Archive for May, 2012

Find peace and joy in the present moment

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

If we live our life regretting the past or worrying about the future, we’re likely to miss out on our life altogether. Everything we need is here, right now. We don’t have to wait to love or be loved. We need only to open our hearts to one another. This post is the final in a series on what we’ve learned through our ten years of Tending Your Inner GardenĀ®. This lesson is one the hundreds of women who have participated in the program have taught us, one another and themselves, over and over again.

One of the best ways to tend your inner garden is to discover the joy in each moment.

In our chaotic, fast-paced world, we easily conclude that we’re not quick enough, smart enough, nimble enough, connected enough to keep pace. Yet such a perception is born out of fear, prompting us to cast about for the right job, right relationship, right home, right income to make everything okay. We can let go of those worries when we stay grounded in now and here. We see the beauty around us and, in a place of non-judgment, discover the beauty inside of us.

Through Tending Your Inner Garden, we’ve turned to nature to provide that sense of worth and adequacy. Trees don’t question the value they offer in providing shade and homes for animals. Rain falls without doubting its role in nourishing plant life. The soil accepts its important role in grounding all of life. Yet we do call into question some of our basic functions as humans on Earth. Gifted with the ability to reflect, our minds can both serve us and hamper us.

Children study ants with focus and intensity

When we turn from over-analyzing to appreciating, we first notice that all parts of creation work together harmoniously. We can be part of that harmony through recognition and gratitude for our inner-connectedness, not only with one another, but with all life forms. We can relax into the grace of the energy that permeates everything. We can trust that by paying attention, we also affirm our own valuable contribution to the world around us.

While Tending Your Inner Garden encourages women to look inward, we also encourage appreciation of the “other.” That appreciation allows us to let go of our self-conscious and often limiting perceptions.

If you want to find peace and joy in your life, try these approaches for starting down that path:

  • Take one routine, simple task you do every day. Make it a spiritual practice by first setting an intention, focusing on the sensory aspects of the task, and then expressing thanks. How would that change folding the laundry, putting away the dishes, changing a diaper, or preparing supper?
  • Take ten minutes and study one thing–a flower, the birds at the feeder, the vegetables you will cook, the picture of a child. What do you notice that a casual glance overlooked? What is the value of this new detail?
  • Commit to a spiritual practice that quiets your mind–meditation, walking, yoga, breathing. Do it every day for a month. Notice how your relationship to yourself and the world around you has changed.
  • Every night, identify three blessings of the day. If possible, share them with someone.
  • Do a breath prayer. Say one part of the prayer upon inhaling, the other part upon exhaling. Example: May I be at peace (inhale) and find contentment now (exhale). Practice it whenever fear, anxiety or restlessness set in.

We hope you will consider participating in Tending Your Inner Garden in some way. Check out our website for opportunities.

 

 

Savor the stories of your life

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

Through Tending Your Inner GardenĀ®, we’ve heard hundreds of stories about love, loss, redemption, forgiveness, relationships, meaning, purpose, connection, grace. Often women discover the underlying truths of their lives by relating those stories to caring listeners who support them through mirroring and gentle questioning.

Stories help you shape your life as a work of art.

Your life stretches out over decades with marriages, divorces, deaths, births, illnesses, careers, children, travel. What does it all means? That’s for you to decide. These life events are like paints on a palette, the clay at your potter’s wheel, the keys of the piano and the musical notes, and the words on a page. What will you do with them?

Shaping your life stories–and ultimately your life–is about reflecting on what you have experienced, discerning its meaning, and using what you have discovered to make new and richer life choices. While you can engage in this reflection on your own, companions help you discover your unique beauty and grace by listening and witnessing. They note things you may not realize about yourself or your life. They help you see the significance in the happenings you describe.

Tending Your Inner Garden is a lot about discovering and crafting these stories that ultimately allow you to say, “Yes, I’ve lived a life for which I’m truly grateful, one that has allowed me to learn and grow along the way, to both give and receive, and to be fully alive.”

Our first Tending Your Inner Garden book, Winter: Women’s Stories, Poems and Inspirations for the Season of Rest and Renewal, shares stories that have been pivotal in the lives of the writers. A mother rediscovers the joy of journaling, while also breastfeeding her baby. A writer describes through poetry the accident that left her disabled. Two sisters laugh and cry as they look through memory boxes of their mother’s 86 years. A daughter relates with tenderness conversations with her mother who has Alzheimer’s. Read these stories for inspiration about your own life.

Consider these questions for journaling:

  • What are ten “God moments” or ten highlights of your life when your gifts, life purpose or value shone brightly?
  • What are the greatest challenges you have faced? How have you addressed them? What have you learned?
  • If you were to describe your life in five minutes to someone who wanted to get to know you better, what would you say?
  • How is your life like a work of art? What are the elements that make up your life? How have you brought them together?
  • Imagine yourself a grandmother (perhaps you are!) telling your life story to a grandchild. What would you say?

If you’re inspired to write down your story, we’d love to read it. Exchange stories with a good friend to deepen your understanding of your own life.

 

 

Growing spiritually means learning how to let go

Friday, May 25th, 2012

In our work with women through Tending Your Inner Garden these last ten years, we’ve learned a lot about what facilitates new growth and aliveness. One of the continuing truths is that holding life lightly, rather than grasping, allows you to evolve as you were created to do. Clinging to material goods, experiences or relationships gets in the way of learning about yourself and finding meaning and purpose in life.

Often something must die before something else can be born.

“Very truly I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” John 12:24

Dying often means letting go of something, uncertain about what comes next. You know a way of life no longer fits you but you’re not sure what does. You trust that the Spirit, God or the energy that infuses all of life is always with you. You let go. You live with uncertainty. You take small steps on a new path calling you. You learn as you go. You rely upon close relationships–those people who love you unconditionally–to be your companions.

We’ve witnessed many people let go and create vibrant new lives.

  • A professional woman facing potential blindness and nearing retirement worked through her fear and now lives closer to her family in Texas, enjoying horseback riding.
  • A marketing executive gave up a good job to go back to school to study her first love–counseling.
  • A woman who moved a lot as a child and felt rootless realized she could create her own home. She bought a house and adopted three dogs and two cats.

In each case something had to go–fear, money, limiting beliefs–for a richer, more joyful life to take root.

What do you need to let go of in your life for something new and vibrant to emerge? Journal with these questions:

  • Consider the various dimensions of your life–work, relationships, leisure pursuits, health. Where do you feel lightness and energy? Heaviness and darkness?
  • When have you let go of something in the past without certainty about the future? What happened as a result?
  • What fear do you have about letting go? Write it down. Now have a conversation with it. Ask it, “Why are you here?” “What do you have to teach me?” “What can I do to reassure you and move on?”
  • What did you learn as a child about trying new things? Were you encouraged to avoid risks, perhaps for good reason? How relevant are those childhood messages now?
  • What one step could you take now to release fear of change and move ahead on a dream or longing?

We love to hear stories about your life experience. Share something with us about a change you’ve made in your life!

 

Women’s friendships nurture personal growth

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

Around the year 2000, Deb and I were undergoing major changes in our lives. After breast cancer treatment, I left a corporate marketing job, declared a sabbatical and explored a new vocation of spiritual companioning. Deb moved to the country, married a man she met at a barn dance and published a book. This experience of transforming our lives led to creation of Tending Your Inner GardenĀ®, a program of spiritual and creative growth for women. During the last ten years ago, as we’ve worked alongside hundreds of women, we’ve gained rich insights about how people learn who they are and what they are here on Earth to do. In this series of blogs, we’re sharing those insights.

Women need the support of a genuine community to blossom and grow.

True, many personal truths come at solitary moments. Reflection helps us mine our valuable inner soil and uncover seeds ready to break open and take root. Will they emerge through the top soil? Receive nutrients for growth? Find an environment receptive to their unique beauty?

While solitude and stillness give us the opportunity to get to know our deeper selves (our heart, body and soul, not just our brain), we create from this place of authenticity only in loving relationships with others. We need encouragement and support. As we offer love and companionship, we in turn receive it.

Women who come to the Tending Your Inner Garden program say they feel lonely. Often they are successful, busy professionals with families and friends. Still, they lack a feeling of true soul connection because they’re living on the surface of life. Digging into their inner gardens within a community of other women creates intimate connections based on trust, forgiveness, compassion, empathy and genuine listening.

With these bonds as a foundation, women discover a new-found ability to navigate transitions, grieve losses, take risks, weather setbacks, develop perspective, and view life as an adventure. This confidence makes it possible for them to make life-giving choices and shed the involvements and limiting beliefs that deaden aliveness. Women learn to love themselves–because they are loved.

Are you seeking community? Are you blessed with one? Journal about the role of community in your life with these prompts:

  • I can truly be myself when…
  • A group that offers me loving support is…
  • What I’m missing in my life is…
  • A time when I had the encouragement and support to take a risk…
  • I feel lonely…
  • I feel loved…

Do you have a story to share about how the support of family or friends helped you through a difficult change or enabled you to grow? Please let us hear it!

If you’d like to form your own Tending Your Inner Garden group, we have a start-up kit that will give you everything you need–from identifying members to holding retreats. Go to our web site to order. We can help you with questions like “How can I find other women who share my interests?” and “How do we create a sense of safety, trust and respect?” Questions? Let us know.

 

Women need time to rest

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

In the ten years we’ve accompanied women as they tend their inner gardens, several important truths have emerged through the examples of their lives. In the coming weeks, we’d like to focus on those truths–what enables your soul to express your life purpose in the world. Here is the first of these truths.

We all need solitude and stillness in our lives.

As a culture, we do not rest well. If we’re not productive, if we’re not busy, we wonder what’s wrong. We begin to question our self-worth. We define ourselves by what we do.

Such a busy life depletes the soil of nutrients that generate new life. The winter season, metaphorically (it can happen in July), provides the gift of dormancy, a time to shift from achieving and producing to being and resting. By committing to a period of stillness each day, you learn how to quiet your busy mind. You learn you are not your thoughts. You connect with the “I am” that is God, Mother/Father, Divine Energy, Source, Creator–whatever name you give to the force that unites all of creation.

Why is this important? A regular period of quiet each day improves your health and begins to rewire your brain to produce a calmer, less reactive way of being. It gives you time to reflect on who you are and what you long for.

In our new book, Winter: Stories, Poems and Inspiration for the Season of Rest and Renewal, women speak eloquently about the gift of stillness. Angela Renkoski in “Courting Winter” says, “Winter is…a space that allows for new perspectives to breathe and stretch and put down roots in quiet and safety.” Ronda Armstrong in “A Tale of Comfort” says of winter, “A welcoming light shines in the shivering winter darkness, guiding us toward the healing promises of spring.” SuzAnne C. Cole in “Solitude and Loneliness,” reminds us, “There will be times in our lives when we will be alone, but we never have to be lonely if we do not choose to be.”

Women who have made significant and life-giving changes through Tending Your Inner Garden have embraced the spirit of winter, welcoming that open, quiet space for new life to take root. To help bring these same gifts into your life, consider the following questions for reflection and journaling:

  • How do I respond to stillness?
  • What impact does noise in my environment have on me?
  • When have I been alone in wilderness or nature? What was that like for me?
  • How do I experience aloneness? Loneliness?
  • How does the winter season of rest and solitude prepare me to reengage with others in an authentic way?

Do you have an experience of stillness and solitude to share with us? We’d love to hear from you!