Soil-less Gardens

by Tom Casciero

An unusual and wonderful part of my doctoral program at the Union Institute is a Personal Development Project. Along with my other academic work, I am required to complete a project that asks me to pay attention to who I am, where I am going and what I want personally in my involvement with learning. It is a great way to maintain a sense of myself and a state of balance as I become immersed in the passion and sometimes rigors of learning.

Since I've always enjoyed gardening as a creative and recuperative activity, I thought it might be a valuable framework for this project. I decided to work in cooperation with Nature on the half-acre of land where my wife and I live. I felt that I could learn a lot about myself and my way of working in the world in general, and even find new ways to approach my learning. Boy, was I right! I had read the works of Dorothy Maclean, Eileen Caddy and the Findhorn Garden, and I had been gardening in a highly intuitive way. However, my communication with the devas and nature spirits was "fuzzy." Shortly after making the decision to work in cooperation with Nature, a friend told me about the Perelandra garden. My wife and I went to an open house and were really impressed. The garden was beautiful (I loved the pond), the people were friendly, and the energy was palpable. We took workshops, bought books and came home to begin our work.

We were amazed at how specific the instructions were and how beautiful the results. People who came to visit would remark on just those parts of the land where we had worked. After getting the hang of asking questions accurately and following through on the answers, we began to get more and more intuitive responses from Nature. Most were practical, but some were pure blessings. While doing a clearing for a Pyracantha bush that we had cut down earlier in the day, we were treated to a late night "deva dance." The sheer joy of being that the devas and nature spirits exuded in those communications has changed the way I operate in the world. Each time I work with them, I am reminded to return to the path of ease and joy.

We then began to check in with our higher selves regarding food, clothing and decisions on a daily basis. One day I wondered, "If co-creation worked outside in the garden, would it work in our home?" To find out, I contacted the Overlighting Deva of the Land and House and re-arranged our bedroom. It looked and felt so great that we re-arranged all of the rooms. I even rearranged my office at work. Soon friends were asking advice on where to place their furniture, plants and art. A friend later told me that this was the way of Feng Shui, which works with the principles of being in harmony with Nature.

And of course it wasn't long before the parallels between my research on applying Laban Movement Studies to the training of actors and the principles learned in gardening came together. I noticed that the themes of cooperation, trust, listening and responding, and involution and evolution applied to various creative processes. They included the creation of my teaching style, a safe environment for learning and the ensemble of learners, and the curriculum itself. I was even led to look at the relationship between Laban's harmony of space and movement, of music (another aspect of my studies on voice and movement integration), and of Feng Shui, which are all based on structures found in the many levels of Nature.

As I continue my "gardening," whether with hands dug into the earth, feet thrashing in the movement studio, or fingers planted on the computer keyboard, the principles that I have learned weave themselves in and out of my academic and personal growth. I have learned not to assume or generalize, to trust myself and Nature and to look at the big picture. I've slowed down a bit and don't over-commit as much as in the past. I've learned to give up control and to trust, to be accountable, to be compassionate, and to be clear about what I want. I also learned to be very flexible. Yes, I have learned a lot about who I am, what I want, and where I'm going through the process of gardening. On the personal side, I am more relaxed and attuned; just knowing that there is so much support available to me certainly brings me peace. And it has affected my academic work a lot, I check in regularly about my next steps, my state of mind, and my mission and purpose. It supports me in my work as a learner, a teacher and a human being and thus supports my community. I'd encourage each of you to take this work into new areas of your life, too. I believe that the more we work cooperatively with Nature, the faster our world will heal and grow.