This time of year, with daylight hours rapidly dwindling and the temperature dropping, there’s a good chance that many folks may be hunkering down indoors for a bit; a “contemplative hibernation” if you will. This seasonal pause allows us more time to reflect upon what we’ve chosen to leave behind from the previous year, and more importantly, how best we might grow from those experiences. In essence, we’re tending to or cultivating our “inner landscape.”

Maybe it’s because so much of our input derives from the “outer world” with its incessant bombardment of stimuli coming at us from all directions, that I’ve chosen to embrace the notion that we indeed, have an “inner landscape.” It not only requires us to process or disseminate what’s needed and what isn’t, but it has its own mechanisms, which rely upon a regimen of sustainable nourishment.

It has been my personal experience that, all too often, this inner landscape gets neglected or completely overgrown, especially when we are confronted with obstructions that challenge or push us to the limit. Rather than digging deeper into the soil of our inner-self, and tap into those natural resources steeped within us, there’s a tendency to approach things “head-on” in a moment of crisis, not realizing what was already at our immediate disposal. It’s an impulsive reaction, often borne out of fear and pain rather than originating from a place of soulful intention.

There is a passage from a book, “Heart of the Soul,” written by spiritualists Gary Zukav and Linda Francis, which truly conveys this concept so beautifully. It reads: “You are on the Earth in order to grow spiritually and to give gifts that only you are capable of giving. Those gifts do not originate in the outer world but in the deepest parts of yourself. They are your potential, waiting to spring into being like seeds in the Earth waiting to sprout. Your “earth” is your inner landscape. The more attention you pay to it, the more familiar you become with it, the more able you are to see what you want to cultivate and what you want to remove.”

It’s a reminder that so much of what we carry with us, day in, day out, is cumulative. Sure, there are wonderful memories and experiences that we’ve shared with family and friends throughout the years, but there is also an inordinate collection of “weeds” that need to be pulled and discarded so that we may grow in an uninhibited manner. Clearly, the more effort and time we put into removing this unnecessary debris, the more room we make for new growth to emerge.

One thing that can’t be stressed enough when creating a viable inner landscape, is the critical role that communication plays. Unlike what we normally express verbally to others, this form is completely internal. It’s what we tell ourselves, and because this can sometimes be painful, it is not uncommon to table or push it away, thereby avoiding any message that might be received. It’s a pattern of denial that will most likely reappear in some future situation, oftentimes with a different trigger.

Zukav and Francis put it rather succinctly as they later add: “When the pain of communication with your soul becomes intense, you are at a pivotal moment. The choice that confronts you is whether to ease the pain you feel by escaping from it into thoughts or activities, or to keep your attention inward in order to learn where your discomfort is coming from, and heal the source of it.”

When I look back at those times throughout life where I truly struggled to maintain a cultivated inner landscape, it was primarily due to my inability to remain present, and consciously recognize those external circumstances for what they were. If I wasn’t attempting to replay an already lived experience from the past, I was projecting the outcome of ones that had yet to exist, and that’s no way for a garden to grow.

Dave Davis
Dave Davis teaches preschool for the Head Start program based at the Children’s Museum of the East End in Bridgehampton, NY. He is also a frequent contributor to “Who Smarted?,” a popular educational podcast for elementary school children.

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