Motivational Maps and Axioms
Very Good or Perfect?

Quiet Gardens and our Life

I have long thought that it would be a good idea to teach young and old people through metaphors, then at least they might understand something and be in a position to act on that understanding. Instead of which we barrage people with facts and figures and often useless data masquerading as educational material. Also, when we try to discern what is our life and what should we do about it, we are inevitably confused by the barrage of materialism around us, and the lack of any model that stand for much.

The other day attended a quiet garden near the centre of Bournemouth. The whole point of the day was to experience the garden and silence, but before that kicked off a facilitator gave us some questions to contemplate – if we wanted to. Questions like ‘Imagine your life as a garden … How would you describe it?’ So simple, isn’t it? But so profound.

It was James Allen in As a Man Thinketh who observed that our mind is like a garden. Then he went on to profoundly comment that we needed to cultivate flowers in it. A primary school child could understand that – how are you going to cultivate flowers in your life? And what else are you going to grow? The thing is, as Allen noted, that if we don’t cultivate flowers the weeds grow anyway! Yes, as all religions seem to have realized, there’s always a fly in the honey or always poop in paradise. The weeds grow anyway. Again, any primary school child can understand that: what are the weeds in your life that need removing or pruning?

Of course it is the essence of the spiritual life to remove weeds; or better, the essence to transform the garden. Removing the weeds is an endless and thankless task, and by works no-one is justified. Rather, the spiritual life requires that we embrace the weeds because we understand with deepest insight that they are healing herbs. That, for example, dandelions promote and protect the liver; and that all that God created without beauty, God may have imbued with power, health and healing.

What is your garden like? Like a desert, someone cries. And the beauty of the desert is that somewhere hidden in it lies a well. There is water in the most desolate places. Like a dark, impenetrable forest, another shouts. Lost? May be, but to the spiritual vision the forest knows where you are, for all things are connected. As the Bhuddist sage Nagarjuna puts it: "Things derive their being and nature by mutual dependence and are nothing in themselves".

This, surely, is what education should be about – the connectedness of everything, and it is that which makes metaphor possible: the imagination sees how two dissimilar things, notions, concepts are in reality linked by an inner logic or meaning.

Let’s start with our own garden: what does yours look like? What do you want it to look like?




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