At age fourteen, I picked up my first book on personal and spiritual growth. At the time, I was in a live-in treatment center. I was a lost and suicidal teen. I had dangerous messages that would play in my head over and over. I was on a dangerous path, and being in this treatment center was just the beginning of a long traumatic journey.
I’ve traveled some very painful paths. That first book gave me seeds that would end up turning into some of the most beautiful trees in my garden, but it would take me decades before those seeds would be nurtured enough to grow.
I’ve been on this journey of personal and spiritual growth for over thirty years, and I’m still learning daily. My philosophy is that when I’m done learning, I’m done living. This journey provides me with all kinds of twists, turns, open roads, dirt roads, and uncharted paths. My life is one giant adventure. It’s not always pretty, and some of the roads are bumpy. Sometimes a road is hard to find, but every road I’ve traveled has led me to where I am right now and the scenery is AWE-inspiring.
Along these roads my greatest discovery has been realizing the power of the stories I tell myself. This is what creates the scenery.
Whatever stories I attach emotional energy to and make true in my mind become my perspectives of truth. I create my reality based on the perspectives of truth that I use as a guiding force in my life.
This realization has opened my eyes in the biggest of ways.
As I travel, I’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly. I’ve seen where I’ve bought into perspectives of truths that were passed down, ones picked up from healthy and unhealthy individuals, ones picked up through education formal and informal, ones that have unfolded based on life experiences, and ones that are created from trauma.
What took me longer to realize was only one person determined whether my perspectives of truth would keep me a prisoner or set me free—ME. This is where I discovered the power of creating my own internal garden.
Consciously creating a dream garden is very similar to the level of work it takes to create a dream garden in the physical world.
First, I needed to clean up.
I realized how many seeds I got from other people that I didn’t want in my garden, so I had a lot of weeding to do. Any perspective that came from a place of fear, lack, and separation, I wanted to clear away.
I had some beautiful flowers and trees that came from seeds of love, abundance, and peace, but the problem was they weren’t being cared for. I didn’t spend the time on them that they needed to be nurtured.
Yes, self-care is a priority for maintaining an internal dream garden. There were more than a few times that I collected amazing seeds from books, seminars, and workshops, but when I went to plant them, they would be good for a short period, then stop growing. I couldn’t figure out what was going on.
I planted the seeds and watered them, why weren’t they growing?
That’s when I realized I needed to work on fixing the foundation that I was growing my garden on.
I didn’t understand how important it was to dig in the dirt and get dirty to discover that some of my soil was consumed with energy of fear, lack, and separation. Those deepest depths were how I was treating myself.
My own self-talk, self-worth, self-image, and self-esteem are the granules of soil that everything I plant feeds on.
To clean up my soil, I did an overhaul on SELF. This was NOT a little undertaking. I dug down to find areas within that I felt unlovable and unworthy. I discovered shame cycles that were buried deep below the surface creating toxic sludge. I used many prayers to help me find the tools I needed to energize my soil with love, abundance, and peace.
In my digging, I found how warped my definition of love was. I was actually accepting emotional abuse and thinking it was love. Not just from others, but from myself. When I discovered the definition of love that shined light on the darkest parts of me, that’s when my dream garden took shape and started to become the amazing garden that it is today.
One of the tools I used to help me get a clear image on what I wanted my inner world to look like was making a self-worth collage/internal vision board.
I cut out words, quotes, and short poems that highlighted what I wanted my inner messages to myself to look like. Doing this helped me to design my garden. Now, when I hear or see a seed someone is offering that reflects something on my board, I know it will go great in my garden, so I plant it.
This also helps me see the seeds that people offer that don’t work for my garden at all.
Anything that comes from the energy of fear, lack, and separation isn’t something I want to plant. Not to say, I haven’t planted things that I thought were one thing and turned out to be another. Some people can be tricksters—I can trick myself too. I may have planted unwanted seeds, but if I don’t like the way something feels, I always have the option to weed out what doesn’t work in my garden.
Now that the vision of my garden is clear, I’ve empowered myself in a way that can’t be undone. No one can put anything in my garden that I don’t allow.
I choose to take seeds and plant them. I choose what belongs and what doesn’t. It’s my job to maintain my garden, which takes putting myself on my priority list. When I make sure that I’m aligned with the energy of love, abundance, and peace from the inside out, I SOAR. If I start noticing things not growing the way I want them to, I have to look at how I’m treating and/or neglecting my self-care. I go inside to see where I’m blocking the energy I want to be living in.
I’m accountable and responsible for how my garden looks, grows, and is maintained. I’m not accountable and responsible for anyone else’s garden. I can show them mine through how I live. I can offer seeds, but if someone doesn’t want to plant them now or ever, that’s not my business.
The beauty of the garden visual is that I can see clearly what is mine and what isn’t. I see my choices. I see that how I think, act, respond, and/or react matters. It’s not someone else’s problem to fix when I see the energy of fear, lack, and separation in my own garden.
An unhealthy spot in my garden is there to teach me, to empower me, and to show me that I have the power to let it grow, or shine love on it. Blame and self-blame just invites more fear, lack, and separation into the garden.
I choose to be accountable and responsible so I don’t pour toxic energy into my own soil. I forgive, I set healthy boundaries, and I maintain my garden. I remind myself that if someone is treating me in an unacceptable way, I visualize what their garden must look like and I pray for them.
Healthy gardeners clean up their own weeds, that way they don’t spread and they don’t offer them to others.
The thing I love most about the journey of personal empowerment is that there is ALWAYS a different tool to try to be better from the inside. I don’t need anybody else to be more or less than who they are for me to live empowered. I enjoy my relationships so much more without those expectations. I also set healthier boundaries with people lost in the energy of fear, lack, and separation.
I don’t take it personally.
I know what is true for me is true for them, whichever energy we feed, we make stronger. When someone comes from fear, lack, and separation, my question to myself is:
Am I in the energy of love, abundance, and peace or fear, lack, and separation right now?
The answer will dictate how I respond. If I react to them from a place of fear, lack, and separation, I’m putting that energy into my garden. So, I ask myself, is that what I really want to do?
I look at other people’s gardens with AWE when I see their design choices that come from love, abundance, and peace. Their garden doesn’t have to look like mine. They can have different trees, plants, flowers, walkways, and visuals. I can respect the choices from the love that resides within them without making the decision to add something new to my own garden, but seeing the love adds to the health of my own soil—If you spot it, you got it.
The question I keep in my head is:
How do I want my garden to look?
I know I’m the only one who is empowered to bring my garden to life or to let it get overgrown with weeds. The choice is mine.
Rachael Wolff, Letters from a Better Me: How Becoming an Empowered Woman Transforms the World , is an author, speaker, transformational coach, and blogger. Wolff got her professional start as an international sales trainer. She has a B.A. in Human Development and uses her 30 plus years of personal and spiritual development, along with her professional and formal education to inspire individuals to make positive changes in the world by becoming their best selves. Empower Yourself, Change the World is her motto. You can contact Rachael at lettersfromabetterme(at)gmail.com.