“Both abundance and lack [of abundance] exist simultaneously in our lives, as parallel realities. It is always our conscious choice which secret garden we will tend … when we choose not to focus on what is missing from our lives but are grateful for the abundance that’s present—love, health, family, friends, work, the joys of nature, and personal pursuits that bring us [happiness]—the wasteland of illusion falls away and we experience heaven on earth.” – Sarah Ban Breathnach
Gardening is one of my favorite hobbies.
I suppose I’m drawn to it because its a great place for an introvert like me to hide—but I also feel like gardens offer a treasure trove of symbolic lessons about life.
For example, if we understand the laws of nature and how to care for plant life, we can create and cultivate gardens that are overflowing with an abundance of fruits, vegetables, and sweet-smelling flowers. In like manner, if we understand the laws of life, then we can use those laws to our advantage and create and cultivate a life that is overflowing with an abundance of life and purpose.
Earth-bound as we are, our lives seem to follow a pattern of growth that is similar to plants and trees; we move from the isolation of a seed (the self-centeredness of of childhood) to a veritable tree of life (an individual who lives and gives their life for their families and their communities). If our garden is well planted, we have food to share with others.
Comparing our lives to gardens doesn’t deny the fact that life is filled with toil, sweat, and pain, nor does it deny the fact that our lives are often subject to elements completely outside of our control (seasons of growth and abundance, seasons of death and decay, storms, disease, weather). But it also affirms the idea that you have the power to cultivate your life.
I have seen shriveled and weedy gardens in the humid Northwest and have marveled at lush, green gardens in the arid desert of the Southwest. I have seen countryfolk let acres of pristine land fall into disrepair and have seen city-dwellers build spectacular rooftop gardens.
Oftentimes, the richness within the gardens of our lives is less dependent upon what nature (or circumstance) does to it, and more dependent on we do it.
I think one of my favorite lessons I’ve learned from gardening is that all life is dependent upon the lives of others. Plants and gardens simply don’t exist on their own, they require the shared elements of life. No plant can live for itself—it lives because of others and it lives to give life to others.
In a similar way, our lives are not purely for our own will and pleasure. We live because of others and we live to give to others. When we deviate from that and try to live life purely for ourselves, our world withers and our relationships rot. To live for ourselves is to live like a cancer; always taking life but never giving it to others.
Consider this: the saddest and most difficult times in our lives are the times when human connections are damaged or lost. We often feel depressed when we are misunderstood, hurt, or separated from others. During these times of loneliness, we may feel as though we are experiencing a winter in our souls.
On the other hand, the summers in our lives are the joyful times we share with others. People—with all of the richness and uniqueness of their own lives—are what make our lives vibrant and full. Because our joy in life is inextricably connected to the degree in which we love and embrace others.