Read an Excerpt
There Is A GardenImagine your life. Imagine your life, not as it is now and not how it used to be, but imagine your life the way love songs, fairy tales, and bedtime stories told you it was going to be. Imagine waking up one fine morning from a soft bed into luminous sunlight, beginning each day feeling warm, well fed, well loved and well cared for. Imagine moving effortlessly through your day, surrounded by the people you love, working at a job that brings you a sense of such joy and accomplishment that you love being in service to others. Imagine returning home at the end of your lovely day to a beautiful warm house filled with the smiling faces of those you truly love, where there are good things to eat and evenings are spent by a glorious fire, laughing with careless abandon. Imagine drifting outside and walking under a star-filled sky where fireflies dance in the warm breeze. Imagine walking in a beautiful garden-just over a hill of constant torment, past the rocks of hurt and anger, over the brook of constant worry, past the weeds of intolerance and hatred, to a place of such perfect peace that even the ground feels soft and receptive beneath your feet. The fire of true love can be rekindled there by a carpet of heather, and reconciliation with the past can happen in an open field of understanding, lit by a golden sun of forgiveness. Turmoil and anguish disappear under a shady tree. Trouble never lived here and peace will never leave. No one ever grows old, no one ever becomes ill, and no one ever dies. Welcome to the world of the hereafter-welcome to the Garden of Souls.
There is a Garden of Souls. It is not only a real and vibrant place, but it is also closer than we can imagine. It is where we once lived, and it is also where we will return. It is a place we will see again only after our lifetime of struggle, hardship and hurt has earned us the reward of true and final peace. The Garden waits for all of us who have the courage to travel the bumpy and crooked roads of the earth until they eventually broaden, smooth out, and lead us there. It is a place of unusual beauty and peace, where the love and understanding that somehow eluded us on the earth can be found as abundant as the oxygen we breathe. It is a place where not only our loved ones who have passed on live and grow, but also a place where our lost hopes and dreams will be absorbed and recycled, after having been tossed by cruel circumstance from the earth. Even though we have no conscious recollection of it now, we were once born of this world and we understood it well. Even though we may not feel it now, we were once children in the Garden of Souls with hearts filled with love and peace. But living on the earth, we have become so easily disarmed by the circumstances of life here and the struggles we have to endure, that our disappointment and despair have eroded the memory of that place and diminished in our hearts the wonderful light from the Garden. The longer we live on the earth, the more life circumstances drain the reserves of the peace and love we had before our journey here began. We live on, we get older, we experience pain, we endure tragedy-our hearts harden, our peace disappears, and our souls no longer remember why we are here. We forget that we are on the earth to learn strength in our adversity, to learn peace in our struggle, to learn joy in our sorrow-to learn. This is the understanding that leads us to knowledge, and our knowledge that leads us back to the Garden-back to our home.
We are all human, and in our humanness we tend to regard any trouble that comes our way as a personal attack against us-against our happiness. We work and work, trying to be the people we think will win us a place in the hereafter, but our work is done more out of fear rather than actual understanding of why we must face struggle. Life tears on, we watch loved ones, opportunities, and happiness slip like sand through our fingers, and we become disillusioned-we begin wandering aimlessly through perhaps the most important learning experiences of our lives.
Our fall from our purpose here has not escaped the notice of the souls in the hereafter, who by their very caring nature are concerned for our spiritual lives. They know very well that the difficulties we endure while we are on the earth-and how we cope with and overcome them-will be perhaps the toughest test of our faith and spirit. They also know that these trials are a necessary part of our lives in order to fulfill the goals we had set for ourselves when we last left the Garden. The souls know and they understand, because they themselves were once part of the challenge of life on earth. They remember from their own experiences here that hope, understanding, and acceptance are lessons that may take a lifetime to learn. Now that they have entered the Garden, and their struggles have paid off so handsomely, they want to help us keep to our purpose here, so that we can share in the reward of returning to the Garden when it is our time to return.
IN A GARDEN PAST
We were once a much more spiritual planet. A few thousand years ago, we understood and accepted without question that we were governed by a power much greater than our own. Our lives were spent in service to that power with the promise of greater things to come. We understood that we could tap into that power when it was needed to survive, and we gave back to that same power from our own abundance when fate richly rewarded us. In a garden not so long ago, we recognized that each of us had this power of the Infinite Light within us, and we spent our time on the earth living and working to be considered worthy of such a precious gift. It was also an extraordinary time when we could acknowledge that prophets walked among us on the earth-Christ, Buddha, Joan of Arc, Mohammed, and countless others-who were so pure of spiritual purpose that the light of the Garden of Souls flickered in their eyes. But then something odd happened. In all our education, we had gotten too wise for our own good. As in the biblical story of Adam and Eve, we gained in knowledge, only to lose heavily in the purity of our souls. The world became much smaller when viewed from an airplane, and the heavens that once produced such awe in us were now being surveyed regularly with satellites. The mysticism of the spiritual things we held precious on the earth were now being explained and discounted wholesale by science and technology. We concluded in those fateful years that perhaps God did not live in the heavens, and perhaps did not even reside near the earth. We had checked and tested and searched, and God was nowhere to be found.
The many years that followed were perhaps the darkest for our spirituality on the earth. Like so many insignificant rulers throughout history, we decided as a people that we were God, and life was all about us. Our existence on earth, flawed and damaged though it was, became our heaven, and the only reward for a life well spent was a life well spent. Those who were less than us, or weaker, or slower, were discarded. If tragedy found us, we were eliminated from the minds and hearts of others and forgotten. Like spoiled children, we threw away the things we could not easily understand, and embraced anything that would distract us from the discomfort of hopelessness. For a long time afterward, belief in any spirituality seemed silly and small-minded, and we cast ourselves adrift in a sea of self-gratification and lack of accountability. Things were easier that way, and it felt better-no more having to worry about anyone else but ourselves, no reason to love and no reason to care. We could only create, at best, a makeshift reward of contentedness from our folly of self-indulgence. Like all unearned rewards, it was garish and hollow, and we found our only prize for this futile work to be a well-fed mind in a starved soul.
How patient the Infinite Light is with us. We had fallen so far from our purpose, and life had become unworthy of living. All our technology and miracles of science could not feed the hungry, or clothe the poor, or bring any sense of peace to our hearts. We were spiritually bankrupt in a world that had become more violent by the day, and more than once in our history were we in real danger of actually ceasing to exist. But the souls, who sent signals to us in earnest, only to watch them fall unheard and unnoticed, had never left us. They knew that with every blight comes a correction, and eventually, the pendulum that swung so far to one direction would eventually come back the other way.
In my more than forty years of listening to the souls in the hereafter and their incredible words of hope to their love ones here, I have found that the souls are patient to a fault. They know it must be our idea to listen to them, and they are willing to wait until their message of hope begins taking root in our hearts. The message of these kind and loving souls is as simple as this: we, each of us, must create a Garden on the earth while we are here.
IN A GARDEN PRESENT
We are living at the dawn of the most spiritual age the earth has seen. In my own lifetime I have noticed significant changes to people everywhere, in both heart and mind. Some of the seeds from the Garden have fallen in our path, and we are beginning to allow them to take root within us. Whether it is because we want to or because we have to, we are changing, and reckoning with the possibility that there may very well be a happy ending to the story of our life on earth. Whether or not we had intended it to be this way is of no consequence-we now have nowhere else left to walk but forward, toward the light of hope. How pleased the souls must be-they have been watching us from a distant garden, and know we are beginning to listen with our hearts and not with our pride. Ideas in religion, belief in life hereafter, and firsthand accounts from people who have seen the Garden of Souls with their own eyes are not laughed at or ridiculed as they were as little as twenty-five years ago. More people want to believe than scoff, and it has been estimated that now nearly one third of the population of this planet believes without question in the existence of life hereafter. This must be very good news for the souls there-to be considered to actually exist.
Never in any time in my life have I seen such a strong need for spiritual fulfillment as in the past few years. Maybe we have lost the arrogance that tells us we are the center of the universe, or maybe it is the admission that surviving without hope and peace is not surviving at all. I believe that more of us have begun unplugging our ears, and have actually heard the souls and realize their willingness to help us to understand. Our goal here is a simple one: we have come here with our fear, with our shortcomings, with our impatience and with our intolerance, to learn how to create a Garden on the earth. We have foolishly burned our field and gone hungry more than once before in the history of humankind, but now we are taking the slow steps of learning how to cultivate a garden that will feed our spiritual needs as well as the needs of others on the earth. The Infinite Light's hope for us is that we can look past the failings of our lives and the lives of those around us, and use our experiences to fill a garden with the only tools we will ever need-love and hope.
Life here is not like the well-ordered garden of souls in the hereafter, and for very good reason. In the world of the hereafter, the diseases of the soul, like hate, violence, lack of compassion, and hopelessness, do not exist. There is no need for the souls to experience these things, since they have learned well from their own struggles during their life on earth. But just as it was for the souls of friends and loved ones before us, our graduation from this world to the next will be the cure our souls so desperately need. While we are here, we will be inundated with opportunities to do wrong so that we can learn what is right.
The souls have constantly told me in one way or another, "If you knew the answers, it wouldn't be a test. Learn to listen to the voices all around you, especially the one in your heart." There are signs all around us which point the direction to where we must walk. Human nature is such that unless a sign slaps us squarely in the face, it is very easily missed. It is up to us to find the signs that will create the map that is to be our journey on the earth. Sometimes signs come in the form of kindness from strangers, and sometimes in the cruelty of those we know well. But these necessary experiences shape us into the people we must be for ourselves and for one another. What we do while we are on the earth-who we are and how we handle ourselves in the experiences we find ourselves in-measures what we are to gain from having lived life here. The souls are communicating to us in a way they have never done before.
Perhaps it is because they know we are beginning to listen. They have begun using the image of a garden to help us understand that achieving our goals here will take constant care and tending in order to produce a great and lasting beauty. They call their world the Garden of Souls because even in the hereafter, the souls still grow in wisdom and spirituality for their own good, and for the good of those they care for on the earth. Although their garden is free of the trials and troubles that plague the earth, their garden grows even greater by helping us to plant a garden of our own on the earth. As the souls help us with our garden, they see the fruits of their labor in the peace and hope that blooms on the earth. It brings the souls joy without measure to help us to help ourselves create a garden of peace and understanding on the earth.
Think of your life. Think of your life, not as you thought it would be, but think of your life the way you live it now. Think of the love that has been buried under piles of broken trust. Think of the impatience you show to people who appear weaker, or slower, or poorer, or less fortunate. Think of the struggles that have crafted the hard shell of fear that you live within. Think of the tragedies you have endured that bring you to your hands and knees, searching for hope that has fallen from your heart and has been scattered by an unsympathetic wind. We need more than ever to listen to the messages of hope that are so freely given by the Infinite Light and the souls in the hereafter, who want so much for us to understand how beautiful their garden is. They want so much to show us how beautiful our garden can be. They want so much to help us sow the seeds of peace and hope on the earth so that each of us can have a garden of our own. They know it is possible, and they know from their own experiences on the earth that it will require work. But they know that the result will be a garden beyond our wildest imagination.
IN A GARDEN TO COME
Part of the continual spiritual growth of the souls in the Garden is in watching over us on the earth. They will try their best to help us help ourselves, by showing us the signs we need to navigate the course we are on. The souls understand that everything we will experience in our lifetime is another brick in the path that takes us to a garden of peace, but we have to walk that road with only our faith in ourselves, our lives, and the Infinite Light as our guide. The souls know it is the hardest thing we will ever do on the earth-to walk ahead without clear rules-but they know from their own experience what things may come if we can only hold on to our hope that their is a Garden just ahead of us.
They also know that for all the guidance they try to give us from that unique vantage point, they can only bring us to the river of understanding and peace, but they cannot make us drink from it. What we make of our lifetime here will be entirely up to us. Still, undaunted, they will tirelessly shower the earth with seeds of hope from the Garden, in the form of their messages and whisperings to us on the earth. They know that in time, one day, one by one, each of us will open that hard shell of fear just enough to let their words of hope find their way to our ears. Listen carefully, the souls have told us-there is a Garden.
The ultimate path to the Infinite Light runs directly through our own garden of hope. Life on the earth is more a voyage of self-discovery than it is a discovery of people and things around us. The more we learn about ourselves, the more we understand the world around us. The more things we live through, the more we can decipher our own motivations here and effect change in ourselves and those around us. That having been said, it is also possible that we might never fully understand the complexities of our purpose here-the things that we must do and the things that we must be for each other-but I have been made certain by the souls and their messages that there is a purpose so compelling that it is worth every second of our attention. While we are here, we will create so many of the struggles we endure, but they do have a meaning and a purpose-it will be up to us to recognize it. It is easy to look backward from the circumstances in our lives to understand the method to the madness that made us who we must be while we are here. The real trick, of course, is to look ahead with the same kind of understanding and plot the future of our learning experiences, having remembered the pain of the past, yet all the while still clinging to the hope of better things to come.
I imagine that each one of us, in time, will experience a moment of clarity when everything that has circled around us misunderstood lands finally in a perfect field of reason in our hearts. We will understand why it is so important to live while we are on the earth. It is at the souls' insistence that we write this book-they need their message to be heard, and not just by me and some fortunate families who have heard these messages directly from their loved ones. The souls know that it is time that we come to the realization that we must begin our garden while we can-time is moving and the seasons are becoming shorter. What we cultivate in the winter of our lives on the earth will burst forth in the spring of our understanding. We are capable of creating a garden on earth, if we are willing to work at it.
Imagine your life. Imagine your life, not as it is now and not how it was, but imagine your life the way the souls promise it can be if we can take just one more leap of faith and trust what the souls are tying to tell each of us. We can all hear them if we listen, even if some can hear them better than others. Some who are filled with the deafening noise of anger and hurt will have to strain to hear. Others will have to listen past the low drone of inner turmoil, but the souls will be heard. Allow their words to help you build a garden on the earth. It is why we are here. Work done in the garden of your own soul can produce such abundance that it will carry over to others, into your life, and into your life hereafter. Our mission on the earth is simple-to leave behind a garden of our own making on the earth, before we return and find ourselves walking once again with those we love in the magnificent Garden of Souls.
From Walking in the Garden of Souls by George Anderson and Andrew Barone, Copyright (c) September 2001, Putnam Pub Group, a division of Penguin Putnam Inc., used by permission.