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The Garden of Our Mind


We really do live in a time of instant gratification. We can go online and find almost anything we want in minutes or perhaps hours, and then with a click of a mouse, we can have it in our hot little hands within 24 to 48 hours. Or if we’re hungry? Pick up the phone and with a few taps we can have ready-to-eat food delivered to our front door within the hour, or we can have groceries delivered with the same immediacy and ease.


Did you know that the average attention span of a human has decreased from 12 seconds to 8.25 seconds in the last two decades? To put that in perspective: goldfish have an average attention span of 9 seconds, and the human attention span is shorter than that of a squirrel. The average attention span of someone listening to a presentation is 8 minutes. 


Those statistics and our current expectation of instant gratification led me to think, “no wonder our New Thought teachings can be so difficult for us to incorporate into our lives.”


What we teach is a process that takes time and consistent attention, just like tending a garden. 


Ernest Holmes, founder of Religious Science, now called Centers for Spiritual Living, wrote: “…the seed must be left in the creative soil of mind until it can mature. Plants must not be pulled up or interrupted in the process of their growth. They must be watered with hope, fertilized with expectancy and cultivated with enthusiasm, gratitude and joyous recognition.”


But this societal pull of instant gratification along with a short attention span can make us impatient when things do not happen as quickly as we like. We get discouraged, don’t we, when what we want doesn’t happen quickly enough. Doubts start to creep in. Our attention turns elsewhere.


This spiritual work can also be a bit uncomfortable at times, and that doesn’t help either.


But if we’re willing to stay the course, to relearn the value of patience and persistent effort over time, we truly can impact in a highly positive way the quality of life we can enjoy.


Several years ago I watched a documentary called the Biggest Little Farm that tells the story of a couple who decide to buy a 200 acre farm and try their hand at farming in harmony with nature. 


Under the surface - no pun intended - there is a deeper message for us.


The soil on the land they purchased was dead and infertile and so hard packed that they couldn’t get a shovel down into it to dig a hole or turn over the soil. 


This couple didn’t know how to bring life to the soil, and so they employed a mentor who did. This man was someone who could see the harmony in nature that was already present, all the time, in spite of appearances. 


This harmony was present back of the appearance of lifeless soil and dead and crumbling beehives and sick trees. It was vibrant in the knowingness of the mentor, in his vision, in his commitment to what he knew to be true.


This man shared his vision of what diversity could create on their 200 acres. His idea was to emulate how natural ecosystems work - he taught them that natural ecosystems regulate themselves through diversity. 


In short, there is a harmony already present in nature. The goal was to align their practices with the harmony already present until it was expressing fully on their land. 


In the beginning all they could see is what appeared to be was a lack of harmony. Animals and insects seemed to be working against them, killing their chickens, destroying their crops. Certain populations of animals and insects had nothing to keep their numbers in check and so they became, shall we say, bountiful. Coyotes moved in and began killing their chickens because they were easy prey. Gophers galore were munching happily on the roots of their newly planted trees, which was killing them, and starlings were decimating their stone fruit crop.


The coyotes appeared to be bad. The gophers appeared to be bad. The starlings appeared to be bad. They all appeared to be pests. It didn’t look like at all like this vision was manifesting the way they had been told it would.


Everything appeared to be, in all honesty, going in the wrong direction, but they continued to trust the vision. This trust opened the door to look at things differently, and suddenly, they saw the coyote as ally. They trained one of their sheep dogs to protect the chickens. Now that the chickens were no longer easy game, the coyotes turned their attention to the next easy meal - the gophers. And this small change began to bring the gopher population into harmony.


They built owl houses and as the harmony inherent in the increasing diversity continued to express more fully, more and more owls came and the starlings and the gophers became food for them and their growing families. 


As the various populations came into greater balance those animals which they had initially perceived as pests turned out to be allies in the emergence of this inherent harmony. Everything had its place, everything was beneficial if only they looked at it correctly and allowed that new seeing to guide their actions.


The same thing happened with insects. Because of the harmony inherent in nature, insect populations initially out of balance, were slowly brought into balance and harmony by the birds and then other insects who all began to find a home on the land.

Wildlife of all sorts began to flock to this Eden, and a beautiful, harmonious balance settled into place as each life found its place on the land.


Coyotes, gophers, snakes, owls, starlings, pigs, sheep, chickens, insects and a huge variety of crops along with all the zillions of micro-organisms in the soil, all supported each other in a jaw-dropping web of life.


It took seven years to restore harmony to that infertile land, and it took a dedicated, committed and single eyed group of people holding the vision, trusting the vision, and letting their actions be guided by that vision and allowing themselves to be guided to see things in new ways as they listened and paid attention.


And over the course of those seven years that dead lifeless hard packed soil gave birth to an intricate, complex interdependent, harmonious thriving ecological equilibrium, with everything working together in harmony. 


Seven years. 


“the seed must be left in the creative soil of mind until it can mature. Plants must not be pulled up or interrupted in the process of their growth. They must be watered with hope, fertilized with expectancy and cultivated with enthusiasm, gratitude and joyous recognition.”


This is tending the garden of our mind.


When we first begin to play with these New Thought ideas, when we first learn that our thoughts have power and that we can have a strong influence on our happiness and health, we get excited! It sounds almost too good to be true. We’re impatient and we want it now.


But just like The Big Little Farm, it’s a process. And we learn as we go. We understand what we’re doing better as we practice. We’re like children learning to ride a bike for the first time without the benefit of training wheels. We get on, we wobble, we fall. We get back up, we wobble we fall. 


And each time we get back on, we do a little bit better, until our bodies automatically know when to lean in which direction, what muscles will keep us upright, which actions to take depending on what the terrain does and how we know the bicycle will respond.


In the beginning we try to concentrate really hard. We try to force affirmations to work as though there was magic in the words we chose. We think that if only we try hard enough, say the right words, pray in just the right way, we can MAKE the law work.


Ernest Holmes wrote: “You do not hold the law in place, you hold your ideas in place.” This bears repeating because I think more often than we realize, this is what we’re trying to do: we are trying to make the law work. 


“You do not hold the law in place, you hold your ideas in place. This is your individual effort. Your concentration is not on the law, because that is already here, it is right where you are, it is within you as well as around you.


“This concentration is not coercion, but a good-natured flexibility with yourself, gradually eliminating doubt, fear, and uncertainty, and replacing them with certainty, assurance, recognition, and gratitude. This process is not so much a problem of will as it is one of willingness. The only role the will has is in a decision to keep thought poised long enough to permit the law to operate.”


Think about this in terms of what happened on The Big Little Farm. For seven years they held fast, with passion, to an idea of a farm that worked in harmony with nature. They didn’t try to force the law to work, the law was already there, working! 


As they held their ideas in place, and planted trees and crops, and brought in farm animals, they were guided to make changes that brought the farm into greater and greater alignment with their vision of diversity leading to harmony and slowly this vision began to emerge from the apparent chaos.


Likewise, our seeds of thought need to rest in consciousness long enough for the universal law to act upon them.


Sometimes when I’m wanting to plant a new thought it’s hard for me to get all the way there. A hard one for me initially was “I am abundant,” while I was looking a bare-bones checking account in the face. So I would say, “I am willing…” This I could believe.


I am willing to be abundant. I am willing to forgive. I am willing to be courageous. I am willing to be happy. I am willing to know that I am made of God substance. I am wiling to believe that I am not separate from the one Infinite Life.


Tending the garden of our minds is an ongoing process, and at some point, if we are consistent and persistent, we fall in love with the process.


Because just like that Big Little Farm, each discovery leads us to greater harmony, deeper joy, a more expansive love, and a profound and unshakeable peace. The journey itself then becomes that which excites us.

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