I recommend is to get out a journal or a notebook, divide it into four sections, and write one of these questions at the top of each section:

1. What do I wish to grow more of in my life?

2. What do I need to let go of in order to create the SPACE for this?
3. What wisdom am I bringing with me from the dark of winter?
4. Who am I becoming? What am I awakening within myself?

 

You might spend ten minutes jotting down some answers to each question as a way to set some clear intentions for your soul growth this spring, or you might return to these questions again and again throughout the spring as you continue to dig deeply and cultivate that inner garden.

When you think about what it is you wish to grow more of in your life, remember that this could be something external or tangible, but it could also be something intangible – like more free time, white space on your calendar, more fun, joy, more compassion, gratitude, a stronger connection to your intuition or inner child.

And for a little inspiration on the second question of creating the space for this, remember to revisit the beginning of this article where we address some of the categories of letting go.

I also want to give an extra nod to question #3 – what wisdom am I bringing with me from the dark of winter? Always an important question to ponder in any year as we transition from one chapter to the next, this year it holds some extra significance. We have spent not only the past winter, but the past YEAR living through a time that a teacher of mine refers to as “shining light in dark places.”

I hope you’ve taken advantage of this past year to do some inner reflecting. If not, do some now. What shadowy corners and long forgotten dark places within you have been illuminated by the energy of this past year?

We tend to stow away in our inner shadows not only the painful parts of ourselves that we’d prefer to pretend didn’t exist, but also the brilliant parts we’ve simply forgotten. Discovering both has immense powers for healing.

That last set of questions (Who am I becoming? What am I awakening within myself?) is perhaps my favorite. It reminds us to redirect our focus back to our inner world, back to who we are versus what we do.

Getting to know who we are on the inside is one of the most important steps we can take towards our personality development, our soul growth, and our healing work that returns us to our lost sense of wholeness.

Spring is an amazing time to do this work. Just be careful of the trap of busyness and distraction!

Spring and then summer arrive and we sometimes find it such a welcome change from the slow and quiet of winter that we accidentally get so caught up in doing and going and distracting that we lose this opportunity to really AWAKEN at a deeper level, the level of the soul.

 

#3 Choose Your Way
The third practice I recommend this spring is to write down the following sayings, put them somewhere you will see them, and return to them every time you start to feel anxious that things aren’t progressing fast enough in your life, or the external result you’re expecting isn’t arriving on the schedule you had hoped for.

Return to them every time you start to get down on yourself for not ‘accomplishing’ enough today, every time you notice yourself getting swept up in busyness and distraction and an outer world cultivation that is disconnected from your inner world heart and soul:

“Sitting quietly, doing nothing, spring comes and the grass grows by itself.” -Zen saying

 

“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.” -Lao Tzu

 

These sayings help to remind us that there is a balance needed between going out into the world and making things happen  – and allowing things to happen as they are meant to happen.

They remind us that beyond the way we have been trained to believe is the only way – the way of force and action – there is a second way: the way of receptivity and flow.

You can be the salmon fighting to swim upstream – and sometimes this is the appropriate course – or you can be the river itself, eternally flowing on your perfect path. Since you are neither a salmon nor a river, you get to choose.

What happens if you let go just a bit and surrender to the flow of your own divine path?

 

Putting it All Together
You might consider linking these three practices together to create a little Spring Equinox Ritual to welcome in this next chapter. Begin with practice #1 for some quiet meditation to tap into your inner self, then immediately follow that with the journaling contemplation questions from #2.

You might discover that it’s easier to answer those questions once you’ve shifted yourself into the parasympathetic mode where you can more easily tap into your intuition, or your deep inner knowing. And you make that shift through the act of slowing down and breathing deeply. And then use practice #3 to stay peacefully inspired throughout the season!

 

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