Having the name Eve is quite an archetype to manage all by itself. The name Eve coupled with running a garden sanctuary and nursery and being a relationship specialist becomes almost comical! But as spring approaches, let me share what I have learned about love and spiritual growth from hanging out in The Sacred Garden.
First, as Eve, I have taken the liberty of redefining “original sin.” I call it “blame.” Adam blamed Eve. Eve blamed the snake. It seems as if from the beginning of time, everyone wants to blame someone else for his or her reality and expects someone else to make the necessary changes. This is not only unpleasant but also ineffective. Years ago I heard a story of an old couple taking their daily walk through a public park. Each day they passed a rosebush in serious need of tending and care. Day after day, one or the other of them would say, “Someone ought to take care of that plant.” Then, one day they had an epiphany: “Hey, we are somebody!” They came back the next day with a watering can, fertilizer, and clippers and tended to the ailing rose bush.
Taking personal responsibility for the state of the “garden” is critical to our wellness. This is equally true in relationships. In virtually every case of a troubled relationship that I’ve encountered — as a coach or in my own life — one or both people place blame outside of themselves for their situation and thus look outside of themselves for the solution. This results in a common group membership in “Victims-R-Us.” This only works as a self-description when we are asleep to who we really are. When we know that we are made in the image and likeness of God and that we really are spiritually divine beings, “victim” just doesn’t fit our divine essence description.
Another lesson from the garden is that problems leave signs and symptoms. In the world of gardening, these might be discoloration — flagging bugs on the underside of a leaf or sagging leaves dying of thirst. When it comes to health, our own bodies speak the same language, sending us signs and symptoms — lumps, pains, and fatigue — in an attempt to wake us up to our self-care and awareness. In relationships, signs and symptoms are a lack of communication and lack of loving touch — or worse, unkind communication and touch with the intent to harm. Even unspoken negative thoughts sent toward ourselves or toward someone else are red flags that it is time for us to do something differently. They say the average married couple waits seven years after trouble begins to seek help. Seven years — or even seven days — without the proper tools or support is enough to make any relationship wilt and wither on the vine.
As a garden caretaker, it doesn’t matter if my taxes are due or if I need to go to town, the plants still need to be nurtured. The same is true in our bodies and our relationships. When our resources are taxed, our ability to solve problems, communicate clearly, and respond appropriately also is impaired. Simply put, we must pay attention to the signs and symptoms from our bodies and our loved ones, and take immediate action.
Here’s one of the hardest lessons from the garden: When a plant has symptoms, you can either remove the ill plant from the healthy ones to treat it, or remove the healthy ones from the ill one to rescue them. What you don’t want to do is leave the healthy ones and the ill one together, as, before you know it, all will be ill. In the translation from the garden to love, my compassionate heart wants to embrace those with a lack of skills, ill-tempers, and bad attitudes in an attempt to bring them into better balance and a state of wellness. To a certain point, that is a fine option, but if they aren’t actively working on self-healing, their attitudes and behaviors soon become contagious, infecting all around them, instead of the other way around.
Being sure that the healthy plants have a daily regimen designed to build their strength and resilience is also imperative. The same holds true in our personal and spiritual lives.
When we go on retreat to gain skills and perspective and have a daily spiritual practice that keeps us balanced, unwavering, and properly nourished, we will find our relationships also bloom and flourish. The bottom line: when the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, it is time to water your lawn.