The Garden of the Self

The year 2000. It has come, the new millennium, in the ordinary way of measuring time today. Come without disaster, without apocalypse. So people continue to live their lives; your personal story and the global story continue to unfold moment by moment. As you perhaps noticed as the new year came, the difference between one millennium and the next is essentially the difference between one breath and the next. One breath you are at the end of one century, the next breath you are at the beginning of a new year, a new century, a new millennium. And so one may experience this as a new beginning, full of possibility. It is represented by those recently much-feared numbers zero-zero. Those numbers zero-zero can represent possibility, empty space, the beginning from which so many different stories can arise.

In that way, every breath is a new beginning. While it is true that people are shaped by old habit patterns, old conditioning, old reactions and old experience, there is with every breath the possibility of experiencing that which is beyond habit pattern, beyond conditioning, beyond the old story -- You. You, just as you are now, are not only old conditioning, past experience, habit pattern, you are also that which is beyond all conditioning, experience, and pattern. You, each individual being, reading these words, you are ever new, ever possible, ever in transformation, always being born.

People often think that to change their lives, they have to leave their past behind, eliminate the old patterns completely: they have to become something new. There is a great paradox here. You can't leave yourself behind, destroy who you have been, what you have done and thought and felt. The past contains the seeds of the future. The present contains the conditions which help to determine how those seeds grow. This so within each individual, and at the global level. The new millennium grows from the soil of the old, has its roots in the past. How people live and make their choices and interact with each other, the earth and the cosmos--how they learn from the past - all of this determines the shape and form and direction of the next millennium.

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Imagine for a moment that you are a gardener. Perhaps some of you are. And spring is soon coming, after all. And let us say that there is wonderful and mysterious seed you have discovered, perhaps deep in the forest, perhaps in your own backyard, that contains in it a rare and beautiful tree, or flower, or vine. And yet this tree/flower/vine is exceptionally sensitive to the care it receives, the attention, what it experiences as it begins to grow. That seed blossoms beautifully the more you water it appropriately, the more you pay attention to the soil in which it grows, the more you give it love, the more light it has as it begins to grow --but not too much light. Very few plants want total bright direct sunlight all the time. They need some shade, darkness. They need the night-time to synthesize the light they have absorbed during the day. As you nurture this seed it blossoms, it grows into that rare and wonderful being that it already is.

That seed is present in this moment in your consciousness. It is always present. It contains the pattern, the presence, the energy of your greatest, most loving, most aware, most true self. In that seed is contained also the information about how to care for it, what it needs to grow and flourish. As you believe in the presence of that seed, that core of your essential being, that presence of the divine Self within you, you connect with that information. You begin to understand how to create different conditions in which your conscious self can grow and flourish. The awareness inherent in that seed guides your growth; you become you, just as a tree becomes a tree. You begin to change your internal environment, and perhaps also the external environment shifts.

That seed of your conscious self needs water. Water is a flow of energy, a flow of what is called emotion, intuition, feeling. As you stay in touch with yourself, as you become more comfortable with your intuitive, feeling, deep self, that seed is watered, it flowers. Water is the free flow of creative energy; it is music, poetry, laughter, tears, dance, story, walking outside with the trees and sky and hills and lakes. Meditation, being with friends, being quiet in solitude with yourself by the fire, preparing and eating a meal with love, alone or with others, being with a child, an animal, planting a seed deep in the earth, all these experiences water the seed within you.

That seed needs light, the light of awareness, understanding, seeing, the awareness that is relentlessly but lovingly honest, that is willing to confront and clarify the old patterns of pain that one carries, the awareness that observes these patterns and releases them into the light, patiently, over and over. The seed needs the light of love that accepts and embraces the pain as well as the possibility of transformation. That seed needs the light of love and attention, belief and trust that it exists. It needs listening. How do you hear the gentle glimmers of that seed beginning to grow and flower and become strong in you?

It needs the dark, retreat, solitude, a time to dream, withdraw. The desire to be always in the light, to eliminate the dark--such a desire ignores the nature of the seed, the requirements of growth. The dark is sorrow, pain and letting go. It is peace, rest, and possibility. It is the willingness to go into the unknown, to risk, to let go of old fear. In the dark there are no limitations, only vast space.

That seed needs good soil to grow in. That means you take care of your body, pay attention to what you eat, to your energy, to what the body tells you. Your body, like this earth, is the place where that seed of consciousness takes shape, grows and transforms.

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It sounds like a big order. People ask, how do I do this? How do I believe in this seed, care for it, let go of old patterns, change? How do I bring light and understanding to myself, to this world, how do I go into my dream, the darkness?

You find your ways.

You live your life.

You enter more deeply into yourself, the life you are living, the earth you dwell upon, the universe, the cosmos, you are a part of.

Each person finds his or her own way. There is no formula. There is each moment a gateway, opening into the past, the present, the future. Take a breath, feel yourself, your breath. Imagine a small seed present in your heart, containing you, that which you are in your deepest essence. Imagine it blossoming. Feel it. It's a little different from the star in the heart. It's quiet and deep. It doesn't always shine. It throbs gently with life and possibility. It is simply there.

You are the earth, the soil, you are the seed, you are the flower, you are the gardener, the sky, the rain, the day, the night, that which grows from deep in yourself, and that which tends and cultivates. Dry, rocky, eroded soil can be transformed, become rich and fertile, with the proper care and attention.

The process of growth and transformation is a great mystery. No one can say how it all works, why the stars move in the sky as they do, how a seed becomes a tree. The scientists have their own ideas; the mystics and teachers of all the religions have theirs, the ancient tribal traditions tell yet another story. What matters, perhaps, is simply to join in the great process of transformation that is the very nature of the universe, always in flux, always changing, always arising, always fading away. This is --you, now, in this moment, at the beginning of a new year, a new century, a new millennium. An ancient, timeless, unique story, full of possibilities, waiting to be re-told, re-imagined, re-lived.

May you and all beings be happy, peaceful and free of suffering.

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