Week Two: Nurture Your Spirit

In Week One we learned that living simply and paring down your stuff do not have to be difficult. This week we want you to begin to focus on your own personal needs.

There are numerous ways of nurturing one's emotional and physical selves. Gardening is one of the avenues I utilize for enriching, soothing and replenishing my inner soul. During the horrific events on Tuesday, September 11, I found my garden to be the only place where I was able to pray, cry and feel a temporary sense of peacefulness. During very chaotic times, my garden becomes my refuge -- a place of beauty and sanity.

It can be as simple as placing a beautiful bouquet of flowers next to a place where you spend a great deal of time. It can be walking about your garden cavorting with the bees, crickets, hummingbirds, squirrels, rabbits and birds before the season comes to a dramatic end. It can be haphazardly pulling a few weeds while meandering about outside with your morning cup of coffee. Ultimately, gardening is an act of grace, where -- in a split second -- one can experience a profound sense of goodness, beauty and meaning.

But even as a professional gardener, there are days when I wander about my garden thinking, "How am I ever going to maintain this place? It is just too much for one person to handle efficiently." Though I quickly swallow those thoughts and get down to work, often while working, I dream about creating new areas in my garden.

As of late, I have allowed myself to dream about a different type of garden, one that won't keep me occupied 24-7. No, at this stage of my life, I am dreaming about a garden that is quite small dimensionally but that offers me all of the beauty, tranquility, stimulation and surprises that a grandiose piece of paradise would entail, only without the amount of work it takes.

You see, as I get older, I find that the less possessions I have, the less burdened I feel and the more free I am to experience the richness of living. How about you?

Exercise 1:
Besides gardening, there are other paths to a center of calm within your busy life. Particularly after the terrorist killings, I think most of us already are beginning to actually practice what we have always known to be of great importance: letting those we love know how much they are cherished, focusing on creating a more "chaos free" personal environment and trying to create emotional and physical health within ourselves.

In this journal exercise, I am asking you to give some thought as to why you don't give yourself enough personal time. Giving yourself personal time will help you explore ways of creating a space of internal calm. It takes a sense of discipline and self-worth to journey down this path, but the rewards are well worth effort. If you consistently are able to project an aura of calm, those who come into your world will feel the effects of this essence.

Try to take some quiet time to reflect and answer in your journal some of the questions posed below.

  • What stops you most from making time for yourself?
  • What would you do if you had free time? Be specific.
  • What part of your daily or weekly routine do you dread?
  • Which part of this routine can you give up? Can you pick one element out of your routine or daily environment that you can let go of?
  • How would your family react if you made time to nurture your spirit?
  • What part of your daily or weekly routine do you enjoy? Why?
  • Do you allow yourself to relax or nurture yourself when you have free time?
  • If no, what do you when this opportunity comes up?
  • When was the last time you did something nice for yourself (not for hubby, friend, kid or family -- but for you)?
  • Did you enjoy it?
  • Do you feel guilty when you make time for yourself?
  • If yes, what is it that makes you feel guilty?
  • What do you think this stems from? What could you do to remedy it?

These questions will keep you busy for more than a month. You are free to revisit them over time.

Exercise 2:
In this journal exercise, why don't you try to envision a garden that will nurture you, intrigue you, beautify your surroundings and soul and yet demand very little of you in return. This garden can consist of a potted plant next to your bed, an box full of herbs in a window that faces south, a sliver of an alleyway or a shaded courtyard -- anything that your heart desires.

Take your notebook during a quiet time in your day (if you don't have a moment's peace -- make one) and in a solitary place, write down visions of what your giving garden would be. Don't worry about sentence structure, grammar, etc.

If what comes out of your thoughts and onto the page is only a slew of adjectives and nouns, let it flow. As long as what is on the printed page grabs your heart and is an authentic representation of what you envision, then you are doing this exercise in earnest. If possible, write down some thoughts every day for the entire week.

At the end of the week, look over what you have written. If you gave yourself permission to free associate, I think you might be pleasantly surprised at the giving dream garden that you have created from within your inner being.

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