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Inner Gardening: The Tao Of Personal Renewal

Inner Gardening: The Tao Of Personal Renewal

by Diane Dreher

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Whether you're a first-time gardener or a veteran, you'll find something to inspire you in this beautifully written book that reveals the myriad ways in which working in a garden can enhance your life and deepen your connection to the world.

Season by season, Diane Dreher leads you through a journey of peace and renewal. A monthly set of gardening tasks helps


Whether you're a first-time gardener or a veteran, you'll find something to inspire you in this beautifully written book that reveals the myriad ways in which working in a garden can enhance your life and deepen your connection to the world.

Season by season, Diane Dreher leads you through a journey of peace and renewal. A monthly set of gardening tasks helps you plan, design, and care for your garden, along with illuminating details of gardening history, lore, and tradition. But here you'll also find ways to tend your own inner garden: how to plant seeds of ideas and dreams, weed out bad habits, and design new challenges one step at a time.

Brimming with life-enhancing strategies and filled with words of wisdom that will invigorate your spirit, Inner Gardening is a book to treasure and use every day, indoors and out.

Editorial Reviews

Gay Hendricks
If you want to feel the magic of gardening, and discover a new path to your own garden within, read this beautiful book.
Jerry Lynch
It's a beautiful, clear book that shows how the simplest acts of pruning,cultivation, harvesting, and renewal can be used for ...
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In this resolutely optimistic, self-help-meets-how-to manual, Dreher, author of The Tao of Inner Peace and professor of Renaissance literature at Santa Clara University, offers a month-by-month guide to gardening as a spiritual pursuit, in which hands-on garden advice provides the grist for a metaphor-driven, checklist approach to "inner" growth and cultivation. (Notes on weeding the flowerbed meander into prescriptive musings on "weeding" the "unwelcome intruders" and "unproductive activities" from one's life.) Dreher neglects the ways in which gardening can itself be trying requiring the gardener to stare down rot and death on a daily basis, placing physical strain on body, wallet and even land. More irritatingly, she takes a finger-wagging tone toward much of contemporary culture and offers wistful (and ahistorical) glances at the medieval and early modern world, which she idealizes as having allowed the "natural" and "simple" to flourish. Still, this book offers some delights: a cache of agreeable quotations, charming historical and literary anecdotes (Adam's naming of plants in Milton's Paradise Lost), useful instructions on such tasks as double-digging and tips on how to make a compost heap more productive (toss in a box of energetic earthworms). More successful on the firm terrain of practical counsel for the gardener and as a pastiche of garden trivia, this book falters when striving to offer guidance on self-transformation. (June) Forecast: Dreher's Tao of Inner Peace sold more than 150,000 copies in trade paperback; this one has the potential to reach those readers as well as those who are seeking to cultivate their gardens as well as their souls. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

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HarperCollins Publishers
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Chapter One

Welcome to Inner Gardening, a book about growth and cultivation on many levels. Whether you're a new gardener thinking of growing vegetables in your backyard, a more experienced gardener curious about garden history, or just someone who's always loved plants, you will find in these pages practical advice and information along with something every gardener has realized: that cultivating the soil can be a powerful spiritual exercise. Working in our gardens takes us on a journey of discovery within and around us, deepening our connection to nature and ourselves.

Gardening offers a natural remedy for the escalating stress of contemporary life. Pushed along by our noisy, busy culture, too many people equate self-worth with productivity, expecting their bodies and minds to work incessantly, like machines. Yet beneath the high-tech, high-stress surface of our lives, we still move by nature's rhythms, live by nature's cycles. Unlike machines, each of us has our own circadian rhythms, daily energy highs and lows, as well as a very human need for balance, which we ignore at our peril.

The seasons of the year and the subtle energies of the sun and moon affect us. We are one with the universe, composed of the very elements of the stars. The blood in our veins, the planets in out solar system, and the water that sustains life on earth move in cyclical patterns. Our creative endeavors move in cycles too: artists, writers, scientists, and inventors from Coleridge to Stravinsky, Edison to Einstein, have experienced the creative process of preparation, incubation, inspiration, and verification. All of our lives have their seasons, theircycles of growth and renewal — if we can only recognize them.

In the past observing these cycles was much simpler. From the Middle Ages through the Renaissance, human life was governed by the cyclical drama of nature. People lived closer to the land, beginning their days with the dawn, returning home at sunset, charting the course of their lives by the four seasons of growth, harvest, dormancy, and rebirth. We cannot return to those simpler times, but we can follow the path of poets, philosophers, saints, and sages, wise men and women throughout the ages who have found inspiration in gardening.

Gardening as spiritual Practice

Gardening has held deep significance in the spiritual traditions of East and West. Twenty-six centuries ago the Taoist sage Lao-tzu recorded the wisdom of nature in the Tao Te Ching. Meditating on the unity of creation, Taoist gardeners discovered the deeper harmonies of nature. Chinese garden design has affirmed their vision, from the early Chin dynasty in 221 B.C.E. to our own time. In Japan many Zen monks have been dedicated gardeners.1 With their emphasis on order, simplicity, and mindfulness, Zen gardens promote a deep meditative awareness.

In the Western tradition gardening dates back to the beginning of time, in the biblical Garden of Eden. Like Adam and Eve, early Christian hermits were gardeners. In 305 C.E., St. Antony of Egypt founded the first Christian monastery, establishing a tradition that combined prayer with gardening. In the sixth century the Rule of St. Benedict balanced gardening, prayer, and intellectual work, becoming a model for Western monasticism.

Not only saints but secular men and women have found renewal in their gardens. English monarchs who have loved gardening include Queens Eleanor of Provence, Eleanor of Castile, and Philippa of Hainaut, and King James I. The Italian poet Petrarch was an avid gardener. So was Cosimo de Medici, whose garden at Careggi became a meeting place for Renaissance humanists.3In England, Sir Thomas More entertained his friend and fellow humanist Erasmus of Rotterdam in his garden in Chelsea, where he described the rosemary growing up his garden walls as "sacred to remembrance and to friendship.4

Gardens offer solace and renewal to the world-weary. In the words of the seventeenth-century English poet Andrew Marvell, "All flowers and all trees do close/ To weave the garlands Of Tepose.5 In their gardens the burdens of the world have fallen from the shoulders of many busy leaders, including George Washington, who grafted fruit trees at Mount Vernon, and Thomas Jefferson, who kept a journal of his garden at Monticello, recording the annual return of herbs and flowers as he struggled with political turmoil and the loss of his beloved wife. In the twentieth century, as storm clouds gathered for World War II, Winston Churchill found strength and perspective working in his garden at Chartwell, his country home in Kent.

Gardening as Personal Renewal

Gardening slows us down, puts us back in touch with our own natural rhythms, teaches us patience and perseverance. It is an old Buddhist practice to plant a tree and tend it, developing a relationship of kinship, compassion, and respect that links us more deeply to the natural world and to ourselves.

Years ago I learned this lesson when my students Eric and Brendan gave me a Japanese maple for my birthday. I returned home one evening in May to find this five-foot tree in a pot by my doorstep, its delicate green leaves shimmering from a light spring rain. Through many annual cycles I cared for that tree, watered and pruned it, watched its leaves turn flaming red in autumn, then fall to the ground as the tree grew dormant. That first winter, as I found my way through a painful divorce, I moved my tree to a small apartment, where it stood outside my door. When friends came to visit they told me, "Your tree is dead," so I tied a note to its branches: "Dear Friends: Do not let my bare branches fool you. I am only hibernating for the winter and will bloom again in spring." That spring the tree came back to life, its tiny red buds opening into a profusion of bright green leaves. Waving gracefully in the breeze, its delicate branches seemed to greet me when I came home each day.

Meet the Author

Diane Dreher, Ph.D., is the author of The Tao of Inner Peace, The Tao of Womanhood, and The Tao of Personal Leadership. She holds a Ph.D. in English from UCLA, with credentials in spiritual counseling and holistic health. Diane leads workshops on balance and personal growth nationwide. She teaches Renaissance literature and creative writing at Santa Clara University and cultivates her garden at home in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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