This is NOT a religious post.

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A couple of weeks ago, an Italian priest from Indonesia, Fr Donato, visited our simple church in Phuket to accompany his noviciate who will be entering the seminary in Phuket Town.  In his soft spoken voice, he spoke about gardening.

Fr Donato said that we are often too busy with the external fields that we forget to tend to the garden within us.

 

The external fields are of course our careers, achievements, social circle, our bank accounts, savings, and even our appearance, whilst the internal garden is the place we go to when we are on our own with our own thoughts. Are you able to sit alone with your own thoughts (what that grows in the garden of your mind) or do you seek your iPad and other distractions?

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On the long flight from Phuket to London yesterday, I read Edward Rutherford’s book, Russka. In the story, the wise monk Fr Luke asked the nobleman Igor (who is also a father and a warrior) not to spend so much time fasting and praying (“You fast too much”)

The old monk’s body had withered alarmingly – he was like a rotting leaves ready to return to the moist, dark earth – but his spirit was soaring.

Conversely, in real life, we often have grand fields to boast of and our gorgeous fields coveted by others, but what does someone find when he or she journeys deeper into us? And sometimes, the most glorious fields come with the darkest, most tangled garden of thorns where no sunshine could get in, from years of neglect and bitter seeds sown.  The owner doesn’t even come here….

And really, which is more important as we grow older? Because there will come a point when we are too old to care about our vast external fields but need a peaceful garden to sit in.

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7 ways to tend to your internal garden (i.e. clearing the weeds and thorns and letting light in):

  1. Meditate – try 9 minutes a day every night. After 30 days’ unbroken practice, you should see a difference;
  2.  Go to a public place of worship and be part of the service (it doesn’t have to be your own religion);
  3. Practice social silence for a day – speak only for essentials;
  4. Journaling – be committed to write your innermost thoughts down in a bedside journal;
  5. Go for long walks on your own;
  6. Spend a night under the stars on your own (even if it’s in your own backyard!)
  7. Give thanks for what you have in life to start bringing the light in.

Main photo: in my mother’s garden