Most of us pay far more attention to our outer lives than we do to our inner lives, taking care of all the day to day activities that make our outer world go ‘round.
Meanwhile, our inner world is growing wild and out of control in some areas and wilting from neglect in other areas.
As in a literal garden, unless we're present, paying attention, and pro-actively taking action, the weeds will out-compete the things we want to grow in there.
Our fears, disappointments, doubts, regrets, and old ingrained patterns—the “weeds”—compete for available resources with the things we’re hopeful, excited, purposeful or passionate about – the useful and beautiful things we want to grow in our inner gardens.
The seasons - a framework for tending to our inner gardens
Luckily, there is a guiding framework for tending to our inner gardens. It’s the same framework we use for tending to our literal veggie patches: the seasons.
The energies of the seasons are the energies of the cycle of life: birth/emergence, growth, full bloom, harvest, decay, death/dormancy, and rebirth.
With the seasons as our guide, we know that spring time is for new beginnings, summer is for tending and guiding the rampant growth, autumn is for harvesting, pruning, and composting, and winter is for resting, integrating the lessons we learned in our previous efforts, and choosing what seeds we want to plant when spring comes again.
The same principles apply in our inner world.
The “seeds” of spring are the intentions you set. The visioning you do, the creative work of choosing how you want to design and orchestrate your inner life.
The focus of summer is judging where to concentrate your efforts so that you can give time and energy to the beautiful, useful things you are growing, rather than letting the “weeds” take over all the resources.
In autumn you gather the "harvest," tidy up, prune and cut back, and put what's no longer needed into the compost.
And in winter you rest and reflect, to integrate the lessons of the previous seasons and so be a little wiser when spring brings new opportunities for fresh starts.
Serious gardeners wouldn't dream of neglecting this seasonal work in a physical garden, but have you thought about how your inner garden needs just the same care and tending?
One way to tend your inner garden is with a journaling or free-writing practice that you align with the seasons (there'll be lots more on this, below). And you can think of the seasons as phases in the cycle of life.
Micro and macro expressions of the cycle of life
Gardeners know that the life cycle expresses itself everywhere, all the time, zoomed in and zoomed out, endlessly repeating in micro and macro forms.
We find it in the short life cycle of an insect: emerging, growing, blooming, leaving fertile eggs, declining and dying all within a few days.
It's also there in the waxing and waning energies of the 24 hour diurnal cycle, in menstrual cycles, in the lunar cycle, in the solar cycle (the solar cycle is the annual round of the seasons, which take 13 lunar cycles to complete), and it's there in the relatively long life cycle of human beings, repeating down the generations.
(There are even larger manifestations of the cycle, too, which astrologers and philosophers know about, but I’m only vaguely aware of them so I wont try to describe them here.)
In the next section I'll touch briefly on the topic of "weeds," then in the rest of this article I'll concentrate mainly on how you can align your journaling practice with the seasons of the year (the solar cycle) and with the lunar cycle.
When weeds crop up
One of the things that happens when you dedicate yourself to any kind of introspective journaling practice is that you get to look at your problems--the weeds in your inner garden--from different angles.
If you're a student of Permaculture or any other method/s of regenerative gardening or farming, you know that weeds are actually allies in disguise. They come to heal the soil and to support resilience and biodiversity in our systems. The trick is learning how to work with them rather than struggling against them.
The same principle applies to the "weeds" in our inner gardens. Our problems, I believe without exception, hold gifts for us.
The reason we so rarely get glimpses of those gifts is because we usually try to shoot the messenger rather than paying attention to what it has to say.
So when you see "weeds" growing in your inner garden don't be so hard on yourself, or on the weeds.
In your outside garden, you probably ask yourself why the weeds are here, why these particular weeds, what they might be indicating. You can do the same for your inner garden, by asking questions like these in your journal:
What imbalances have these weeds come to put right? What "gifts" are they offering or indicating?
What deficiencies are these weeds indicating to me? Do I need to nourish myself more, or differently? In what ways?
With that said, let's get onto some specific ideas for how to tend your inner garden using a season-based journal.
Keeping a season-based journal for tending your inner garden
When you choose a cycle to align your journaling with, you need a cycle whose time frame is easy to work with -- not too short and not too long.
The solar cycle takes a year and could be as small a commitment as sitting down at the beginning of each season, and perhaps midway through the season, to do a journaling practice aligning with the energies of that season.
(As I wrote in this post, not all places and cultures mark "four seasons." But the archetypal energies of birth, growth and expansion, full bloom, contraction, death, decay, and re-growth are universal. Referring to them as spring, summer, autumn and winter gives us a useful handle with which to get a grasp on them.)
Let's begin with the season of Spring.
Spring, and the Spring Equinox
Around the beginning of spring, everything in nature is brimming with the energy of new beginnings. In your inner garden journal, you can ask and answer questions like,
What are my intentions (what new “seeds” do I want to plant) for my inner garden? What new beginnings do I want to make in my life?
A few days ago in the Southern Hemisphere (September 23rd) we marked the Spring Equinox. This is the mid-point of spring, one of two moments in the solar year when the daylight hours are equal to the hours of darkness.
Jane Hardwicke Collings teaches that this moment of balance between light and dark is a good time to invite balance into our lives by contemplating the growth that has taken hold in your life and asking questions like these:
What do I see growing in my life?
Are the "seeds" I planted beginning to grow, do I see glimpses of them emerging in my life? (If you planted new intentions at the beginning of spring.)
Do I want to add “fertilizer,” to help this growth along? What actions or choices could I make to support this growth?
Or (if I see “weeds” growing in my life) am I "fertilizing and watering" the wrong things? What adjustments do I need to make?
During summer, when you can hardly keep up with all the watering, weeding, mulching, you can ask questions like,
Am I using my resources (time, attention) wisely in my inner garden?
How am I doing in upholding the intention/s I set, or tending to the seeds I planted, at the beginning of spring?
The summer solstice (the middle of summer, around December 21st in the Southern Hemisphere and June 21st in the Northern Hemisphere) is the moment in the solar cycle when the days are longest and the nights shortest. In the glaring light, all is revealed. You can ask,
What do I see coming to full bloom in my life?
What are the results of the choices I made and the actions (or in-actions) I took during the spring and early summer?
Do I see anything growing in my life that is the cumulative result of many growing seasons that have gone before?
Autumn, and the Autumn Equinox
Autumn is the season of harvest, reckoning, and then decline. You could ask,
What am I "harvesting?"
What results do I see; what grew from the seeds I planted at the beginning of spring and tended all through the spring and the summer?
What good things do I see in my harvest basket, things I can be grateful for?
What difficult or uncomfortable things do I find amongst the harvest? Do I see old, no-longer-useful ways of being and doing that need to be broken down and composted?
How might I turn the “weeds” (lessons, insights, realizations) from the previous seasons of growth, into fertility (wisdom, perspective, increased inner resilience) for next spring?
If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, you have just marked the Autumn Equinox on September 23rd, the mirror opposite of the Spring Equinox in the Southern Hemisphere.
This is the mid-point of Autumn, and it’s the other moment in the solar year when the daylight hours are equal to the hours of darkness.
Jane Hardwicke Collings teaches that this moment of balance between light and dark is a good time to invite balance into our lives by contemplating what you need to let go of, what you need to prune away or put on the compost heap.
In the winter, you get to rest. Winter invites you to sink down, down, down. Into the deep, dark stillness. Into the earth. Into the dormancy and potentiality that lies between the ending of one cycle and the beginning of the next.
In winter, you can ask questions like these:
What do I want to let go of now, so that I don't take it into the next cycle with me?
What do I envision for the next round of seasons in my life? What kind of seeds will I plant, when spring comes again?
The lunar cycle
The lunar expression of the cycle of life takes around 29 days, rather than a full year. So if you choose to track the lunar cycle and use it to prompt your inner gardening practices, the opportunities for growth, learning, consolidating and then taking a fresh start come around more quickly.
The dark moon and the new moon
September 26th marked what modern astrology calls a New Moon – the moment when the moon passes between the earth and sun so that no light reflects from it to the earth.
Older systems of astrology name this the Dark Moon, and recognize its energy as still, dormant, but full of potential – some of the same qualities we recognize in the deep, dark, quietness of mid-winter.
In the days after the Dark Moon, if you're looking into the morning sky before the rising sun obscures it, you may glimpse the first thin sliver of moon reappearing in the morning sky.
This can be more appropriately called the New Moon, and its energy, like the very beginning of spring, is the energy of germination/birth. Delicate, vulnerable new beginnings are stirring.
Same cycle, same energies, zoomed in or out
Journaling by the phases of the moon is very similar to journaling by the seasons of the year.
The new moon and the waxing phases are the ending of winter, the spring, and the early summer of the lunar cycle.
The full moon is equivalent to the Summer Solstice.
The waning phases of the moon are to equivalent late summer, autumn, and early winter, and the dark moon equates to the Winter Solstice.
Same cycle, same energies. Just zoomed in a little closer.
You may choose to pay attention to several cycles to guide your inner gardening practices, for example the seasons of the year and the phases of the moon.
If you do that, you'll find that sometimes the same seasons of the different cycles overlay each other. Other times, they line up across from each other. Cosmic energies expressing sometimes opposite each other, sometimes together, always changing, never static, in the endless dance of earth, sun, moon, and your own inner garden.
Your "seed bank," and new beginnings every spring
Not all seeds germinate in their first spring. Gardeners and farmers talk about a "seed bank," the accumulated seeds from seasons past, waiting for just the right conditions to bring them to life. Some seeds lie waiting for years, and some for lifetimes, before they germinate. And some types of seed are so very prolific that there are thousands of them in the seed bank at any given time.
There is a seed bank in the soil of your inner garden, too. All the seeds that have fallen in all the autumn seasons of your life are there, and all the seeds your ancestors let fall, and perhaps also many newer seeds from more recent cycles since you started paying more attention.
In the Southern Hemisphere right now, two cycles are aligning in their spring seasons. We're a few days on from the Spring Equinox and we're experiencing a New Moon.
(If you're a menstruating woman in the first few days or week of your menstrual cycle, you get a triple whammy: three spring seasons are aligning in your life.)
During the season of spring in any expression of the cycle of life, and especially when two or more spring seasons line up together, whatever you are doing and thinking is in effect germinating new “seeds” from the seed bank in the soil of your inner garden.
Ideas, ways, habits, patterns, interpretations – all have moved through the deep, dark, still winter portal of potentiality and are now stirring with newness.
The newness may express itself as a repeat of previous patterns – well established things that keep popping up in your life over and over again. Or it may express in ways that you choose deliberately, by making careful choices about the seeds you activate.
As early spring ripens toward summer, the newly germinated “seeds,” establish themselves more strongly. If you bring them to fruition, they in turn will drop seeds that will wait dormant through the winter and may then germinate next spring, gifting their promise and their teachings to the inner garden of your life.
Can you begin to see the power you have to influence the way your life will unfold? You, and only you, are in charge of how your inner garden is cared for, or even if it's cared for.
You get to influence what seeds will germinate in your own inner garden, what you will nurture through the growing season, what you will discard in the fall, and what you will hold onto during the dormant winter, to carry on into the following spring.
As within, so without
It's never too late to bring conscious awareness to your inner garden and to begin to tend it just as you would any other garden.
We have very little control over what happens in our outer worlds, but our inner gardens are ours to tend.
In here, if we approach the task with sincere dedication, we can develop the capacity to grow truly beautiful, productive, useful gardens.
As within, so without. The attitude of uncaring neglect we so often see in our other world, toward each other, toward other life-forms, and toward our only Earth, is a mirror. It reflects to us how our culture has taught us to treat our internal selves.
Repairing the damage we see in the world outside ourselves, paradoxically, begins as an inside job.
Mother Nature's healing touch
One last tip is this: remember that you are working with your inner garden here.
It may not respond at all to material things like changes in diet or schedules or working harder at something. It may respond much more to something as simple and subtle as a softening and opening in your attitude towards it.
If you're trying to make inner shifts, or to shift problems in your life that feel stuck and perhaps have been there for a long time, be gentle. Make space for a sense of possibility, rather than hardening and trying to force things.
Welcome your "weeds;" ask them what gifts they bring. Don't shoot the messenger.
Let the tears flow, if they need to, while you're doing this inner work. As you tend to the garden of you with gentleness and compassion, letting emotions move through you as water moves through soil, you're bringing Mother Nature's healing touch into your innermost self.
Invite Mother Nature in, through the portal of the seasons. Let her help. She's been waiting to be asked. And as she helps you heal your inner garden, you'll be empowered to work more effectively in the gardens of your outer life.
References and resources
None of what I wrote above originated with me. Here are a few of the sources I can think of to share with you right now. There are many more.
May this starting point lead you on towards exactly the right teachers for you. And don't forget the best teacher of all: Mother Nature, who speaks directly to you through your own inner guidance.
Equinoxes and Solstices:
- Jane Hardwicke Collings "Ostara: Spring Equinox", "Mabon: Autumn Equinox", "Winter Solstice, "Summer Solstice"
Lunar phases (the cycle of the moon):
- Jane Hardwicke Collings "Moon Phases and Corresponding Energy"
- The Moon School "Mysteries and Meaning of the Dark Moon Lunar Phase"
- The Moon School "Spiritual Meaning of the New Moon Phase"
Resources for women:
- Jane Hardwicke Collings "Spinning Wheels", a tool for women to track your inner and outer cycles and see how they all influence you at any given point in time.
- Jane Hardwicke Collings "Spiritual Practice of Menstruation," an eye-opening article if you have never thought of your cycle, your "inner seasons" as anything other than a nuiscance. Give it to your male partner to read, too, and your sons and daughter as they come of age. Everyone needs to know this information.
- Jane Hardwicke Collings Blood Rites – The Spiritual Practice of Menstruation, a book. If you're ready for more after reading the article above, this is a deep dive.
- Alexandra Pope The Woman's Quest Workbook. A 13 moon cyclical awareness course. I absolutely loved it.
- Alexandra Pope and Sjanie Hugo Wurlitzer"Menstrual Cycle Awareness"
- Alexandra Pope and Sjanie Hugo Wurlitzer Wild Power. A deeply empowering read for spiritually-minded women who want to align more truly with their inner seasons and reap the rewards on offer.
Please scroll down below the Endnotes and share your responses to this article -- thank you!
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