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How Does Your Garden Grow?
by Betty Bland

Houseplants are a luxury that I have decided to do without due to the current state of my responsibilities. My days and weeks fly by so swiftly that I had to choose kindness to the plant kingdom over misplaced ambitions of providing regular care for individual plants. Houseplants are wonderful little green (for the most part) beings that provide a hominess and ambience, besides of course, their benefit to the environment in general. My mother, who had quite a green thumb, filled every vacant window space with the little darlings and thought of them as her children. Although these small green living things require very little attention, that attention cannot be sporadic. Several weeks or a month of neglect can deal a fatal blow to the healthiest plant.
Consistency in applied spirituality serves the purpose of watering our seeds of aspiration. Just as good intentions alone do not provide the sustenance needed by the plant, so do our spiritual roots starve if we only prefer to think good thoughts without putting them into action. The exercise of the will to achieve, no matter how limited the actual contribution may appear on the physical plane, generates major currents in the spiritual waters of the world.

In other words, if it is easy for us to give a pittance to alleviate poverty now and again, then that act has provided very little sustenance for our soul. But, if we give generously from limited resources, as did the widow in Jesus’s story concerning contributions in the temple, then our soul is nourished through that sacrificial act. Moreover, as in all teaching stories or parables, the symbolism points beyond the literal facts. The teaching applies to our way of life, not just to our pocketbooks. As the saying goes, time is money. Sympathetic attention and cultivation of a responsible attitude are valuables which also contribute to the whole.

So Theosophy demands an ethic higher than anything that can be defined in rules of conduct. It calls not for passive acquiescence, but rather an active involvement in recognising our participation and contribution to the whole. Active service, according to our capacity and opportunity, is a necessary component of our spiritual health.

As Madame Blavatsky said in the second fragment of the Voice of the Silence, “Shalt thou abstain from action? Not so shall gain thy soul her freedom. To reach Nirvana one must reach Self-Knowledge, and Self-Knowledge is of loving deeds the child.” Continuing with this thought elsewhere, she further stated that “The Theosophist who is at all in earnest, sees his responsibility and endeavours to find knowledge, living, in the meantime, up to the highest standard of which he is aware.” (Collected Writings, Volume IX, p. 4-5)
Thus it is not the occasional act of service or valour that builds our spiritual foundation, but the regular care and watering of an altruistic attitude. Moment by moment the seed of our spirit is cultivated, so that it can develop and bloom in its own time. As long as we have breath we cannot give up. There is always someone or something which needs our attention.

Of course, we cannot lose sight of the fact that meeting karmic responsibilities and attending to one’s own needs are a part of maintaining the overall health of the garden of life. But complacency, mediocrity and discouragement compromise the quality of our garden’s environment. There are so many small ways in which we can begin to reorient our attention.

As a simple example, consider the act of voting. Frustrating and inadequate or not, if this right is not exercised, what little voice we have in the affairs of government will disappear. Though we claim to be a model democracy, a recent survey of voting-age citizens showed that the United States ranked 139th out of 172 nations in voting participation (Parade Magazine, January 14, 2007). This does not speak well of our commitment to democratic principles.

We might further consider our random acts of kindness, or lack thereof, when we find ourselves behind the wheel in heavy traffic. Think of hidden prejudices and biases that may have crept into our attitudes which will eventually find their way into our relationships. In every act and attitude, we are either reducing the light and nutrients available to the flower of our soul, or we are tending it properly with the sustenance it needs.
An occasional ethically noble act is like an occasional watering of our philodendron and violets. It might, for a while, keep them from turning up their toes, but it will not allow them to flourish. A truly ethical person has incorporated authentic acts of kindness and justice into their very being. With this kind of regular care and watering, the soul exhibits amazing strength in overcoming adversity and unfolding its potential. As Tennessee Williams once said, “The violets in the mountains have broken the rocks.”

How does your garden grow? With neglect and by happenstance, or with regular attention and active care?
First published in the Quest magazine, May-June 2007. Reprinted with permission.
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