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Wisdom from the Gardens: Life Lessons


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A Path to the Self

How to Receive
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Mary Beth Ford, Ed.D

Mary Beth's online articles have had over 47,000 readers.

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Dr. Mary Beth Ford, EzineArticles Diamond Author

Reflections on a Calling

I am going to broadcast the seed and let the wind carry it where it will.
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

       I've exchanged smiles with many people on my nature walks. I've noticed the thoughtful looks of those who sit quietly on garden benches. Different ages, different backgrounds. Yet somehow I know we are seekers together. We share a calling to discover our purpose for being on earth. I think of our common bond as I begin to write down my reflections. We are busy people wanting to live spirit-filled lives in a secular world. I've pondered this dilemma for a long time.

       Life balance has eluded me since I was a teenager. My search for balance has taken a long, spiral path. Obstacles challenged me. Tranquil times allowed me to catch my breath and absorb my learning. I've gained much from reading books about other spiritual journeys. I've reflected on these stories and attempted to put my own experiences in perspective. Yet I struggle to listen more closely to my heart.

       Perhaps the greatest challenge has been releasing my grip on the steering wheel of life. I've been a lonely traveler, charting my own way. Now I want to change. I ask for Divine guidance. I quiet my incessant thoughts and trust my deepest feelings. A need for space to breathe leads me back to nature.

       As a child, I loved to spend time outside. The colors and sounds and mysteries of nature intrigued me. Most especially, gardens captured my attention. Now, years later, gardens have become my sanctuary and my teacher. Life lessons emerge. Marvelous images unfold before my eyes.

       I'm a visual learner. I see my garden lessons as seeds planted deep within, needing protection and nourishment. They've grown into a spiritual blueprint that guides my daily living. For a long while I considered writing down this plan and putting forth my ideas to the world. Since I'm neither a naturalist nor a philosopher, I mounted strong resistance to the idea. What will my family and friends think? What credentials do I have other than the wisdom that comes from having lived this long? Yet an inner urge persists. It calls me to fulfill my dream.

       I've always been fascinated by stories of the sacred covenant between writers, musicians, and artists with the Great Creator. Many described themselves as instruments through which the flow of ideas poured out on paper from a Higher Source. Inspired by their stories, I too undertake collaboration with my Creator. I gather courage to share the story of my own journey.

       A friend introduced me to Hildegard of Bingen-a powerful teacher in my search for balance. Hildegard was a visionary, naturalist, playwright, poetess and composer whose presence is still felt around the world more than eight hundred years later. This remarkable woman has become my muse. Her love of nature and teaching about a creation-centered spirituality has inspired me. Hildegard described herself using such lovely imagery:

Listen, there was once a king sitting on his throne. Around him stood great and wonderfully beautiful columns ornamented with ivory, bearing the banners of the king with great honor. Then it pleased the king to raise a small feather from the ground and he commanded it to fly. The feather flew, not because of anything in itself but because the air bore it along. Thus am I a feather on the breath of God.

       I feel a connection with Hildegard because she sought to illuminate the divine in nature through useful and practical ways. I share her concern for usefulness. I also want to help others who seek balance of body, mind, and spirit in a world of conflicting values. Hildegard hesitated in answering the call to write down her insights. She expressed feelings of inadequacy to begin public preaching and teaching at a later age. I understand her doubts. Hildegard inspires to risk sharing my thoughts about life balance.

       Anne Morrow Lindbergh's desire to think through her questions with paper and pencil in the solitude of an island retreat reflects my own way of grappling with life's meaning and purpose. I first read her Gift from the Sea many years ago. Its simple, yet profound wisdom still resonates with me today. During summer vacations I have carried Gift from the Sea on trips to the beach. I've sat on a solitary rock in the early morning hours to ponder its wise counsel. This classic book captured so well the essence of my own struggle for balance.

       I learned much from my reflections on the sea and its shells. But my questions about how to live in the world with Spirit persisted. I've always loved walks in gardens and began to record their images in a journal. They were only jottings at first. But as I reflected on the images, I saw connections with life. I knew the images themselves did not have meaning; still they resonated deep within me. Garden wisdom took root.

       Anne Morrow Lindbergh drew her inspiration from the beach and the collection of shells that she found there. My inspiration has come from frequent walks in nature and quiet times in gardens. The wisdom drawn from these lovely places has touched my soul. It has nurtured the seeds of spiritual knowing deep within.

       In the manner of Hildegard of Bingen I put aside all fears and doubts and begin my spiritual journey as a "feather on the breath of God." In the manner of Anne Morrow Lindbergh I draw on nature's images and share my wisdom from the gardens. I offer nature's lessons to all who ponder life's purpose and search for balance between world and Spirit.

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