Cultivating an examined, Spirit filled life can thought about as like trying to grow plants. You and God both spend time cultivating the soil and you both sow seeds. What grows is a collaboration and neither parties are completely in control of the results. It is important as a gardener of plants make sure you spend enough working in your garden but it is also important to give the plants the time and space they need to grow. Sometimes you can't grow what you want and sometimes a weed pops up that turns out to be the most satisfying plant in your garden. You have to work, but you aren't in control of the results.
Listening to or reading the ideas of others is the equivalent of planting seeds in your spitirual garden. Other people's ideas can be the little kernals of thought that you grow a pearl of wisdom around or can be a window that lets you see truth where otherwise you just saw a wall. And you never know which seeds are going to be the important ones that grow big in your heart. In recent sessions of deep spritiual thinking I quoted U2, the Buddhist 8 Fold Path and Futurama, a satirical cartoon by the creators of the Simpsons. I have harvested rich spiritual fruit from the writings of Rob Breszny who is most well known for his syndicated astrology column, Free Will Astrology. Reading the lectures of Rudolph Steiner and seeing how people have worked with his ideas have also led to great thinking on my part, as have the writings of such diverse authors as Walt Whitman, Phillip Pullman, Jean Auel, Marion Zimmer Bradley, and Laura Ingalls Wilder. Quaker thought and Taoist thought deeply influence my spirituality as well as Wiccan and other earth based traditions. I wouldn't be where I am today spiritually without all these different seeds. My garden would not be as diverse and beautiful.
Seeds alone aren't enough to make a garden, though. I believe engaging other people with your ideas is the spiritual equivalent of tilling and fertilizing your garden soil. Over my life this has taken the form of journaling, late night conversations over a bottle of wine or bourbon, afternoon hikes with friends and more recently conversations during coffee hour at church. This blog is also a way for me to cultivate the soil of my garden through concious thought and the process of putting pieces together to make coherent sentances and essays.
Watering my spiritual garden and giving it space to grow through prayer and contemplation is a part of the process I am just now coming into concious appreciation of. I suspect I have always done it, unconciously, through letting ideas rest and meld but prayer is like watering your garden by hand, with little cups of water each day. It gives those idea seeds your concentrated attention and nourishment and allows them to grow to the fullness of their ability. Watering your garden by hand is also a time to really see what those little plants are doing and so prayer or contemplation is a time to allow the works of god/spirit/subconcious mind to come forward and show itself. Its amazing what you can see and hear when you stop doing and give the universe a chance to speak.
Just like I may never grow violets in my front garden there may be fruits or callings of the spirit that I will never cultivate. I will probably never be a monk or nun, but by putting the work into my spiritual garden I will find what I am here to grow. What seeds have been planted in your spiritual garden lately? How do you till your garden and water it? What have been growing good fruit for you? What is growing in your front garden that you never expected?