The Seven Stages of Growing Your Garden of Eden
Contributed by Natalie Stroud
"Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow?"
Every man lives in his own garden of Eden--which is his kingdom--but knows it not. The kingdom is the one and only true reality, its earthly reflection being the garden. The fall from grace was a descent into a dark sleep, the Great Amnesia which overcomes all man. As his earthly body awakens in his garden, his vision is tainted, and he peers out into a darkened kingdom. Wiping the crud from his eyes, he is only able to make out apparitions and shadows. Not being certain what these things are, he begins to make assumptions and guesses, bearing false witness to all of the glory in his garden. Stumbling his way through the dark, he has no choice but to make up wild stories for all of the things he bumps into, and then calls this “reality”. He walks westward, and bumps into a hedge. Since he cannot move past it, he calls that the end of the world. He walks eastward and feels something mushy and oozing beneath his feet. He calls that quicksand and cries out for help. He jumps as high as he can to propel himself from the quicksand, and wallops his head on something hard as iron, which clangs loudly. He calls that the upper limit of his world, believing that to try to reach higher would bring down the thunder of Thor. Here in the thick, dark fog of his garden, evil is born.
And what is evil? It’s not a real thing; it is only the absence of light. It is a belief in limitation. It is resistance to the truth. The truth has been set forth for everyone, and it is this: Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. (KJV, Matthew 6:33) Man has been given the kingdom! All of the riches and abundance that could ever be imagined, it is ours, by divine right. The only thing keeping it from our earthly senses is our belief in its opposite…in doom and gloom, in dividing walls and cages, in traps and dungeons. Turn the light back on, however, and suddenly vision is restored. The end of the world is merely a row of fruit bearing bushes in a beautiful grove with a pristine lake beyond. That dastardly quicksand is a white sand beach riddled with palm trees and glistening bikini-clad bodies offering trays of frou-frou drinks. The top of the world proves to be one of many wind chimes swinging from the branches of the palm trees, which soar high up into the limitless blue sky.
Emmet Fox, in his explanation of the parable of the Garden of Eden, expounded: “Our belief in the reality of evil and limitation is the cause of all our troubles. It is the cause of sickness. It is the cause of quarrels and inharmony. It is the cause of poverty. For when we know the Truth of Being instead of only believing it, we shall not have to toil and drudge for a living, but our thought will be creative, and we shall demonstrate what we need.”
All of these delights were here for us all along, if only we could see them. I’m here to tell you how to improve your vision and reclaim your garden, in these 7 simple steps. I said ‘simple’, but not necessarily easy. Gardens do take some effort, especially in the beginning stages, but the reward is worth it a thousand times over.
STAGE ONE—CLEARING THE PLOT (BULLDOZING)
Having fallen into the darkness, we all get to play the role of Miss Havisham (from Dickens’ Great Expectations) at some point. In man’s long sleep, we allow the plot to go to pot. We stop believing in our own good, and stay rooted to the past. The past must march forward, however, and it can only repeat itself, forever expanding on what it was. Growing into the now, the weeds have so multiplied that they choke up the entire garden, many of them as tall as trees. The air has grown stale and stiff, leading to rot and powdery mildew, cobwebs and dust. Trying to plant any seed into this tangled debauchery would be absolutely futile. The only recourse is to completely bulldoze the plot. Attempting to clear away the debris with just our bare hands and a sickle could take a lifetime; we must pull out the big guns.
We have a built-in giant tiller for this use, and it’s called revision. This is a powerful tool with multiple purposes; whether it’s bulldozing, weeding, or pruning, it gets the job done. I bulldoze my plot by going back in time (bringing there HERE) and rewriting the old story into something more heavenly. I grew up in a household with no affection. No goodnight hugs, no kisses on my boo-boos, no “I love you, ma cherie”s. This is a seed that gets planted as an assumption that I am not lovable, that I am not worthy of love. As I get older, I enter into relationships without affection, relationships where I feel anything but adored. This feeling of worthlessness multiplies as it gets played out over and over in my life. This is a story which can be bulldozed in one fell swoop. To revise, I imagine-- I’m 7 years old, and it’s bedtime. My dad tucks me in bed, and reads me a story (or a Neville lecture!). As my eyes grow tired, he leans forwards to kiss my forehead. My mom comes into the room to also steal a quick kiss, and wish me sweet dreams. That’s it. From this new story, I have entered an entirely new world. A whole corner of my garden has been cleared, and the new story advances forth to confront me. Now I survey the land, and see what other falsities I can raze. I must change my concept of self, and tear off this ragged, dirty old gown that has me wedded to a tragic past. I have seeds to sow and fields of lilies awaiting the dance of my toes!
STAGE TWO—IMPROVING THE SOIL
Stage two is really just the flip side of the coin to stage one, but a little more fun. I’ve set the stage by shedding false concepts of self, and now I get to go back and add in sweet little lagniappes to my past. (Lagniappe = something given as a bonus or extra gift). I can give myself as many bonuses as I’d like; I’m the boss! High school choir group won’t let me join? I give myself the voice of Maria Callas! Only got second place in the regional spelling bee? I award myself the trophy and go to nationals! Always last in line to P.E. and lunch because I’m the Brobdingnaggian of the class? I grant myself 5 less inches! (Nah, not really. Being tall is cool.) We’re building the soil with nutrients, so throw whatever you’d like into that compost bin...onion skins, zucchini ends, worm grins, it all goes in. Now that we’ve got a cleared plot and fertile soil, we can start to plan and plant a garden full of all of our desires.
STAGE THREE—CHOOSE YOUR CROPS/PLANT THE SEEDS
Now the fun really begins! If you’ve ever planted a vegetable or flower garden, you know how exciting it is to go to the store or pour through the catalogs picking out all of the seeds you want to plant. Usually you end up with far more seeds than land to drop them in; at least that’s how it is with me. I have a backlog of packets of seeds from seasons past, thinking that eventually I’ll find an unturned spot in my yard and be able to squeeze just one more heirloom tomato in! Fortunately, in Eden, there is room for every last seed of desire you could possibly imagine, because the kingdom is infinite. So go nuts! Plant cashews and walnuts and filberts! If it appeals to you, grab the packet. You can always share anything extra with your friends, neighbors, and loved ones. What will you have? When you become aware of who you really are, you will know that the whole is yours. Then you will say: "I and my Father are one, and all mine are thine and thine are mine." (Neville Goddard, The Great Secret, 1969)
The whole vast kingdom is ours to experience. What do I desire? A new bike? Okay, I imagine I am on that bike, pedaling down the street to the coffeeshop. I feel the heaviness of my backpack against my back. My shirt is clinging to my body with sweat, because it’s a summer day. I feel a delicious breeze blowing up my skirt. A smile spreads across my face as I remember back to a time when I was only wishing for this bike. BOOM! I have just bought the seed and dropped it in the soil. I choose another one. I’d love to have a romantic partner. I look out the front window of my house, where I see a handsome, muscular man in the driveway. He’s pumping air into the tires of my bike, oiling up the gears. I finish putting my hair up in a ponytail and grab the keys, because we’re about to go on a bike ride together. BOOM! Another seed gets dropped into the ground. Next one might be pasta e fagioli for dinner. Next, I imagine a loving home for the stray cat in my neighborhood who keeps everyone up all night with his yowls. On and on I go throughout the day, planting seeds. Perhaps I desire to be inspired to get something done, like writing this article. While I sip on my coffee, I imagine it’s evening, I’ve just completed the final editing, and am now celebrating with a glass of wine! Desires are endless, and the planting goes on, minute-by-minute, day-by-day, week-by-week, and into the next season.
STAGE FOUR—FERTILIZING AND WATERING
Now that the seeds are plopped in the soil, what do we do? If you push a sunflower seed into the ground, do you then stand over it and wait for it to sprout? Do you immediately expect it to be towering over you at 6’5, smiling down on you with its yellow-fringed face? If it doesn’t break through the ground immediately, do you then dig it up and scream at it, “What are you doing? Why hath thou forsaken me?! WHY WON’T YOU GROOOW, DAMN IT?!” No. (At least I hope not, if you live within a spitwad of your neighbors.) You leave it alone, trusting in the process.
You plant the seed. What do you do after you plant the seed? You leave it. You don’t dig it up every morning to see if it has a root; you leave it. A seed must fall into the ground and die before it is made alive. And if it dies, it bears much fruit. And so you put the seed into the ground of your own wonderful human imagination. (Neville Goddard, Imaginal Acts Become Facts)
If I dig it up with worry, with impatience, with doubt, then I’ll just have to plant the seed again. I’ve imagined playing in a whole grove of sunflowers in July, so I know it will outpicture when the time is right. While anticipating the harvest, I enjoy the harvest of seasons past. Whenever I think lovingly on the seeds I have planted, I fertilize them. Love is the great fertilizer. Appreciation and gratitude, both forms of love, are the nitrogen and phosphorus of the Garden of Eden. Whenever I dwell in the desire fulfilled, I am watering the garden. In April the seed goes into the ground. In May and June, I throw dinner parties, and guests feed upon the present harvest-- farfalle salad with asparagus, radish, and spring peas. Too many drinks are drunk, and a bonfire is built in the backyard. Next door neighbors call the fire department, who come ringing my doorbell to break up the party at 2 am. (Wait, did I just find a weed I need to pull?)
STAGE FIVE—WEEDING AND PRUNING
As our deliberately planted seeds begin to show the first signs of life in the spring, they get competition from unconsciously planted seeds (thoughts, beliefs, assumptions) that break ground in the form of weeds. We must tend to our fresh garden by constantly plucking out the weeds. Remember Mary? I can tell you, her garden soon fell back to its previous state, choked up with all that is contrary in an asleep consciousness. The newscaster reports another tragedy and I react to it-- with anger, with grief, with fear, with resignation? I pluck that weed out so that my flowers can grow. Husband (who was once just a seed!) comes home in a grumpy mood and says something crass to me? I pluck that weed out. Mom calls complaining about literally everything? I pluck that weed out. Once again, I pull out my revision tool, and rewrite the state that I am in that is calling these weeds into my world. I imagine laughing on the phone with mom; I imagine a sweet, relaxing dinner with my love; I imagine watching Schitt’s Creek instead of the news. My seedlings need room to breathe in order to grow, so I get down and dirty on my knees, yanking out those weeds one by one as they pop up in my garden.
As the season rolls on towards summer, my flowers and vegetables and fruit vines are growing into adolescence. I’ve been a good little gardener, bestowing love on my creation, and weeds have slowed down to a creep. My deliberate plantings are now taking over, where once there was only rot and decay. Now I can turn my focus from weeding to pruning. Pruning is exciting! The stems and branches that bear the most flowers, and thus the most fruit, I prune, so that they will split off and bear even more. The stems and branches that are weak and dying, I cut back to the main vine. Pruning in mind is rejoicing at my wish-fulfilled. Delighting in my creation keeps it bearing new fruit. Now it’s August, my garden is brimming over with all of my desires fully-fleshed out, and it’s time to reap what I have sown.
STAGE SIX—THE HARVEST
This stage is the reward, the gift given. The garden is now in adulthood, fruit has ripened, and it’s time to chill out. I get to relax in my hammock, with a mojito in my hand (made with the mint from my herb plot, limes from my lime tree, and a bottle of rum from an admirer), and drink it all in. Butterflies are feasting on the buddleia, bluebirds are pecking on the blackberries, and my husband is feeding me grapes from the grape vine as I sway gently in the breeze. I look at what I have done, or rather what has been done through me, and it is all worth it. A scrap pile of dust has become paradise-- that’s the illusion. The truth is it was here all along; I merely had to divest my consciousness of the cobwebs that were clouding my real vision. Because I have done so, everyone who enters my garden gets to celebrate the bountiful harvest. My garden belongs to the whole vast world.
Now every man in the world is rooted in you who look out and see that world. Every man is rooted in me; he ends in me as I am rooted in and end in God. Because he is rooted in me, he cannot bear other than the nature the root allows. So he is in me, and any changes desired in the outer world can be brought about only if I change the source of the thing I see growing in my world. (Neville Goddard, The Pruning Shears of Revision, 1954)
...and on the SEVENTH STAGE—CHOOSE MORE CROPS!
As long as we breathe and walk this earth, our desires do not end. Until our very last day on our very last go-round of the merry, we are given desire as a gift. So we continue to plant seeds, day after day, year after year, harvest after harvest. As we grow in our garden of delights, however, the ‘job’ becomes easier, more expeditious, second-nature. Seedlings come up quicker, flowers are more rampant, fruit gets juicier and juicier. Weeding is almost nonexistent, because we’ve learned to supply a layer of mulch-- chips of joy that are the result of feasting constantly on love. This garden is everyone’s garden, and as I tend it and water it, I am watering the desires of everyone under the sun. We can all join hands in a circle now and sing:
“A ring – a ring of roses,
Laps full of posies;
Awake – awake!
Now come and make
A ring – a ring of roses” (1855, one of the many versions of the rhyme).
I’ll leave you with another passage from Neville’s lecture The Coin of Heaven, 1954, which you should go read in its entirety now!--
Imagine yourself at the very base of a wonderful waterfall and that water is flowing beautifully on you and imagine it's flowing through you and now from you and flowing towards someone you think of. I make this statement because it's a true statement; we are now in Eden but we are asleep as told you in the second of Genesis; man went sound asleep when he was placed to dress it and to keep it.
To awake, do this--just imagine yourself the center through which water radiates and everyone in this world is rooted in me and ends in me as I am rooted in and end in God: so I am in God's garden, it's Eden, but in God's garden every man in the world has a plot, a little garden. In that garden there are trees that grow, you can see them; if I look at this man now and inwardly look at his plot in my garden I will see the trees, some will be called health, some I call wealth, the tree of dignity, the tree of nobility, the tree of being wanted--they may be withered, they will never really die but they may be withered, they are in need of water. Just imagine that you are watering that plant and see in your mind's eye the leaves appear on what formerly was a barren plant. See the fruit appear and wherever he is in the world as you water his garden, which really is your own garden, as you water it he will embody the very qualities that the tree is now beginning to bear and radiate. You name the tree; whatever you name it, that it is: and you name this one if you know he is unwanted: he wants to be wanted. You name it and let the water flow towards it. Imagine it's growing healthily in that garden and see it put out its leaves and see it put out its fruit. Wherever he is in the world he will begin to be wanted by people in his world. If he is unemployed, it's a tree of employment and see it radiate its leaves and radiate its fruit; he will be wanted and he will be gainfully employed.
I tell you this is not just an idle statement, everyone here can do it and everyone should do it, and whenever you water the tree in anyone's garden, at the same time you are watering your own garden in the eternal one of God. For "I am the vine and ye are the branches", every man can say the same thing. So as you rise here, there are 2600 of you, you individually are the central vine of God's garden and everyone in your world is a branch in that vine. So when I, as a central vine, water a branch in my garden, at that same moment I am being watered and my garden is being watered in your wonderful garden. I don't have to water my own, just by taking care of the many gardens in God's Eden I take care of my own garden that is in the vine of everyone in the world.
You try it, and you can bless everyone in the world and then eventually the eye opens, the ear opens, the inner man awakes and you see the most glorious world which is always here to be seen, only we in our sleep had shut it out.
Natalie Stroud lives in the world of imagination (it's her reality), where anything is possible, and her senses are anything but common. Although her ideas about life might appear "crazy" to the majority, she considers herself to be a rather sane cat lady, lover of all animals, vegan cuisinartist, amateur-yet-passionate gardener, coiner of new words, and magician of domestic blissitude.