Tending your Inner Garden
Several years ago during my days as The English Painter, I got a call from a new client who wanted me to do some textured walls in his home. His name was Michael. He was a Shaman. I had never met a Shaman and knew very little about Shamanism but he and I chatted at length while I worked, and I grew more curious. Since that meeting I've read many books on the subject and studied what Shamanism means in our current culture. It has been the practice of indigenous people for tens of thousands of years and my understanding is that it is a path of direct revelation. A Shaman is one who sees in the dark, connects with the unseen worlds and taps into what may be causing imbalance in the mind, body and spirit. They believe that everything is alive and connected. Doing a Shamanic Journey is like entering a vivid and conscious dream state that enables us to receive guidance from an unseen realm. It helps us remember our true nature.
Feeling deeply connected myself to the garden and the earth, to the trees, plants and flowers, I often Journey to my "inner garden" to ask for guidance. I can "get there" easily and it's a place that I love to go in my mind, even when I am not seeking advice.
So, how do you find your own inner garden? You certainly don't have to be a gardener to do this! Lie or sit in a quiet place with no distractions. Close your eyes and take a few deep cleansing breaths and leave the daily concerns of ordinary reality behind. Think about what you might like to discover on this Journey. Picture yourself not as a body, but as a garden. What does your garden look like? Is it an English country garden with herbs and flowers or a garden in the desert, on a mountain, or at the ocean? Pick up a handful of soil, what does it smell like? What does it feel like? Is it dark and rich, thick clay or sandy? What colors are the flowers? What textures? Grasses, shrubs, trees, cacti, flowers, bulbs? Is it densely planted or are there some open spaces? How big is it? A small perennial flower bed or is it an acre? Is it tidy and manicured or wild and unruly? Take some time to see what you see, notice what you notice, use your imagination. Are the flowers and trees true species or are they imaginary, perhaps ones you might have painted as a small child?
Is anything else visible in the garden? Rocks and stones, perhaps some crystals or gemstones? If your garden is small perhaps these are placed where the chakras might be, as small stone circles or a labyrinth in a larger garden, or maybe there are dry stone walls or giant rocks? Stones are an important aspect of the garden as they carry the wisdom of all that has ever been, like the bones in the human body, they hold the ancestral DNA and all the ancient stories.
Is there water there? A well? A stream? A waterfall? A birdbath? Do you see any wildlife? Birds, butterflies, small mammals or reptiles? What season is it? Notice the season as it is helpful to go back there often and experience the changes. There is much to learn from a Winter garden that is sleeping as well as one that is bursting with new growth in the Spring. What direction does your garden face? What can you see in the distance? Once you have these initial images, perhaps take a moment to draw or paint it, just a quick sketch to get started. It will feel like you!
Now you can get into the details. Think about your body and which areas of your body are located where in the garden? They don't necessarily have to be in the correct physical order, it can be completely abstract! Focus on specific parts of your body and your organs and how you would like to see them in your inner garden. Is your head a magnificent Magnolia tree, a labyrinth or a waterfall? Is your heart a beautiful rosebush, a clump of wild violets or a deep well? Is your womb an underground cave or a sacred circle of stones? Are your legs bridges over a stream to a secret hidden bench, or fallen tree trunks, or a perfect line of tulips in springtime? Plant your garden with whatever intuitively comes to mind, as if you are painting yourself into it. Make it as simple or as detailed as you like, you will know. I like to think of the soil as the "soul" of the garden, your soul, your Spiritual Essence. It is where your seeds are sown and nurtured, it is what you came with into this world. It is your purpose and your responsibility to grow whatever lies in your soul.
You may notice after a while that there are plants or flowers that you hadn't chosen to be there, but they are growing anyway......
..... take the time now to lie down in your inner garden, understand that it is a manifestation of your body, your mind and your spirit. Do you have a question to ask? With eyes closed, smell the fragrances, smell the soil beneath you, feel that you are rooted in this garden, listen if there are birds, or rustlings of insects and what their messages might be. Open your "inner eyes" and look around. What is blooming? Notice what is healthy and vibrant and where they are growing in your garden? What plants do you see that do not belong there? These are likely the ones that represent an imbalance of some kind, perhaps a vine that you can see is suffocating other flowers or blocking the sunlight. Perhaps a noxious weed that appears small and harmless right now but will quickly grow mean roots and take over the garden.
This is the time to tend your inner garden......pull out the harmful weeds, brambles and suffocating vines. Dig them out by the roots so they cannot grow back, put them on your bonfire and burn them. They represent an illness, a disease or a negative thought pattern that no longer serves you and needs to be removed from your psyche. Perhaps an old childhood trauma or memory that is inhibiting your growth? Once they are gone you will notice how the other plants and flowers flourish for they receive more sunlight and have more room to grow.
I have practiced different Journeys to my inner garden and have had different experiences each time. Sometimes I will be suffering with a headache or pain in my joints or a feeling of anxiety or unworthiness.....in a Journey to my inner garden I can find what is growing that is causing this imbalance and I can remove it. It is not always a quick fix, sometimes the message is subtle. A bird may show up with a message or I'll see something unexpected that I can't interpret straight away. However it comes in, I trust that I will be given guidance that I can understand.
Recently I had a skin cancer surgery. I went to my inner garden and I saw it, a poisonous plant with small dark leaves that appeared tiny and harmless on the surface but had thick roots that were starting to spread around a shallow pool. I had to dig it all out, the deepest roots were growing under and around some large stones. The pool of water was my eye, the stone was the bone of my nose. Had it been ignored and allowed to grow I would have lost my clear vision.
I encourage anyone who reads this to learn how to Journey and tend to your inner garden. With practice it provides wonderful insight into healing your body and a greater understanding of what lies hidden beneath the surface.