Building a Garden

I’m captured by this idea of the messy, slow business of making soul. Maybe as a culture we are too obsessed with the great leaps and bounds of inspiration and enlightenment, the aha! moments, throwing away the tedium. I’m not so sure that’s the way it happens for most of us. As the old saying goes, “the soul isn’t convinced by much.” It normally takes a car accident, or a divorce, or an illness for the soul to pay attention. So the important question is, as the storyteller Martin Shaw ponders, “How do I stay in touch with the soul without setting fire to my own life?” 

I think it goes something like this: Find a daily practice. It could be anything—yoga, tai chi, painting, cooking, writing, ceremony, playing with your children, spending time with a loved one…it doesn’t matter as long as there is eros and ethos in it, love and care, and beauty. Creation. And you do it, over and over and over. That’s called “building a garden.” 

At first you visit the garden as often as possible—the walled off, sacred and special retreat where you feel the sun rise inside you and hear birds sing. And then, separately, there is the daily grind: errands, the job, bills, college, the kids, the endless, endless emails… You can’t wait to get back to the garden! Though, funny thing, after a while, through endless showing up that garden starts to imprint itself into your bones, it shows your cells a new way to hum, a more unified humming. And slowly, ever so, the water color runs off the page and into your life. Bit by bit, it becomes your actions, the way you say hello, the things you think and feel, how you clean the dishes, your smile. 

No big epiphanies or all-of-a-sudden enlightenment. Just the slow and messy business of creating soul.