How Does Your Garden Grow? A Gentle Guide to Nourishing the Best in You

istock_000000589354xsmall“What shape waits in the seed of you to spread its branches against a future sky?”
~David Whyte

If there is one thing I’ve learned, it’s that things happen in their own time. No matter what the self-improvement blogs tell you, you can’t make your passion appear on demand and you can’t control the circumstances of your life.

But you can plant and fertilize, nourish and water. You can live in the willingness to breathe life into the natural expression of the seed of you. Are you ready to find your inner gardener? Here’s how.

Don’t know

Don’t pretend to know what you don’t know. And don’t stress about not knowing. Move your attention away from the big picture. Stay close to the bone, and you will know exactly what you need to know. The signs are all around you: what thrills and enthuses you, what lands as a “yes,” what you are drawn to, what repels you, what moves you. Noticing these brings nourishment to the starving parts of you.


Take each and every knot of resentment, fear, and deficiency. Welcome it, love it, and ultimately, don’t believe it. Entertain the possibility of liberation from everything that weighs you down.


Learn how you box yourself in. What beliefs do you live by that constrict your growth? What reactions happen in a split second that mask your happiness? Become familiar with your conditioning, and allow all the skins to shed. Get down to the bare bones, and discover that everything you ever needed is here, in your nakedness. Let the ashes of your knotted self fertilize the kernels of truth that are sprouting within you.


I’ll let you in on a secret: I don’t get the idea of forgiving someone. But I do know the freedom that comes when anger, hurt, and self-righteousness are met with love and understanding. Don’t let your feelings about past events haunt you any longer.

Do the work; seek out the help that will free you. Any story of being wronged only keeps you stuck, keeps you from sharing your light with the world.


Surrender has been on my radar recently. I see how clinging to any thought form or wish or object takes so much effort. And inherent to the clinging is a subversive story of “me.” I want, I need, I expect, I think, I should. It’s exhausting and endless. Unless you surrender.

Letting go of the attachment to “me” is so relaxing, like floating in space. By surrendering, you put down your defenses and realize the power of being one with now. You enter the flow and let life be lived through you.


You are allowed to trust what you know, to want what you want. Before self-doubt creeps in, there is a moment of knowing shining like a laser through the fog. Find your way back to the knowing, and nurture this precious seed. You can trust yourself to stay present to the truth of you.


No, I’m not getting all religious on you. But I do know the value of putting our deepest longings into words. Do you want clarity, freedom, understanding? Don’t be shy. Open yourself fully to your deepest heart’s desire. Speak it. Shout it out. It’s OK to be on fire.


This is about the call of silence. Let yourself be still. Retreat from stimulation and rest. Witness your thoughts, and notice that that which is witnessing is silence itself. Realize that silence is the ultimate creator.


Total and immediate transformation is extremely rare. Most of us need time to simmer, stew, and even boil. We are captivated by delusion and unconsciousness, so the seeding and nurturing require commitment. You get to decide: How willing are you to commit to nourishing the seed of you?

Have you been gardening lately? Any reactions, stories, insights? I’d love to hear…

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  1. says

    Hello Gail,

    This is so true: “I love the beauty of your expression and the unique touch you bring to your posts.No matter what the self-improvement blogs tell you, you can’t make your passion appear on demand and you can’t control the circumstances of your life.”

    The only miracles are the ones we grow ourselves. Thanks for the inner gardening tips!
    .-= Sandra Lee´s last blog ..Happiness Is An Inside Job =-.

  2. says

    I’m with Sandra on this. The words that strike me most are these:

    If there is one thing I’ve learned, it’s that things happen in their own time. No matter what the self-improvement blogs tell you, you can’t make your passion appear on demand and you can’t control the circumstances of your life.</
    When you plant a seed, you cannot force it to grow into a plant overnight. You have to water it, nourish it, and trust that it’s growing, even though you don’t see it.
    Beautiful post, thanks for sharing.
    .-= Cristina´s last blog ..Why connecting creates beauty =-.

    • Gail Brenner says

      Welcome to you, Cristina!

      This is an interesting topic that you bring up. There is so much pressure in our culture to make things happen. When we shift to letting things happen, we give up control, not knowing when or if the seeds will grow.

      You say we have to trust that the seed is growing, even though we don’t see it. This is so beautiful as I feel into it. We have to trust the not knowing, trust that life will move us forward in just the right way, and give up the need to know.

      Thank you so much for sharing this deep understanding.

  3. marilee says

    Gail! I love your language: “what lands as a yes”, and “you are allowed to trust what you know, to want what you want…” I am grateful for your blog. xxoo Marilee

    • Gail Brenner says

      Hi Marilee,

      I was speaking to a friend recently who definitely knew what he wanted, then a second later the self-doubt set in. Our active minds tend to miss the moment of truth and hold on to all the reasons why we don’t deserve something or why something won’t work out.

      It’s an interesting contemplation to notice the mind activity, then trace back to what started it – clarity. Maybe we can trust enough to live in that clarity and let the mind activity go.

      I’m so grateful for you, too, my sweet friend. See you at Thanksgiving!

  4. John says

    Thanks, Gail. Just what I needed. You have a way of “putting it just so” (for my sensibilities, anyway). My Thanksgiving this year will be much more relaxed and appreciative for having read you. :)

    • Gail Brenner says

      A warm welcome to you, John.

      I’m so glad my writing resonates with you. And your comment will certainly add to my appreciation and gratitude at the time of this beautiful holiday.

  5. says

    Gail, beautiful stuff…This whole search for my purpose thing is too hard and just when I let it go, when I surrendered and embraced what is, I found some peace…

    • Gail Brenner says

      Hi Uzma,

      So glad you stopped by! I agree with you wholeheartedly about the search for purpose. I don’t know about you, but all the searching has not led me anywhere but to more frustration, judgment, and comparison.

      It comes down to this: Do you want to search for your purpose or do you want to be happy? We can be happy and at peace now. If the search doesn’t make us happy, I say give it up. And as you have discovered, there is peace in the surrender.

      Maybe our purpose is to learn how to surrender and not look outside ourselves for something we don’t have?

      Love to you…

      • marilee says

        I am reminded of Francis Lucille when he said: “On a deserted island would you rather be with a happy person or an enlightened person? I myself would rather be with the happy person.” :-)

  6. says

    Hi Gail,

    A very insightful post. I, like so many, put tons of pressure on myself to get things done. So hearing, “I want, I need, I expect, I think, I should. It’s exhausting and endless. Unless you surrender,” is what hit home. Thanks for opening my eyes.

    • Gail Brenner says

      Hi Sonia,

      It is so easy to get caught up in our own worlds, playing out the starring role in our stories. Once we become aware of what we are saying to ourselves, we can make a different choice. The “I” story is endless. When we let it go, we see so much right here that we’ve been missing.

      Lots of love to you…

  7. says


    What a insightful and inspirational post! Just in time for Thanksgiving holiday and being grateful. Don’t know is the best thing I have learned to say. As I teach my kids and other kids and they ask, I used to feel as an adult I should know everything and I used to guess answer, now I just say, I do not know, let’s find out together. That works so well for kids and myself without making myself bad about it.

    I am so happy my comments are showing up.
    .-= Preeti´s last blog ..Little Break- Great Reads and Akismet- When Friend Turns Foe =-.

    • Gail Brenner says

      Your comments are showing up, Preeti. Problem solved!

      You are in such an amazing position to have your wisdom and interest in the things that are really important, and to be able to impart this to your children. What you write is so beautiful. You don’t have to know. You are showing by example how to be honest and authentic. Learning to be comfortable with not knowing may be one of the best lessons you will ever teach them.

      A big cyber hug to you…

  8. says

    Hi Gail,
    Happy Thanksgiving.

    “To everything there is a time, and a time to every purpose under heaven.”

    I don’t know too many quotes from Bible except for maybe this one, but I do love it and think it’s wise and timeless. I do think we can only so much. And as you point out, if we plant a seed and tend to it with loving care and nourish it with the water it needs it will sprout in due time – that is – when the season is right.

    When we give up the illusion of control we’ll find ourselves happier and more content with when and how things “sprout” in our lives.

    Thanks so much for the great tips on how to awaken our inner gardener.
    .-= Angela Artemis´s last blog ..The Amazing Grace of Thanksgiving Day =-.

    • Gail Brenner says

      Hi Angela,

      I love this understanding about things happening in their own time. So our job is to surrender control rather than make things happen. This is a revolutionary concept in the self-improvement world.

      You said it perfectly: “When we give up the illusion of control we’ll find ourselves happier and more content with when and how things “sprout” in our lives.”

      The key is giving up that illusion, getting comfortable with not knowing, and things take care of themselves just right.

      Great contribution to this discussion. Thanks.

  9. Marie Miller says

    Hi Gail,

    I was wondering if you could explain further what the words “close to the bone” mean to you.

    I have read your other post by this title (which I love) and the expression “close to the bone” doesn’t resonate with me and feels very nebulous. It isn’t an expression I’ve heard or used.

    I get the feeling that this expression has a very specific meaning to you and that the concept would probably really help me if I could get my head around specifically what it means to you.

    Thanks for any thoughts,


    • Gail Brenner says

      Sure, Marie. I’m happy to explain what I mean, but I also don’t want to get too caught up in the words. If for whatever reason, the phrase doesn’t work for you, I would suggest letting it go.

      Here is a definition from an online dictionary: “If something is too close to the bone, it makes you feel uncomfortable because it is very close to the truth or to the real nature of something.” And here is the link to the post, Why It’s Valuable to Stay Close to the Bone.

      When I researched this phrase, I found that it generally has a negative connotation. Being too close to the truth speaks to an unwillingness to hear the truth. From my perspective, if the truth makes you uncomfortable, then you are presented with an opportunity to learn about a place inside that grips you (for example, a conditioned pattern).

      But imagine a longing for the truth, for knowing the real nature of something, that is so profound that you are willing to take it in, no matter what. Someone who lives close to the bone is willing to be alive to the truth of the moment, to take it in, to act on it even if there is fear. We tend to get lost in should’s, expectations, and habits. Staying close to the bone is truly living, awake and aware, in the moment, and includes the willingness to investigate when we get diverted from the truth.

      Does this clarify?

      • Marie Miller says

        Big Thanks. Yes, this explanation helped a great deal.

        Now I can see a clear, simple short cut is staying close to the truth of the moment.

        I read a number of different blogs and yours is very unique and special.

        It is wonderful and a great gift how you find time to respond to each person’s comments.

  10. says

    There’s an ancient truth that goes like this: ‘As you sow, so shall you reap.” Thinking about this as I read your great post.
    Just this one seed, surrender, truly planted in my life, so tht it’s always there, always ready to save me from my foolishness etc– what a gift it is.
    And the beauty of it is, I don’t actually surrender to some unknown presence out beyond the stars somewhere. The truth I surrender to is close to home. It’s myself. My own true self. Thankyou Gail.
    .-= Christopher Foster´s last blog ..How to say “yes” to the peace of your own being =-.

  11. says

    I love the idea of untangling. How can we drop what we don’t wish to carry any longer unless we sort through and examine exactly what it is. It gives me the images of untangling necklaces with a pin. It takes time and patience but, the rewards are so very worth it.

    Truly lovely article, Gail. There’s grace in every word. :)
    .-= Clearly Composed´s last blog .. Home as Haven- The Guest Room =-.

    • Gail Brenner says

      Oh, untangling a necklace with a pin. I have spent some time doing that. So much patience needed and letting go, relaxing, not forcing. What a perfect metaphor, Emma!

      Some of our patterns are so tightly held that we need this untangling process. What we find is that the stories that create so much suffering start with just a thought or physical sensation. When we deconstruct to the root, finally the necklace is knot-free, free flowing. We can unwind even the tightest knot.

  12. Marie Miller says

    I am very curious about your statement “I don’t get forgiveness”.

    I don’t have any judgements about your statement or strong beliefs on the matter.

    I would just love to hear what aspects of the often touted thoughts on forgiveness that you struggle with.


    • Gail Brenner says

      I love your inquisitiveness, Marie. It’s important to talk about things very specifically so we can see the truth of them.

      What doesn’t resonate for me about forgiveness is the separation. I have had experiences of what people call forgiveness. But when I look deeply into that experience, it had nothing to do with another person. The moment of letting go allowed me to be at peace. And as a result, I had more clarity, and so much more compassion, about what actually happened. The words, “I forgive you” or even “I forgive myself” just don’t make sense to me.

      But the letting go of an old story and the releasing of the mental and emotional chains – that I happily understand in my own direct experience.

      Any thoughts?

  13. Rand says

    ” Open yourself fully to your deepest heart’s desire. Speak it. Shout it out. It’s OK to be on fire.”

    (2) Passion fevor (or fervour) ador (or ardour), enthusiasm, zeal mean intense emotion compelling action. Passion often implies an emotion that stirs one to depths of love or hate, but it may also be used more abstractly; fevor implies an emotion that burns with a glow and shows itself in prayer, preaching, etc

    Gail, I totally agree with what you specifically explained to Marie. I have not been gardening, but instead I repaired my former wife’s two toilets (her husband is not adept at this). It took the process of letting go to be able to do this…not the words “I forgive you”. The river makes a “smooth rock” over time.

    When I completed the job I told them to be sure to eat plenty of ruffage, as I was not to sure how my handy work would hold up!

    Gail, where was ‘humor’? Do you not have this tool in your gardening shed? Everyone seems to be so serious these days…you certainly know how to make me laugh at times.

  14. David says

    Hi Gail,
    I`m lost and struggle to find anything to hold on to.
    When I was a child my dad never showed love or affection toward me and my siblings. I developed a stammer at age 13 which isolated me and stayed with me until I was well into adulthood. I attempted to rectify my stammer through speech therapy, but that experience opened a Pandoras box of emotions of which I was previously unaware.
    My dad died in 1984, long before I became aware of the hurt he had caused me, essentially denying me the chance to confront him with my feelings of anger which grow and grow, as time goes on. I have 3 beautiful children of my own now and love them beyond words, but they are a constant reminder of the lost relationship with my own dad.
    I have tried to find a way to forgive him, but the lack of closure has left me feeling lost and alone.

    • Gail Brenner says

      Welcome to you, David. So glad that you found your way here.

      And I appreciate your willingness to share so deeply. I don’t have the magic words that are going to take away your pain. But what I do know is that when we meet our feelings with love and understanding, we are giving ourselves what we longed for so much from someone else.

      It sounds like your mind is hooked on repeating a story of what happened over and over, and, as you say, your children are a constant reminder and trigger of the story. This might be why your anger is increasing. This story is fueled by anger and probably other feelings. By meeting them directly, in the actual physical experience of the emotions, it’s like beginning to cut the fuel line to the engine.

      Your essence is light and love itself, right now overshadowed by this whirlwind of thoughts and feelings. Underneath, you are whole and alive. As I read your story, I see that it is one of strength and survival despite the challenges.

      You are so welcome here to read, share, and bask in what is offered. I wish you well on your journey…

  15. Trish Crew says

    What you wrote is simple and I don’t get it, especially surrender. I give my troubles to God and then take them right back and this would be the same whoever I gave them to. Accepting my troubles seems like wallowing in pain and not trying to do anything about it. I don’t get how to do what you are saying, although I believe that it makes sense. Do you have advice for the bumblers among us?

    • Gail Brenner says

      No bumblers here, Trish. Just lovely people asking beautiful questions, and I welcome yours.

      Certainly, if there is something to do about your troubles, some action to take that feels wise and useful, then by all means take it.

      When we’re faced with difficulties, we have two choices. We can resist or we can welcome. Sometimes resistance can help us, but usually it breeds stress, indecision, challenging feelings, and conflict. So the question is: what do you want? If you want to be at peace, what you are at peace with is your direct experience.

      Let’s say you’re going through a breakup. The events that happened are the story of it. Then there are the feelings that you have at any given moment. See if you can let go of telling yourself the story about who did what, and feel the actual experience of whatever is present for you. You will probably notice emotions and bodily sensations. When you welcome these, you are at ease in the moment because you have stopped fighting yourself.

      If you are wallowing, you have started telling yourself the story of events that is keeping the feelings in place. Let the story float away, and be with the direct experience.

      In my own experience, I have found this to be the only true way to discover peace. I find that as I meet any experience that arises – a feeling, a reaction – with tenderness, I am at peace. I may not like what is happening, but the struggle is over. And in this peace, perspectives shift, insights arise, and clarity comes.

      You’ll find more about this in the post I’m publishing on Thursday. You are ripe for understanding, I can feel it, so whatever questions you may have are welcome here.

      I wish you well….

  16. David says

    Hi Gail,

    Thank you for your kind words of support. I`ve found comfort in your words, you write such beautiful thoughts.


  17. Evelyn says

    Hello Gail,

    when I read the title of this article, a lot of thoughts turned up in my mind, even before I read the whole thing.
    Recently, I took up gardening, by chance, because I live in a home share setting. It’s incredible to eat vegetables/ fruits you planted (or at least, tended to) yourself – even if it’s just herbs.

    And this is from me – I don’t even like flowers (the ones in pots or vases, that is). Nature has its own rhythm, and you can do nothing but accept it. For example, snails may eat veggies all up, before you can do something (and you can “forgive” those little animals because they need to eat, too). It may rain too much. There may be pumpkins even though you didn’t plant them (and what a great surprise when they actually grow!). Now, the garden is all empty. It’s sleeping. It was covered with snow not so long ago.
    But it will be spring again – and I cannot do anything for it to happen. It just happens. I think this is what you mean by “surrender”.
    A friend “taught” me to talk to my only plant (basil in a pot), and it’s been growing and growing (even blossoming) ever since. If plants (or animals, for that matter) react to gentle and friendly speech, then how important is it to be friedly towards (all) human beings?!?!?

    It is a great inner image to be a garden and give it all the care it needs. Gardens/ planting, etc. have been metaphors for a whole lot of things for a long time, just thing of the Garden Eden and of the parables in the New Testament (of the sower, fig tree, seeds growing and mustard seeds, to name some).

    Thank you. Very inspiring.

    • Gail Brenner says

      I love this comment, Evelyn. Just reading it, I feel the dirt, the emptiness of the garden covered with snow, but the life underneath lying dormant waiting for spring. I get the surrender into accepting things as they are, even if the snails eat your favorite veggies, and the surprise at the unexpected.

      And so much compassion…. If a plant responds to your gentle speech, just think about how we impact each other in the human realm. This is a beautiful, tender, eye-opening comment, and I so appreciate your insights.

      May your garden thrive…


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