TENDING THE GARDEN: Five Inner Arts or Practices (Part II)

III- Art of Dialogue

A third way to tend the garden of your soul is to learn the art of dialogue – there is not a more precious art. Dialogue not only makes the world a safer place through clearer and better communication; it also becomes the door that opens love within us, sharing soul to soul, presence to presence — not only romantic love, but compassionate love, caring love, love that serves, love that creates, love that leaves the world a better place. Dialogue opens the door to communion with all of existence.

Dialogue is learning to open your presence, your being, your soul to the presence of another. According to Martin Buber, the German/Jewish philosopher who was so significant in developing the theme of dialogue, the other may be in nature, may be an animal, may be human, and may be God, spiritual and sacred. It is truly a gift to note that as you take your mindfulness to dialogue an incredible presence arises just from the power of the meeting, just from the grace of meeting the other.

One of the keys in the art of dialogue is to develop a deep listening or receptive presence. When you open to another, be it a person or a forest, become a receptive presence in your listening. Invite the soul of the other into your openness and allow them all the room they need to fully share. As well, when it is your time to share, ensure that you have the safety and the uninterrupted space to share your authenticity and deep honesty so that you can learn to share from your deepest presence. In this wonderful exchange grows a possibility of compassionate presence, loving presence, healing presence.

IV- Process of Inquiry

A wonderful practice and a powerful tool for tending the inner garden is inquiry. Anyone who tends a garden needs to discover what will help the garden to flourish and what will inhibit the natural growth.

Inquiry is looking at what is growing that might need weeding, that might need extraction because it is preventing presence. As well, inquiry is very curious about that which supports the growth. There has been a certain growth going already from our development, from our family, from our culture, from our personality, from the tendencies that we have that prevent our presence from arising fully and powerfully. Some developments hopefully have been healthy and supportive.

Inquiry is powerful when used in the present moment, when you inquire with a sense of present moment experience; when you enter with a courageous spirit and an open mind, not really knowing what will be revealed. Instead of getting lost in old dramas, you maintain yourself in a mindful way within this present-moment experience. What is impacting you in this very moment? What are you experiencing right now? How are you experiencing this in your body, your mind, your heart? Inquiry is oftentimes simply opening ourselves to the pain we carry, not running from it but acknowledging it, breathing it and allowing it to tell its story or creating room for change.

Something from the past may well be impacting you in this present moment. Obviously some of these issues are best tended to with a professional. Psychotherapy is a form of inquiry, and a therapist who is mindfulness and presence-based can be very helpful – especially when they include a somatic/body orientation.

As you are inquiring and looking, you will also note not just the bad growths, but you will note what is essential, what is rich and powerful and part of the wonderful sense of presence growing within you. You go to the source so that you slowly, again, begin to settle into the truest identity that you can establish within. Your inquiry grows into a knowing presence. This is part of your foundation for this incredible, wonderful rich being that is growing in presence inside.

V- Creativity

And the last practice that we explore in this book is utilizing your sense of mindfulness and presence through your very creativity. Creativity goes all through life — creation, work, play. Your being is creative in its very nature.

But I also encourage you to identify a passion in your life that you can return to again and again, day after day– a talent, a gift, an area that you really love, that creates passion in you, something that you can cultivate, that will be natural for you to come back to. Playing music, whatever is your joy, gardening, working on your cars, woodworking, building things, inventing them, drawing, something that you can hold near and dear to you and develop. I invite everyone to find something that you can pour your heart into without necessarily having to think about performing or meeting standards (at least at the beginning). And as you develop this passion you bring the quality of mindfulness and presence to it.

The act of creation, the practice of bringing something into creation, invites a dynamic element of your presence, a vital, generative aspect of your life force. This is finding your heart’s love and finding a way to express that in some form, providing you with a growing sense of a creative presence that will accompany you through your life. It is cultivating a craft, a skill, an art that you truly love, a life work that completely engages your soul.


Each of these five practices is instrumental in developing a powerful sense of presence in your life, a presence that is grounded in mindfulness and awareness yet is available for action and engagement.

These practices are available throughout your whole life, not only through all areas of your life, but throughout the duration of your life. Things will change. Your types of meditation may change, maybe even the activity of your creativity may change, but your witnessing presence and creative presence growing within you will stay with you throughout the course of your life.

Mindfulness is the attention. Presence is the full, rich inner garden available to you at each and every moment that you call upon it. When you call with your full mindfulness, that which you have access to at that moment is there, is present, is presence.

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