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Cultivating My Inner Garden

Updated: Feb 16, 2022

The second Stockton Permaculture Meetup took place today, Sunday, February 13 -- the day before Valentine's Day -- at Hatch Workshop, in the garden that I am cultivating with the help of Elazar and volunteers such as Mars. We're reclaiming an area that is essentially old industrial wasteland. Now it's blossoming with ornamentals and (in raised beds with fresh soil) vegetables. I invited Santi Navila to make a presentation in this space. He is an artist and healer who travels widely. He pitched his topic to me as an essential step in practicing permaculture: cultivating our inner garden.

First of all, I want to say that Santi's presentation proved to me to be profound.

Yet ... I was irritated. And in this fact comes a lesson. Santi is a teacher of humble demeanor but fierce internal fire. With infinite wisdom and patience, he spoke softly yet clearly of matters of the body and soul, being and spirit. I understood precisely what he was saying, and agreed with his argument. Yet I was irritated, because I felt I already knew his lesson.

Who besides myself was I kidding?! My inner garden was a mess! It's been in much turmoil for a while, and only after Santi's presentation was over and everyone had dispersed and I was driving home did I reflect on this fact. Thus did I realize how poorly I've been cultivating my inner garden.

We had a nice turnout of people I greatly respect, and I'm sure each of us came away with expanded consciousness. As a good student, I of course reflect on what I learn. Santi made his point clearly and simply, with exercises in imagining, and I agree he gave us essential awareness for inner gardening (which in my Taoist qigong training we call cultivating chi).

This is what my inner garden looked like this morning: I was headachy and sleep deprived, and this has been going on for a while -- days, in fact -- which is a seasonal thing, because my sinuses act up annually and have done so from as far back as I can remember no matter where I've lived. Yet behind every symptom these days lies the fear of Covid-19, at least with me, even though I'm vaccinated to the teeth, have no underlying physical ailments, and wear my mask religiously in stores. I think Covid-19 fear spreads insidiously even among the most cautious of us, and it can be debilitating. Sometimes the worst symptom is the fear of what other people might be thinking.

That was one of the seeds I sowed.

When I arrived to help set up the garden patio space -- after picking up fruit juice and fresh fruit from the market for everyone -- Elazar and Santi were already well into the process of setting up tables and chairs. They had already set up a big computer screen for showing Santi's images.

As I was walking past him on some hurried errand, Santi casually asked me how I was doing, and I mouthed my all-too-common platitude, "oh, I'm doing great, thank you," and continued on my way. In other words, I had a chance to be honest with him; I neglected to be so. In my rush -- in my inability to get out of my harried mind -- I said something dishonest.

That was one of the seeds I sowed.

Today happened to be gloriously sunny, and as start time approached, it grew uncomfortably hot -- except in the shade, which was scarce. This made me fret, and so I set about finding a solution, which ended up being using one of the discarded billboards stored on site -- made of lightweight tent-like material -- tossed over the outdoor hanging light cords, creating a shade structure. After some finagling for clips and a ladder, we got it done and that gave me satisfaction, but then again it took a fair amount of time to re-arrange all the chairs and the screen. It worked out nicely, with folks able to grab some shade if need be. I sat in the sun, which actually helped my sinuses, so that part was good.

That was one of the seeds I sowed.

Soon it became evident that the screen would be hardly visible in the glare of the sunlight.Yet we were committed to being in the space because it is becoming an important center of culture and creativity at Hatch. So I fretted that using this technology in this setting wasn't working out. It was too late to attempt to re-arrange the situation. We had to proceed, yet I couldn't see his images, and I didn't speak up. Others did, and we attempted to better the situation, but for me, no positioning of the screen in the sun worked, so I missed part of what Santi was attempting to impart. I found my thoughts about this situation overshouting my thoughts about what he was saying. My skull was an echo chamber of negative thoughts.

That was one of the seeds I sowed.

Santi's soft voice wasn't reaching the farthest ears in our audience, maybe 15 feet away. Even I could barely hear him and I sat only a few feet from him. Much neighborhood noise including gunning cars and honking trains regularly penetrated our mindfulness. I fretted about this, wishing we had a P.A. system. Too late. No time now. Show must go on. This noise also rattled my brain.

That was one of the seeds I sowed.

I could easily gush too much about the people who showed up, people I know and admire and love for their great intelligence, creativity, and commitment to creating a better world. That is what permaculture is all about. I should be glowing for that fact, yet all-too-consuming was the thought, "they're going to see how poorly we prepared for this event." That noise overshouted Santi's presentation.

That was one of the seeds I sowed.

I actively listened. I made every attempt to actually hear what Santi was saying. But ... I couldn't stop thinking about how I wish I could see what was on the screen that was going along with his talk.

Sooooo many bad seeds sown by yours truly!

On the other hand, I played a leading role in manifesting the audience, all those great people who might never have come together in this way if not for my persistence.

Those were many good seeds I sowed.

All-in-all, perhaps good seeds and bad seeds balance out in my inner garden. I'm trying hard to nourish the soil and nurture all manner of species in the garden. And as for my fellow attendees, their contribution of good seeds vastly exceeded mine -- practically infinate in abundance!

So, Santi, I want you to know I hear you and love you.

You sowed lots of good seeds this day, my shepherd friend.

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