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The Inner Garden

by Lisa Avnet

The Inner Garden, Lisa Avnet Coaching in Pittsfield, MA

All of the garden photos on my website are taken as I  worked our many garden beds.  The gardens are a legacy from my parents in law, 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 for them many years ago.  The mossy stones bring a special energy to the yard year round. 

As a dedicated gardener I can't think of a better metaphor for the process of personal evolution and growth.  The gardens respond to outer conditions of weather and the other life that is ever present, just as we respond to life.  The microbes, bugs, birds, bees and the bunnies, woodchucks, mice and voles create changes big and small.  Oh, and I mustn't forget the chipmunks!  I'm always surprised by the changes that happen year to year.  In the course of time, some flowers have disappeared, and new ones have arrived without me doing a thing.  Blue lobelia, or cardinal flower, a large one called nicotiana, and others.  Nature works in mysterious ways. 

While I love flowers and have admired gardens all my life, I came to gardening relatively late- and the learning curve was steep, there is so much more involved than weeding!  I always dreamed of having the kind of gardens I admired at my in law's properties and botanical gardens, but I was completly naive about what gardening involves, the sheer amount of time  and effort it takes to maintain them.  In fact, I'm embarassed to say this, but a gardener friend did tell me that 20-30 hours a week for much of the weed season was going to be called for 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 replace it with: you rock at ______!  Or it's a worry, weed that and replace with asking for, or sending, a blessing.  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 benefits.