I’ve likened my heart (my soul) to a tangled, overgrown garden many times before.
My inner critic (my ego) sees my heart as a mess of poisonous, prickly weeds that is quite hopeless and impossible to make safe and pretty again. It would take bombing it, followed by a thousand years of leaving it to lie fallow for the garden of my heart to come back healthy.
Or, if I wanted to fix my heart in this lifetime, I could hire an excavation team to dig so deep there would be nothing left but fertile soil; a landscape architect with a vision to design and direct where all the new plantings go; and a team of master gardeners to make it habitable again.
In reality, my heart is already a tender, beauty-filled garden. It simply needs me to lovingly tend to it. In fact, all of our hearts are beautiful gardens. We only need to dig beneath the surface to remove that which no longer serves us and prevents us from seeing its beauty.
START WITH ONE SMALL PATCH
I’ve never been a big picture gal. All I can see is a big ugly mess and I struggle with knowing where to begin. The imperfections are monumental, insurmountable. I wish I didn’t have to do all the work. How am I ever going to get through it all?
But, when I focus in on one trouble spot, that’s all I need to see for the moment. I put on my gardening gloves, sit down beside it, be in that space, and begin using my tools.
When you begin with Writing From the Heart, it seems impossible to think you can ever heal your heart. Pick one topic you want to start with, breathe, relax, listen. Write what your heart wants you to hear. Just like in weeding a garden, you must feel your way at first by clearing whatever is blocking your beauty.
FIRST THE OUTER EDGES, THEN WORK YOUR WAY IN
If I were to start in the centre of the garden, chances are I’m going to trample on and possibly pull out something that’s worth keeping. So instead, I start at the outer edges of my garden, gently pulling up only what I know doesn’t belong there. I wear my gloves to protect my hands because there are sure to be some prickly bits.
When you begin writing your way through hurts, it helps to circle around the outer edges, where they are smaller and easier to take out. Work your writing muscles slowly to warm them up, gradually writing your way into the depths.
WEED WITH GENTLE LOVE
When I weed my garden, I wear gloves that fit my hands, well, like a glove… If the gloves are too big and bulky, I can’t feel what I’m trying to pull up; I don’t notice how much resistance there is. I don’t use big shovels or rakes, only my hands or hand tools. Weeding takes precision and gentleness — not brute force.
Have you ever noticed how smart weeds are? They are masters of opportunity; growing up through a flowering plant, or right beside it. Sometimes, in a particularly delicate spot, I take my gloves off, so that I can separate what I want to keep from what I want to throw out. The key is to be gentle and not rush it. Still, I often make mistakes, pulling up something that should stay. I find myself apologizing to the plant, aloud.
When Writing From the Heart, be gentle with yourself. It’s all about following a gentle form of enquiry. Tread carefully, and follow your heart to where it wants you to go.
DIG DEEPER. GO DEEPER.
Once I’ve cleared an area of weeds, it’s time to get out the hand shovel and dig deeper to let some air and light into the soil. This is where the beneficial insects are. The roots of my plantings may need some bonemeal or other fertilizers to rebalance and rejuvenate. I may even have to separate some of my larger plantings so they stay healthy and strong and beautify other areas of my garden.
Imagine Writing From the Heart to be a spiral or a labyrinth. Working your way into the core to find healing.
As you write, follow any word or phrase that stands out to you. Use the Go Deeper Question: “What do I mean by _______?”. It may very well take you off the path you wanted to write about, into a deeper journey of the heart (rather than the head).
You may feel as though you are lost; your writing path may be filled with obstacles, hairpin turns, and you may fear going deeper. But, when you remove your masks, it shines light on the shame and sorrow and hurt. This light leads you to forgiveness, letting go, and self-discovery.
BE CAREFUL. EVEN WEEDS HAVE THEIR PURPOSE.
When I am gardening, I try to be mindful of what the birds, bees, and other insects need for their existence. As long as weeds are relatively well behaved, and not invasive, I’m happy to let them stay because it brings beneficial beings.
One of the benefits of Writing From the Heart is that when we go deeper, we may find that we can look at our hurts in different ways. While what someone inflicted upon us definitely hurt us, it may also have made us stronger. We may think that being called a “rebellious” child made us bad, but by writing through the emotions this hurt caused, we may also find that our rebellious streak was our way of asserting our true self and making sure this strength survived.
Writing From the Heart can also help us to see the suffering of those that made us suffer. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve found myself stepping into the shoes of another and realizing this person doing the best she/he could with what they knew.
DON’T FORGET TO TAKE A STEP BACK
I may not be a big picture gal, but I do appreciate taking a step back to admire the view every now and again. Slow and steady progress, seeing the deep brown fertile soil in an area I’ve cleared, plus a good stretch, allows me to keep going, because I know in the end I will be proud of my work — and my garden.
You don’t have to read your old journal entries from your Writing From the Heart practice again to know when you’re making progress. It simply takes conscious awareness. Perhaps you didn’t immediately respond with anger when you felt criticized, but caught your breath and realized a comment wasn’t a criticism. Maybe you were able to compliment with genuine feeling because you realized that you truly do want the best for that person. Or perhaps you noticed that you don’t feel ashamed when you tell a certain story anymore...
Take note of small victories — they add up to hugely positive life changes.
REMEMBER: GARDENS NEED REGULAR CARE
Once I’ve done my spring clean-up and right through to late summer, I regularly pluck out individual weeds from my garden to allow whatever flower is blooming at the moment to have its time in the sun.
But as September days turn into cooler mornings and dew on the grass, I stop fretting and let what happens, happen. I tend to allow my garden to die back naturally over the winter. I don’t rake the dried leaves the wind has thrown there, or cut back the decaying stems of flowers. Old me would have judged myself as lazy. But I realize that when autumn comes around, I prefer to revel in the glorious stink of fall. My heart feels its beauty deeply. I’m done with growth and flowering and busyness.
Instead, I find myself readying for the quiet introspection of the cooler, wetter days, and longer nights leading into winter. I like to believe letting nature take its course gives homes and food to the creatures that inhabit my garden and adds another layer of protection for the roots of my perennials. I’m ready to move on until spring comes again.
Writing From the Heart is a practice. This can be seen as both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because you never have to worry about getting it right. There is always another page to make the next discovery. But it can also be a curse because it is never ending. There is always another layer of something to work through as we reveal one nesting doll after the next.
But, as we take a step back and view the year, we can also see how intricately connected everything in our life is, and how all that has happened has led us to be exactly where we need to be.
Just like gardening, once we’ve cleared out our major pains, there is always something else that needs tending. Perhaps your journal may go untouched for a time because you can finally see the beauty in your life. But she is always there waiting for you; whether to record a secret pain or moment so gorgeous you must express your thankfulness.
Ready to record whatever your heart needs you to hear.
kathy mercure is a writer and a storyteller, who helps her clients to tell their personal and business stories. She is also known as a storylistener and a storyhealer whose life’s work is to gently draw stories from her students and help them unblock their writing, find their voice, and heal their lives. Her passion is to support women and men in realizing their true identity as a valued human being, claiming their passions, and speaking their truth as they become their most authentic selves.