Love Garden from scratch

I have a circular love garden with a diameter of about 3.5 metres … just the right dimensions for a central sprinkler to water to the edges.

I fenced the perimeter with chicken wire, filled it with mulch and compost and let our three chickens loose! After a few weeks of daily scratching they had created a beautiful friable soil, ready for planting. The role of the fence changed overnight, from containing to excluding the chooks.

The idea of the love garden is to create your very own Zone Zero / Zone One space that is designed to meet your needs, so plant choices are peculiarly personal. Flowers feed my soul and I have placed a stone seat under an arch supporting David Austen roses and planted annual and perennial flowers galore … favourites like snapdragons and poppies, daisies and cornflowers. I also want to relax in this space, so have created an edge of lavender plants, the soothing oils of which are legendary. All my gardens incorporate food, and I have inter-planted with blueberries and rainbow chard. Impatiens is a feature, the essence of which aids impatience, and Gotu Kola for easing arthritis (two leaves a day keep old age away!). Angelica lives here too, as chewing its stem reduces flatulence! Judiciously selected crystals can be placed in this sacred space for scrying purposes. A lead crystal also hangs from the arch above, throwing rainbows when struck by the sun.

With little effort I have created a small space for meditation and reflection, and I can measure the state of my being by the state of this little healing garden. Ten minutes’ work a day will keep it free of weeds. Ten minutes’ meditation a day maintains eunoia. Periodically it will need more input – just as periodically a good yogic workout keeps the mind and body healthy and beautiful.

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Vipassana – to see things as they really are

I recently completed a ten day Vipassana meditation retreat at the beautiful centre in Pomona, Queensland – ten days of complete silence – no talking with anyone other than the teacher and the female manager, no gestures, no eye contact, no guitar, no pen or notebook … it is all about going within and observing the self. Vipassana is a guided meditation that is completely non-sectarian, scientific and straightforward. It has nothing to do with religion or dogma and everything to do with finding real and lasting inner peace, happiness and harmony.

Everyone’s experience of Vipassana is different. The timing for me was perfect. I have been a ‘spiritual seeker’ since discovering yoga at twenty, and since then have dabbled in paganism and anthroposophy, studied the work of Eckhart Tolle, Byron Katie and many other spiritual teachers, and was recently guided online to see through the illusion of self as personality. I was well primed for Vipassana intellectually, but could never have guessed that this was the answer to what I had been seeking for all those years!

Each morning at 4am we were woken by a gong.  We were expected to meditate for twelve hours a day, and sit for another hour each evening listening to our teacher Goenka give a video discourse on the technique.   It was hard work, and I fell into bed exhausted at 9:30, feeling like I’d dug a trench in stony ground.

Initially we were taught ‘anapana,’ a method of stilling the mind by focusing on the natural breath at the nostrils. For the first couple of days I had a real ‘monkey mind.’ A very cheeky, erratic little monkey who swang through the branches with exhausting energy … bouncing from guilt, remorse, self-pity, shame and blame, to optimistic  plans, inventions and dreams, and back again, around and around and around. In the past, in the future; rarely in the present. An old spinal injury was exacerbating the situation, making it almost impossible to sit still for longer than about  twenty minutes at a time. I was grateful when the teacher offered me a little back support on the third day, and at last I was able to calm and tame that monkey!

For three and a half days we practised anapana, narrowing the focus more and more, to finely attune the mind. Then we were given ‘the jewel of Vipassana,’ and what a precious gift it was. A practical technique of self-observation, during which we were required to sit as still as possible. I had a very profound experience, where my head was suffused with golden light, a beautiful calm peace that expanded  beyond the bounds of my physical body. I could smell divine incense, although none was burning. Then as awareness descended down through my body there was so much pain, and my body, still locked in sitting pose, started juddering and shuddering and bouncing up and down on the floor.  An acrid scent filled my nostrils. Thick dark dense matter seemed to be draining down, out of my feet. Later the teacher told me this was quite common and that some mental impurities were draining away.  I didn’t move like that again. As the time progressed I learnt not to react to the sensations I was experiencing … neither craving the ‘blissful’ subtle sensations nor wishing the grosser ‘painful’ sensations would depart! Knowing that everything is impermanent helps. This too shall pass, and every moment is new and fresh.

On the fifth day I experienced a massive ego trip, and ego trips based on wealth, status, beauty or talent have nothing on the spiritual ego trip! On the sixth day I lost my equanimity entirely, crashed and burned. Humbled somewhat, the seventh day was great, then the eighth day was a horror show, with all my greatest fears and demons making themselves known.  The ninth day was also hard, and the tenth absolutely blissful.

Vipassana means ‘to see things as they really are.’ This practise gave me the wonderful gift of equanimity. I feel more peaceful than I have ever felt in my life before, and I will be forever grateful. At the next course I will give service. If you are also interested in real peace, real harmony and real happiness, I highly recommend doing the ten day Vipassana course.

 

 

 

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sunflowers = happiness

sunflowers = happiness

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The Healing Garden

Increasingly, I am feeling a distinct sense of urgency for change. Do you feel this too? CAN we evolve, do you think? Simply by choosing to? It will cost not less than everything. Letting go of our conditioned mind… and the pain and suffering therein. This week’s column offers a sanctuary for this dissolution to take place…  somewhere to become Whole again – the Healing Garden.

I have long fantasized about a garden of little retreats designed to heal certain ailments. Somewhere that balances, feng shui style, elements of colour, light, reflection, water, sound, space, scent, movement and stillness with rock and wood, crystal and wind; where healing plants are chosen and placed consciously. Say, for example, you are feeling insecure. Someone may have said or done something that has triggered pain. Instead of retiring to your bed to stew in self-pity and/or recrimination, you could go to that part of your healing garden where the stone seat is, perhaps under a flowering jasmine arbour. Pennyroyal and other mints are planted at your feet, and release their protective scents as you arrive, barefoot, to absorb their gifts. Here you will find lovely Amethyst and Rose Quartz crystals to contemplate. You might have a red rose, or a red grevillea or hibiscus planted nearby to rest your mind upon. The colour red can restore confidence, after all. Or you may need calming… you could go to that section of your garden where the wooden seat resides, alongside the waterlily pond. Here the flowers are in the blue range… native violets, petunias, irises, evolvulus, salvias, perhaps a climbing blue moon rose. Lavender, certainly – pick a little, or brush it to release its soothing scent… Observing, and being in Nature is such a powerful healer, and every creature in the garden (spider, frog, butterfly) has some insight to share.  Let your heart join with birdsong. Stay happy.

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Saluting the tall silent standing ones

Aaah, trees! Where would we be without ‘em? Not only do they provide us with timber and firewood, but while they’re living they give us food, SHADE, and provide homes for thousands of other species. Trees give us the very air we breathe, and when you know that ‘breath’ and ‘spirit’ come from the same root word ‘spirere’, it comes as no surprise that trees offer a spiritual dimension to existence that is largely hidden (like their roots!).

Trees have symbolised enlightenment in every spiritual tradition – the most obvious example being Buddha’s sacred fig, the Bodhi tree that he was sitting under when he achieved enlightenment. Some say this fig had very high levels of serotonin in the fruit, and as this was all Siddharta was eating, his pineal gland (third eye) was stimulated to the point where he arrived at a place of silence, emptiness and stillness that could only be pure grace. In the Bible also, trees are seen as manifestations of divine knowledge, and are used as an analogy for God. In pre-Christian times, our ancestors knew how to worship trees, and in fact belonged to tree ‘families’ (as in ‘I am a member of the oak/willow/ash clan’). Trees have long played an important role along the songlines of our own country, with claims that aborigines could use certain gum trees like a ‘telephone,’ to help transmit psychic messages.

So there you have it… trees are symbols of enlightenment, silence, emptiness, breathing, oneness, time, the cycle of birth, death, resurrection… hidden, mysterious worlds – in the poet Rabindranath Tagore’s lovely words, “Trees are Earth’s endless effort to speak to the listening heaven” – and yet we still CUT THEM DOWN in their millions without thought, care or awareness! I console myself with the fact that one tall silent standing one can send hundreds of thousands of seed flying through the air, where at least one may land in a place where its Presence is recognised and welcomed.

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The orgiastic frenzy in your garden

The bees are busy in the garden, burrowing deep into the flowers, wriggling their bottoms and filling their little pollen baskets to the brim, reminding us that gardening is truly sexy. Oh yes, my friends, while we are innocently enjoying the different colours, shapes and scents of our plants, our gardens are in an “orgiastic frenzy” … the plants and pollinators involved in “a voluptuous and lascivious display of gluttony and fornication,” as Angela Overy describes in her delicious book, “Sex in your Garden.” Flowers are the sex organs of the plant and they’ll use ANYTHING – bribery, treachery, traps – to court pollinators who will probe and poke and guarantee the production of seed. With all this probing, poking, burrowing, licking, sucking and fertilising going on out there it’s little wonder that “the birds and the bees” has become a popular euphemism for SEX! Of course some just can’t be bothered with all that, so hand it over to chance by simply exposing their sexual glands to the wind… bor-ing!

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pssst…gardening is sexy… pass it on!

Aaaah, I love being in the garden! Anyone’s garden, anywhere… connect with the mother… hear her heartbeat… feel the pulsing rhythm of Life – everywhere! Right now I’m snuggling in bed listening to the gentle rain … my heart swells with joy, like a seed filling with water and space, ready to SPRING! into action… such wonder, such mystery…

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