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The Inner Garden

by Lisa Avnet

The Inner Garden, Lisa Avnet in Pittsfield, MA

All of the garden photos on my website were taken in my own garden beds.  The gardens are a legacy from my parents in law, both devoted gardeners, who installed them over the 4 decades that they lived here.  My sister in law,  garden designer Judy Murphy of Old Farms Nursery in Lakeville, CT designed the main bed with its Asian style rock garden many years ago.  The mossy stones bring a special energy to the yard year round. 

As a dedicated gardener myself I can't think of a more apt metaphor for the process of personal evolution and growth.  The gardens respond to outer conditions of weather and the other life forms that are ever present, just as we respond to life.  The wind, rain, seasons, microbes, bugs, birds, bees, bunnies, woodchucks, mice and voles constantly shape the gardens, creating changes big and small.  Oh, and I mustn't forget the chipmunks!  The garden is always changing.  In the course of time, some flowers have disappeared, and new ones have arrived without me lifting a finger.  Blue lobelia, or cardinal flower, a large one called nicotiana, and others.  Nature truly works in mysterious ways. 

While I love flowers and have admired gardens all my life, I came to gardening relatively late. The learning curve was steep, there is so much more involved than just weeding!  I always dreamed of having the kind of gardens I admired at my in law's properties and in magazines but I was completely naive about what gardening involves and the sheer amount of time  and effort it takes to maintain them.  In fact, a gardener friend did tell me that 20-30 hours a week for much of the weed season was going to be necessary in order to keep up the gardens here, and in my naivete,  I thought she was exaggerating.  Not so.

However, the garden gives back so much more than I put into it - the joy that fills my heart just looking at the gardens is a huge sustaining energy in my life.  I love walking around the yard, taking photos of whatever catches my eye, and I've got about a zillion photos of them taken in all weathers, seasons, and times of day. My Instagram "berkshirehaven" is a place I post them, although it includes a few photos taken at my workplace at the Canyon Ranch Lenox property.  

To my tagline, spiritual traditions worldwide have used the garden as a metaphor for that part of us often known as the heart, and sometimes,  the soul.  I often use it as a metaphor for the mind as well, as in "weed out the thoughts  and worries you don't want and replace them with what you do - a mantra, phrase, affirmation, or prayer that over time, creates a new pathway in your thinking."    My Mindfulness Meditation teacher once taught that we think approximately 90 thousand thoughts a day, and of those, 89,990 are similar and often less than positive things - part of the stories we tell ourselves about what's happening in our lives, the negative thoughts, and negative self talk that makes up our mind chatter.   

Try identifying and pulling a specific mind-weed from the garden of your mind, and replacing it.  If it's a negative thought like "you suck" find something you are proud of and reverse the negative with: you rock at ______!  Or if it's a worry, weed that and replace with asking for, or sending, a blessing or acknowledging something you're grateful for.  Like a garden, the thought weeds will keep popping up, and you just keep up the practice of weeding and replacing.  In the short term, you can feel the benefits of this practice in your energy - it feels better!  Over time, like water wearing a groove in stone, your persistence will yield the beauty of a more expansive and peaceful mind.

What is a "Coaching Container" ?

by Lisa Avnet

What is a "Coaching Container" ?, Lisa Avnet in Pittsfield, MA

When I saw this beautiful painting by artist Mara Friedman I was struck by how accurately it depicted the energy of the coaching container - what it feels like to sit with an attuned and loving practitioner.    There is a magic that happens in the coaching session: you are held in safety, free to show all of yourself. 

In my experiences with my own Soul Centered Coach, I noticed that my consciousness was amplified, that insights and epiphanies spontaneously arose in each session.  Images, archetypes, and symbols have energetic form and that energy becomes available to us when we engage with it consciously, creating valuable resources to draw on in daily life.  The symbols in Mara's painting - the butterfly, spiral, and flower, the golden orb - are arising in the energy field created in the session - the synthesis of my energy field and yours bringing the mingled field to a new and higher level, a level from which insight arises.

Lisa Avnet offers Hypnosis in Pittsfield, MA

The bud
stands for all things,
even for those things that don't flower,
for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing;
though sometimes it is necessary
to reteach a thing its loveliness,
to put a hand on its brow
of the flower
and retell it in words and in touch
it is lovely
until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing.

From poem "St. Francis and the Sow" by Galway Kinnell

As a healer and guide, this poem is dear to me, as it touches into the heart of the coaching relationship.  In our work together, we'll be exploring your inner world through the lens of your soul self with love and an eye to developing that "self-blessing" .  

I'll share an example from my own experience.  In the early spring of 2022, an image of a wise woman holding an ornately decorated scrying bowl arose in one of my own coaching sessions and began to kindle my imagination.  It seemed to be the perfect image for the energetics involved in working with someone as a practitioner - the bowl as the container.  I brought this into daily life, gathering some of the many bowls in my home and considering their energetic qualities and what that might represent.  I journaled on this and have included a segment below.  It was an enlivening and satisfying process.

ILisa Avnet in Pittsfield, MA

I hold this sacred image, a wise woman holding a bowl in her two hands, offering it to those seeking soul sustenance.

When I sit with a bowl on my lap, the well of my heart opens and pours love into the world.

When I'm tending a soul, my own, or another’s, which container will best serve their needs?

The blown beach glass bowl with swirls of blue waters to bring flow and clarity?

The Himalayan singing bowl, to sound the complexity of overtones and bring forth new energy?

The heavy clay bowl, Raku fired with wood, and its many hued blue glaze, bringing its gift of earth, water, and fire, and grounding into the body?

Or the turned wood bowl, gifted to me with love, full of the nature elements of the standing people, home to the winged ones, and of earth, air, and sky?

Which bowl is called into service today?  What energy is needed in this particular coaching container, with this precious being?

What is an image you hold?  Can you expand it into daily life using metaphor?


What I'd like Women to Know

by Lisa Avnet

What I'd like Women to Know, Lisa Avnet in Pittsfield, MA


This photo shows three Pueblo pottery storyteller figures, images of women tending the soul through story.

I’d like women to know about the fertile resource of the imaginal world and the somatic field which brings such richness into daily life.....and the joy of creative expression that is also fed from the well of the imaginal.

I’d like women to know heart connection with themselves and how nourishing it is to hold that sacred beacon of wisdom pulsing steadily within.   I’d like women to know that their hearts matter in the world, that part of our sacred work is to honor the consciousness of all that is, to cultivate kinship with the sacred others.  I'd like everyone to know that our own energy radiates into the web of life, raising or lowering the frequency, that our energy is shared with all.  

I'd like women to know Mary Oliver’s Wild Geese wisdom:   you only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves. 

I'd like women to know the truth in David Whyte’s Faces at Braga poem:  "if only we could allow the Invisible Carver's hand to bring the deep grain of love to the surface, that the flaws in the wood bring his chisel to the very core"….perfection not required.


I Will No Longer Gaslight My Heart

by Lisa Avnet

"I Will No Longer Gaslight my Heart - How to come back to the heart and the body when we are often taught the opposite. " What a title!  Writer Brigit Anna McNeill, whose Substack page I subscribe to, came out yesterday with this amazing article. This speaks to my own knowledge and experience of the heart and human consciousness.  It's well worth the read.

I Will No Longer Gaslight My Heart, Lisa Avnet in Pittsfield, MA

Please note, the writing below is Brigit Anna McNeill's Substack post.  If this resonates and you're wanting reconnection, my coaching work will support you in the process.

Gaslighting - manipulate (someone) using psychological methods, into questioning their own sanity, or reality.

.... I hope it may in some way inspire, empower or touch you. 

Growing up, I grew to understand that it was not good to listen to my heart, or the feelings that arose within my body.

Whether in school, at home, with my peers or my abusers, the message was to put aside what I felt, to not listen and to instead go along with the main consensus.

This led me to squash, hide or shut down how I felt, in order to please, to be accepted and to get along or be safe.

And slowly, over time, shutting down how I felt, became such a strong ingrained habit, that I no longer heard my feelings as wisdom, but as useless ramblings or annoyances, a voice that got in the way of the mask I tried to wear. And so I took on the role of the gaslighter, gaslighting the very heart of me. Not allowing it space, not allowing the reality it voiced to be true.

I do not for a moment, blame, shame or hate myself for becoming this way, but it does make me sad to think of all the years I didn’t listen, all the years I thought my own voice silly. But I know it was something I did in order to survive, to keep myself safe while I lacked the tools, support and the knowledge to do any different. And what's scary, is that I know I'm not alone. I know that most people in the modern western world, have experienced this too.

Most of us are not taught the knowledge and wisdom that we hold inside of ourselves, we are, most often moved away from our feelings and voice in order that we can get on with the task at hand, or be agreeable and fit in.

Yet over the years, I have come to understand another reality, I have been researching the human heart and its function beyond moving blood around our bodies, and I have become fascinated and inspired by what I have found.

I was first put on this path by a deeply inspiring author, herbalist and poet - Stephen Harrod Buhner, who sadly has recently passed away. But alongside his research into plants, plant medicine, his ensoulment of language and his writing books, he deeply and thoroughly researched the heart, and wrote about it in some of his books. (Information about his books are at the end of this post )

He showed me that one of the most powerful tools we own in helping us to be guided, looked after, connect to ourselves and the world around is our heart, and that it is vital to be on speaking terms with our hearts.

The human heart is mysterious, intelligent, powerful, deeply feeling and often misrepresented.

In these modern times, especially within western culture, the heart has been largely left on the shelf and forgotten.

“The majority of modern peoples, if asked to find the place within their body where the unique self resides, would say they live about an inch above their eyebrow….. But most indigenous and historical peoples would locate the self someplace very different. They would gesture in the region of the heart. For most of our history of habitation on earth, that is where the seat of intelligence, the seat of the soul, was located. That this has changed is more an expression of how and what we are taught in western cultures than of some exact truth.” - Stephen Harrod Buhner

There is much ancient wisdom, understandings and stories about the heart as a seat of the soul, a place of knowing and the compass and guide of our being. These stories are now being backed up by numerous scientific studies which show the heart to be an organ of perception and communication, a brain in its own right through which we view the world, an organ deeply rooted in our emotional and mental health.

Aristotle considered the heart as the center of reason, thought, and emotion. Senior to the brain in importance. Ninth century Arabic philosopher Abu Nasr al-Farabi believed that, “The ruling organ in the human body is the heart; the brain is a secondary ruling organ subordinated to the heart.” Auguste Comte, a 19th century French philosopher declared that the brain should be servant to the heart. Twelfth century Christian mystic, Hildegard of Bingen wrote, “The soul sits at the centre of the heart, as though in a house.”

“The most common denominator in all religions is that the heart is the seat of wisdom,” said Rollin McCraty PhD,  director of research at the HeartMath Institute.

The heart's modern story, through scientific studies, is being slowly rewilded and restored, coming back to something ancient peoples were more aware of.

Many various, varied and in-depth scientific studies have shown that the heart picks up, processes, reads and also generates messages from inside and outside the body in complex patterns of multiple physiological events; hormonal, neurochemical, electric, magnetic and chemical messages, and sends them to the brain and throughout the body.

This communication from the heart has deep impacts not only on our physiological functioning and health, but also on how well we think and feel.

Sixty five percent of the heart cells are neural cells, the exact same as those of the brain, and they also function in the same way.

The heart possesses an intricate neural network in the form of its own nervous system, which has been named the heart-brain - Composed of an intricately woven network, the same as that of the brain in the head, and has both short-term and long-term memory functions this enables the heart to act independently of the head-brain when it comes to learning, remembering, making decisions, feeling, sensing and storing its own memory.

These memories that the heart contains, affect consciousness and behavior and are often to do with strong emotional experiences and the meanings within them.

Although it's been shown that the heart is an independent thinker, the heart is always in conversation and communion with the head, for they are of course part of one community - the community of the body. They are always partaking in a continuous flow of chatter about the world inside and outside of them.

Contrary to what I had been taught, and perhaps what many of us have been led to believe, the heart sends more signals and communication to the brain than the brain sends to the heart. The brain is, in its innate form, led by the heart rather than the other way around, for the brain is continuously responding to what the heart presents to it.

Communication from the heart, significantly impacts the brain, and research shows that messages the heart sends to the brain, shapes how we perceive and react to the world.

Information that comes from the world inside and outside of us, speaks first to the heart in waves and frequencies, the heart feels these things, ignites emotions and then informs the brain about what it has perceived, the brain then forms an action around what the heart perceives.

We evaluate everything emotionally as we perceive it, we think about it after - Doc Childre (Heartmath Solution)

But it is the electromagnetic field of the heart that is completely fascinating and intriguing for me.

Electromagnetic field is the term used to describe combined electric and magnetic fields.

The heart is an electrical organ, and is by far the strongest source of rhythmic bio electricity in the body, sixty times greater in amplitude than the electrical activity generated by the brain, furthermore, this electrical energy goes to every cell in your body.

Lisa Avnet offers Hypnosis in Pittsfield, MAPicture from the Heart Math Institute

Your heart produces enough energy to create a magnetic field that surrounds your body 360 degrees, 100 times greater in strength than the field generated by the brain, extending beyond the skin and out into space, measurable at about 10 feet outside your body, some scientists say they believe it may be capable of reaching out even further.

Our whole body is cradled within our hearts electro magnetic field, it aligns along our white spines, from the pelvic floor to the skull, permeating every cell.

The field not only wraps around us, but fills our whole inner body. Internally the hearts field sends informational messages on multiple frequencies to our internal world, the different parts of the body respond, and so the heart field, is always aware of how our whole body is, due to the informational and sensory cues that come from all over the body to the heart about what is going on inside of us. This is felt in us as feelings and emotions that we then send to the brain for analysis.

Each health problem, malfunction of an organ, emotional and feeling weather greatly effects our hearts electromagnetic field, changing its shape, strength and feeling tone.

When we remember how to pay attention to our bodies and our hearts, when we relearn how to use these cues and we gain wisdom about our own terrain.

But the heart is not only concerned with its interior world. As mentioned, this field reaches far beyond the body, and it contains within it, the information about our  health, wellbeing, emotions, attitudes, feelings and intentions - communicating them to the external world through electromagnetic waves and frequencies which can be detected by other people, along with the more than human world, and can affect others mental and emotional states, their feelings of safety or connection. For our field is full of stories that invisibly ignite feelings within others.

Our heart's nervous system is attuned to other fields and receives information in a very real, energetic, magnetic form of communication all the time, it can not be turned off.

“there are no secrets, only things we do not see” - Stephen Harrod Buhner

Our world is full of the invisible and the felt, the language that is far older than words.

And it is not just people who have this field of information surrounding them, biophysics has shown that all living organisms are permeated and surrounded by an electromagnetic field- two leggeds, the rooted, the winged, the furred, the tiny and of course the earth itself, and they use each other as methods of understanding. Reading it to find prey, food, mates, allies and the right places to be.

Migratory eels, during their long migration, read the estuary’s unique magnetic map to navigate upstream. Migrating birds not only use celestial cues to navigate, they also detect the magnetic field generated by the Earth, using it to determine their position and direction. Each individual on earth is connected to a global information field.

Our fields are the same shape and type of the earths, unsurprisingly, as we are just an example of a general condition. The north and the South Pole are the two ends of the spine and like the heart, the earths magnetic field is a constantly shifting field.

In a way, we are all electric fields which holds our atoms together, communicating to our heart internally and externally, and using other electric fields to understand more about our surroundings and how safe, inspiring, interesting, needed or dangerous a potential connection to a place, person or more than human being could be for us, or how well we are within ourselves.

“We’re all like little cells in the bigger Earth brain—sharing information at a subtle, unseen level that exists between all living systems, not just humans, but animals, trees, and so on” - Dr. Halberg

We are immersed in Dynamic and animated fields of communication, generated by the living intelligent life forms with which we are kin. These fields in which we wander through are infused with meaning. Flowing from and to us, from the moment the cells of our bodies self organize into the unique identities that we know as ourselves.

Lisa Avnet in Pittsfield, MA

We feel this touch of the world upon us, and those millions of touches hold within them specific meanings, delivered to us from the heart of the world and the heart of the living beings with which we inhabit the world with.

This interchange, if we learn to take notice, changes the quality of our lives and reminds us that we are never alone. We are one organism among many, one ensouled form among a multitude.

The Greeks had a word for the hearts ability to perceive meaning from the world - Aisthesis.

“the organ of aisthesis is the heart; passages from all the sense organs run to it, there the soul is set on fire” - James Hillman

Aisthesis denotes the moment in which a flow of life force, imbued with communications, moves from one living organism to another. The word literally means “to breathe in” It is a taking in of the world, a taking in of soulful communications that arise from the living phenomena in that world. Something from outside enters us, something with impact, something that causes an immediate inspiration. Often overlooked, is the crucial understanding that at the same time, the world takes us in too, we too are breathed in.  When we experience this, we experience that we are not alone in the world.

The detected field of another, has the same impact on the cortical function as regular sensory intake does. This heart perception through our electromagnetic field, is often called our sixth sense. We work with our heart fields every day of our lives but most of us in the modern western culture have just become unconscious of it.

Our senses, along with our heart perception tell us about the world around us and the world inside of us. They are there to guide us, keep us safe, look after us and help us to live a meaningful life.

But, as is so often within a persons life, whether through education, social conditioning, peers, parenting, trauma, abuse and so on, we are led far far away from it.

Told to put our own feeling sense, our own sensory input away in order to follow another’s. We are often shown what we should like, how we should be, how the world is, the life we should follow, the achievements we should go for and the body we should have, rather than following our own map, stories and knowing.

And so, slowly and over time, we put our inner feelings aside, we squash the heart of ourselves and gaslight our own emotions.

We no longer hear our guide, our compass or our truth and we may wonder why we keep ending up in places, or with people or in moments that do not serve us.

And so, I decided a few years ago, inspired by these studies, to no longer gaslight the heart of me. I decided to try each day, to remember and tap into the wisdom and knowing that is held within. It is a slow process, for it’s years of training to undo, but each year, I have shed a little more concrete and each year my life changes for the better.

There is more to just listening or I should say, feeling the heart I have realised. It is feeling it and taking the appropriate action needed. Rather than feeling it, and still not letting it guide me.

It is a process, a journey. A hard and tricky one, but amazing and empowering.

Want to get started strengthening your connection to your heart wisdom?  Book now.

I Will No Longer Gaslight My Heart, Lisa Avnet in Pittsfield, MA


A Metaphorical Map of the Territory

Metaphors for the Beauty Way of soul work – a Map of the TerritoryI 

I had fun one snowy day in December, on the new moon, dreaming and weaving some words about soul qualities that I carry and kindle in others.  Hope you enjoy this list and perhaps are inspired to create one from your own life experience.

I’m a tracker, following the threads of image, dream and story and assisting in bringing them to consciousness.  As a tracker, I listen deeply and ask questions to help you connect with your own tracking system to find and follow the thread your through line.

I’m a gatherer, harvesting words and wisdom for sharing. As a gatherer, I delight in sharing my knowledge and in learning from yours. I hold the sacred bowl in our work together, lighting the way .

I’m a sower with a myriad of seeds to share for individual and community growth - like Johnny Appleseed, my basket is full. As a sower, I plant seeds for future growth into the fertile field of consciousness.

I’m a gardener and tender, helping the flowers flourish and the weeds wither.  I am a guide to the garden of soul, watering the keepers, and moving the weeds. As a gardener, I help you tend the symbols, images and stories that arise.

I'm a weaver, like Grandmother Spider, always weaving colorful threads into the web of my life, repairing as needed and starting anew when I must.  As a weaver, assisting others in cultivating the threads and weaving the fabric into their own unique life tapestry.

A hearth tender, I'll teach you to tend to your heart hearth with the energies you have gathered andhow to fan your inner flame of inspiration and joy.

And a poem would be in order but that's for another day.  I do what I can, with the time I have, and my to do list is calling. 

"The Woke and the Dreaming" - repost from Tad Hargrave

by Lisa Avnet

repost from Tad Hagrave's Substack page "On Culture Making" written June 2021

Last night, driving home to Victoria from Courtenay, I was listening to Martin Shaw and Manchán Magan on the work of John Moriarty. Martin had just written up a collection of John's work in a beautiful book called A Hut At The Edge of the Village.

"He wasn't woke. He was dreaming," said Martin of John.

That difference struck me as worthy of sinking into.

There is such a focus on being 'woke' these days. I'm not against it but there's more to the story. Being awake is half the story of being human. The other part is dreaming or, even more so, being dreamed.

The condition of being awake is a hard one. It means seeing this world with a blazing lucidity with the noon day Sun banishing all shadows. It means coming to sobering grips with the consequences that made us and that we have made. It means attending to the 'wake' we have left behind us and trying to discern which boat left the wake in which we find ourselves.

It means regularly attending the 'wake' of all the endings, limits and frailties that are a part of life. There's a lot of grief in seeing clearly. As Stephen Jenkinson puts it, "the sound of waking up is not 'aha'. It's a sob." And that's often true.

But there's another whole side to this.

It's being on the receiving end of the deep mystery often in the form of images that appear to us. Sometimes those images come to us in the form of poetry and old folk tales. Sometimes they come to us in dreams.

We didn't generate the images any more than we generated the eggs we cook or apples we pick but they nourish us just the same.

Being awake lets us see the territory as it is, but being dreamed by forces greater than us is what allows us to navigate that territory and choose a direction.

Part of being awake must also be to wake up to the hard limits of wakefulness. Of course, the science, statistics and data matters. But, if that's all we have, we are left directionless and overwhelmed.

Dreaming and being dreamed is the home of our intuition, of synchronicities, of the ways that the natural world speaks to us and gives us signs.

I suspect that traditional people's understood that the little ones born to them came out of the Big Dream, from the other side, that they were a sign of something and some ones. That the appearance, the gifts, capacities, personalities and interests of this little one could tell us something of the times we were in. They were a communication from the Great Beyond.

And this matters. As Martin put it in another wonderful book of his called Scatterlings, "Of course we're outgunned. But outnumbered? Not when you call in the myth world, not when you call to ancestors deserving of the name, not when you weft your life to the thinking of a hare or the open-shouldered stance of a midwinter beech. Make a stand for something small, specific and precious. Do it today. Amen and let it be so."

We are being spoken to constantly. Part of that speech we hear when we are awake. Part of it is banished by our insistence on constant, vigilant, wakefulness.

Calling out bad behaviour is important but so is being able to hear the call of your soul telling you where to go next.

Can we, as Yeats suggested, "make our minds so like still water that beings gather about us to see their own images and so live for a moment with a clearer, perhaps even a fiercer life because of our silence."?

Wakefulness tries to offer us safety rooted in control. "If we just understand enough of the facts, we'll finally be able to relax," says some younger part of us obsessed with the idea that universe is a machine. It's understandable but it's not the only kind of safety there is. The little bird doesn't feel safe because it trusts the branch won't break.

Wakefulness gives us a map but dreaming gives us a compass. Maybe it's something like that.

Statistics are like bread. The calories burn quick, man. But images? These are the full, exploding with nourishment, dripping fat left to us in the mystery feast of our ancestral art and stories. It's amazing any of it has survived at all.

Dealing with the troubles of the world can't happen by logic alone. It will also take radical imagination. The root of this word is 'image'. The images we receive from nature, good art, our dreams, poetry and myth. No image? No imagination. No imagination? No new direction. No new direction? More of what's become normal and, as Bruce Cockburn says, "The trouble with normal is it always gets worse."

While we are busy trying to 'figure it all out' we may have missed the most obvious and important thing: we are the world's way of sorting out the messes of the world. Imagine a body full of white blood cells waiting for someone to come along to deal with the troubles of the body. We, ourselves, are one of the images, planted in the world at just the right place and in just the right time.

Dreaming is that hut at the edge of the village. It receives strange guests all night long. They leave gifts for you when you wake. You will need them in the times to come. The ones to come will need them more.


Upcoming Workshop in New Haven, CT

by Lisa Avnet

Upcoming Workshop in New Haven, CT, Lisa Avnet in Pittsfield, MA