As the last vestiges of winter let go of their hold on fields and gardens, my imagination wanders to the vibrant blooms of spring which offer so much delight. I love a good garden, one that overflows with riotous color or savory vegetables that will grace our table. What intrigues me the most about "natural" or organic gardening is how compost, that mixture of stinky, decayed foodstuffs, can contribute to creations of such beauty. How can that icky, messy mixture that no one wants be so good for a garden?
Aren't our lives a lot like that? Our goal in life seems to be to design a life for ourselves characterized by great success, loving relationships and personal happiness. The garden of our life can be a beautiful thing. However, the radiance with which it shines doesn't necessarily come from the conscious things we bring into it or achieve. It is full and vibrant because of the compost of our lives.
The compost of daily life contains all of the bad luck, heartbreak, loss and disappointment that we might experience. Despite the fact that we do not invite these into our lives (in fact, we do everything possible to avoid them), they appear and change the course of our days—forever. These bad times or tragedies become the fertilizer from which we grow our true selves; they are the compost from which our lives blossom and flourish, whether we like it or not.
When I think back upon my own life, my compost heap is pretty big. If I were to make a list, naming each ingredient, each life event, I would not have wished any of those on myself. If I could have saved myself the trouble of experiencing them, I would have. But that was not to be. Each one of us is given life events that we would most certainly reject if we were given the option. Life does not ask us permission ahead of time if we want to go through a particular crisis; instead it visits itself upon us, disguised as hardship or tragedy, knowing full well it will serve us later in life as compost.
What is the compost of your life? What experiences have you had that were difficult to deal with but made you a better person? A stronger person? A person of compassion or faith?
Take a few moments and list them on paper.
Now, on the opposite side of the paper, reflect for a moment (longer if necessary) getting in touch with how that event/challenge changed you for the better. Write down how you have evolved physically, emotionally, or spiritually because of that experience. In gardening terms, what blossoms were birthed in you because of the fertilizer that life handed you?
I'll offer a few samples from my own compost pile:
•Years of stress-related illness resulted in a newfound appreciation for good health and a strong desire to create that for myself (through eating organic foods, proper rest and a regular yoga or walking routine).
•Incessant worry (which culminated in anxiety) developed into a daily focus on relaxation and use of breathing exercises to maintain a sense of inner peace.
And, like you, there are many more of a very personal nature, rooted in loss and grief, which resulted in a deepening of my faith in a Higher Power and in the greater purpose of life.
As I was experiencing many of these things, I felt like I wanted to run away from my own life. It felt really bad to be in my shoes, given the circumstances. It certainly didn't feel like I was growing the garden of my life; it felt like I was waist high in compost, hating every minute of it. What needs to occur within each of us when we find ourselves wallowing in the muck of it all is to shift our perception, remaining mindful that there will be an end to all of this, that there is a higher purpose, and that we will blossom as a result.
Melody Beattie offers wonderful wisdom for this leg of the journey in her classic book, The Language of Letting Go. It is when we hang on so tightly to life, holding pictures of how our life is supposed to be that we can use daily guidance through affirmations such as these. She writes, "Today, I will not run from myself, my circumstances, or my feelings. I will be open to myself, others, my Higher Power, and life. I will trust that by facing today to the best of my ability, I will acquire the skills I need to face tomorrow."
In other words, tending the garden of our lives, compost and all, will result in a brighter tomorrow and a brighter version of each one of us. The challenge seems to be to forge ahead despite adversity, focus on the bigger picture, and trust in the outcome.
I also know that personal growth takes time; it takes time for wounds to heal and a greater perspective of the experience to be gained. The best gardeners know that it takes precious days and months to grow all those glorious flowers and delectable vegetables. A bounteous crop does not happen overnight. Maybe we would be better served to heed the wise counsel of Ralph Waldo Emerson who wrote, "Adopt the pace of nature, her secret is patience."
I am certain that with patience and great trust in the process, we can begin to see our compost piles for what they really are: the stuff of which life is made. And beautiful lives they can be!
When it becomes difficult to wade through the compost of your own life do you have a sufficient support system? Do you have someone who will stay by your side and point you in the direction of your true self? This is the purpose I serve as a Spiritual Director/Mentor; to help you remember who you really are and to bear witness to your divine unfolding—especially through adversity. Learn more about how we can journey together to give you the support and guidance you need for navigating through difficult times. I would be blessed to serve you in this way. Contact me here.
is a touchpoint. a resting place, a "remembering" of who we really are and how we can best live—kindly and compassionately with ourselves and others.
Janice Lynne Lundy, DMin
is an educator, interspiritual director/guide and retreat leader who has been pointing people back toward the Sacred for more than twenty years. She is the author of several spiritual growth books, including Your Truest Self, My Deepest Me and Portable Peace., and is the co-founder and co-director of the Spiritual Guidance Training Institute.