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Under the Arbor: Aug 2021
August 21, 2021

August 2021

Tending the Inner Garden

I thought this month I would talk about tending a different kind of garden, one that everyone has, whether they grow plants or not. I'm talking about the inner garden.

I don't know about your inner garden, but mine has needed a little extra love lately.

Some of the gardening skills that we gardeners already possess can be repurposed to help us find equanimity during these crazy times. Stay with me as we dive deep, and I promise we'll come up into refreshed air on the other side.

What Is the Inner Garden?

Our inner garden is the place where thoughts, feelings and beliefs grow inside our minds. These "crops" all seem to be rooted in things outside of us - the soil of the external world - but our experience of them happens inwardly.

And as with our vegetable gardens, our harvest will be greater and more rewarding if we tend our inner garden with love - weeding out whatever isn't going to produce something nourishing - while watering and fertilizing those things that will.

The Soul of a Gardener

Most of us who grow vegetable gardens understand that we are in relationship with plants, as well as the greater ecosystems that contain them. While all people are in this relationship, gardeners are generally more consciously aware of it.

We know that the more love we put into the garden, the more love comes back to us - as deep nutrition that sustains our bodies and as beauty that sustains our souls.

And spending loving time with our gardens may even open our hearts to a sense of awe, as we are privileged to witness how intimately and brilliantly all of life is interwoven.

Earth Grief

But these days on planet Earth the whole web of life is under strain. When we open ourselves to the experience of awe, we also open ourselves to the experience of grief. And there's no shortage of stuff to grieve right now.

Between the losses of the pandemic, economic pressure, climate change, ecosystem disruption, plastic in the oceans, dying agricultural soils and species extinction, it has been easy to feel overwhelmed at times by grief or despair, or to distract ourselves out of feeling anything at all.

Distraction may numb pain in the short-term, but if grief gets shoveled underground, it will sour the soil of our inner garden and foil our attempts at growing a brighter, more productive garden in the future.

So how can we tend the inner garden with as much love as we tend our vegetable gardens?


There are things that are within our control and things that are not. To weed the inner garden we have to start by getting really clear about what we actually have control over (very little) and what we don't (a lot).

And it's critical to distinguish between exerting some influence and actually controlling something. To maintain a healthy and productive inner garden, we must weed out and compost everything we cannot actually control.

When we try to control that which is impossible to control, we disempower ourselves and can become stuck in the mud. Look carefully at what you actually can and cannot control. We can only control that which is in our domain, which is inside us.

A Sample Inner Garden Planting Chart

Eternal Principle as Touchstone

Everything in the world changes in every moment, often imperceptibly, but always and inexorably. Yet for most of us, our sense of self and our bearings in the world rest on a foundation of imagined stability. This makes us largely resistant to change (unless we think the change will lead to something shinier) and also leaves us vulnerable and unmoored when harder times come knocking.

In times of uncontrollable rapid change, when our foundations are starting to rattle, strength and bearings are better drawn from that which is eternal and unchanging. (This is actually true in good times as well, though we are less likely to go looking for it then). Whatever could that be?

For thousands of years seekers after the eternal have looked away from the world to the incorporeal, what some would call the "spiritual". While some may call it God, others have framed it as Love, Beauty, Truth, or another principle by which we can live and anchor ourselves.

Building our foundation on any eternal principle gives us a stability that cannot be found in the world, except by our channeling of it. The "control" we wish we had over what unfolds around us can come through us, but does not actually come from us. It's good to remember that we do not actually grow vegetables, life does. We are merely facilitators.

When we are anchored in the eternal, then no matter what happens, what terrible or unimaginable thing might unfold or what miracle we may witness, these principles stand firm. And we can stand firm when we remember that what we are anchored to is greater than our little selves.

Anchoring into our own eternal principle is how the Inner Garden can flourish and nourish, no matter what.

That's all for now. I wish you peace, equanimity and bountiful harvest as you tend both your outer and inner gardens this year and into the future.

With Love,

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