When I was a little girl, we had a program at school, called The Lucky Book Club. We could order books from a catalogue and they were delivered to the school. I ordered The Secret Garden. I selected it because I was intrigued by the title and cover illustration. When the teacher handed me the book, I was a bit disappointed as I immediately realized I’d ordered a book with no pictures and ‘big words’, Oh no! I was only 7 years old at the time, and the prospect of attempting to read it by myself was daunting, so my Mum read it to me instead. She did a very good Yorkshire accent for the characters of Martha and Dicken, which made me laugh. I became so obsessed with the book that I even begged my Dad to help me create a Secret Garden of my own. I got my own ‘bit of earth’ in our backyard and I grew yellow and orange marigolds in a concentric circle formation.
The Secret Garden is so apt to illustrate the curative powers of nature, the way to heal yourself and experience more joy and magic in your life.
1. Pull out the weeds and plant new seeds
“Much more surprising things can happen to anyone who, when a disagreeable or discouraged thought comes into his mind, just has the sense to remember in time and push it out by putting in an agreeable determinedly courageous one. Two things cannot be in one place. ‘Where, you tend a rose, my lad, A thistle cannot grow.’”
Since becoming more aware of my thoughts, I’ve been alarmed at how many times I’ve caught myself calling myself ‘a stupid idiot’ for little things like burning a piece of toast or bumping my elbow into a door. Is it really necessary to be so hard on ourselves? In order to motivate ourselves to go to the gym, we’ll stand in front of the mirror examining our ‘flaws’, berating our appearance, calling ourselves, fat, lazy and hopeless. We figure that this is a good strategy for motivating ourselves: the worse we feel the more compelled we’ll be to take action. Sometimes it does work, but ultimately it just makes us feel like crap and activates those bad habits of stuffing down food and sitting in front of the T.V in an attempt to comfort ourselves and numb our hurt feelings. When we are kind and loving to ourselves we make choices that respect and honor us, so we’ll be naturally inclined to take better care of our bodies.
Have you ever noticed yourself being particularly critical of others too? Do you assume that people won’t like you? This is often a reflection of how you feel about yourself. When you start being kind and loving to yourself, your heart opens up and you are able to give others love and receive too.
In a passage taken from chapter 7 in the book, Mary, chatting with the housemaid Martha, anticipates meeting her Uncle.
"He wouldn't like me," said Mary in her stiff, cold little way. "No one does."
Martha looked reflective again.
"How does tha' like thysel'?" she inquired, really quite as if she were curious to know.
Mary hesitated a moment and thought it over.
"Not at all--really," she answered. "But I never thought of that before."
Martha grinned a little as if at some homely recollection.
"Mother said that to me once," she said. "She was at her wash- tub an' I was in a bad temper an' talkin' ill of folk, an' she turns round on me an' says: `Tha' young vixen, tha'! There tha' stands sayin' tha' doesn't like this one an' tha' doesn't like that one. How does tha' like thysel'?' It made me laugh an' it brought me to my senses in a minute."
Martha astutely points out that when we hate others, criticize or judge it is often because this is how we treat ourselves. When we start to think beautiful, affirming thoughts about ourselves, then the outward projection becomes the same and we begin to see the beauty and goodness in others too. Mary’s conversation with Martha helps her to realize that the negative thoughts she has about herself has been acting like repellant, driving others away.
So pull out those weedy self-critical thoughts, plant new seeds of self love and acceptance and watch yourself bloom and flourish. You’re life, physical and emotional wellbeing and relationships with others will also thrive and become more beautiful too.
2. Heal your inner child
“Since she had been living in other people's houses and had had no Ayah, she had begun to feel lonely and to think queer thoughts which were new to her. She had begun to wonder why she had never seemed to belong to anyone even when her father and mother had been alive. Other children seemed to belong to their fathers and mothers, but she had never seemed to really be anyone's little girl. She had had servants, and food and clothes, but no one had taken any notice of her.”
In Caroline Myss’ work Sacred Contracts she discusses the child archetypes that exist in our psyches. Mary embodies the archetype of the Orphan child and the sickly Colin embodies the archetype of the Wounded child. However by the stories end we see Mary expressing the exalted aspects of the Nature Child archetype and Colin expressing exalted aspects of the Magical/Innocent Child archetype.
Myss says of the Orphan and Wound child archetypes that:
“Identifying with the Orphan begins by evaluating your childhood memories, paying particular attention to whether your painful history arises from the feeling that you were never accepted as a family member.”
“The wounded Child archetype holds the memories of the abuse, neglect, and other traumas that we have endured during childhood.”
Misselthwaite Manor is symbolic of the unconscious mind, ready to be uncovered. Colin’s wailing and howling echo the hurt feelings of our inner child, who cries out to our adult selves for attention and acknowledgement. Like Mary, we must be brave enough to walk those dark, unknown corridors of the mind and seek the source of the anguish. Once we meet our wounded parts, we usually realize there is nothing to fear and reconciliation and healing can take place.
Acknowledge and heal any hurt feelings from childhood. You may not even realize how much they are affecting your life, as they operate at sub consciousness level. I fortunately have very fond memories of my childhood. However, no matter how idyllic a person’s childhood was most people will have some confusing or upsetting moments, it’s a part of growing up. When I was doing some inner child work, I recalled a memory that brought on a few tears, but simultaneously my adult self was thinking, ‘what a silly thing to be so upset about, I can’t believe I’m crying over it.’ It seemed like such a small and insignificant thing but to my child self it wasn’t small at all. Acknowledge what you felt no matter how silly it may seem to your adult sensibilities. Provide the love, comfort and encouragement to your inner child as you would to any child who was frightened or upset. When your inner child feels safe and happy you may notice that unwanted patterns of behavior simply disappear, as your inner child no longer needs to act out to get your attention.
Here is a great article written by Michelle Mayur that teaches you how to heal your inner child.
3. Commune with nature and the animals to elevate your thoughts
“She could see the tops of trees above the wall, and when she stood still she saw a bird with a bright red breast sitting on the topmost branch of one of them, and suddenly he burst into his winter song--almost as if he had caught sight of her and was calling to her.”
Mary has many interesting encounters with the robin-red-breast and when she feels that the robin was calling to her she describes a queer feeling in her heart. This is a great description of how the universe tries to grab your attention and helps you open your heart.
“Mistress Mary went a step nearer to the robin and looked at him very hard.
"I'm lonely," she said.
She had not known before that this was one of the things which made her feel sour and cross. She seemed to find it out when the robin looked at her and she looked at the robin.”
In Eckart Tolle’s book, Oneness with all life, he describes the dynamic which occurred between Mary and the robin and how it helped her to awaken. He states:
“Underneath the surface appearance, everything is not only connected with everyone else, but also with the Source of all life out of which it came. Even a stone, and more easily a flower or a bird, could show you the way back to God, to the Source, to yourself. When you look at it or hold it and let it be without imposing a word or mental label on it, a sense of awe, of wonder, arises within you. Its essence silently communicates itself to you and reflects your own essence back to you.”
Dicken’s connection with nature and the animals is even more acute. Mary asks him.
"Do you understand everything birds say?" said Mary.
Dickon's grin spread until he seemed all wide, red, curving mouth, and he rubbed his rough head.
"I think I do, and they think I do," he said. "I've lived on th' moor with 'em so long. I've watched 'em break shell an' come out an' fledge an' learn to fly an' begin to sing, till I think I'm one of 'em. Sometimes I think p'raps I'm a bird, or a fox, or a rabbit, or a squirrel, or even a beetle, an' I don't know it."
Mary asks the little robin-red-breast to show her the way and he helps her to discover the key to the Secret Garden – her true spirit or higher self. Nature and animals can show us the next step to take if we ask them to show us the way too. The Shaman’s have known this for eons. Dicken is like a Shaman: “The animals tell me all their secrets.”
So be like Dicken and Mary! Joy comes from feeling a sense of connectedness to others, the earth and all of its creations.
If you find it difficult to shift out of a cycle of negative thinking, one of the easiest things to do is go outside! Have you noticed how much time you spend cooped up indoors or stuck in the office? So visit a garden, park or go to the beach. Take in all the sights, sounds, smells, touch the leaves really take some time to feel all the elements: the wind, the sunshine, the water, the earth. Notice how easily all those burdensome, heavy thoughts just lift off and float away and how clear your head now feels. The more you allow yourself to feel and experience nature, the easier it is to think more positive and loving thoughts.
4. Breathe in the fresh air and move your body
"That's fresh air," she said. "Lie on your back and draw in long breaths of it. That's what Dickon does when he's lying on the moor. He says he feels it in his veins and it makes him strong and he feels as if he could live forever and ever. Breathe it and breathe it."
Throughout the story much attention is given to Mary’s physical appearance, in the beginning she is depicted as sickly. However, once out on the moors breathing in the fresh air, tending to the garden and cultivating new inspiring thoughts she transforms into the picture of health and vitality. Similarly, as soon as Colin gets outside in the fresh air and starts exercising his appetite increases and so does his strength and optimism.
“Living as it were, all by herself in a house with a hundred mysteriously closed rooms and having nothing whatever to do to amuse herself, had set her inactive brain to working and was actually awakening her imagination. There is no doubt that the fresh, strong, pure air from the moor had a great deal to do with it. Just as it had given her an appetite, and fighting with the wind had stirred her blood, so the same things had stirred her mind.”
The Secret Garden provides very good descriptions about the kind of ‘magical’ experiences that can be had once your perception is widened and you start to raise your consciousness.
It is interesting that Mary was skipping rope just before noticing the robin red breast which helped her find the door to the Secret Garden. The activity of skipping rope caused her to breathe more deeply. Focused breathing brings you into a state of heightened awareness and you are able to ‘perceive’ things more clearly – she was able to understand the messages from the robin-red-breast, she ‘read’ the signs that helped her uncover the door to the secret garden. This is why Yoga, Tai chi and Chi Gong are practiced as a way to enlightenment. People who practice these disciplines realize that movement combined with focused full breathing allows the ‘chi’ or life force to flow through the body with ease. This prepares them for meditation and allows them to experience higher states of consciousness.
Part of experiencing higher states of consciousness is to experience the phenomenon of synchronicities or meaningful coincidences, as defined by Carl Jung. According to Jung, the whole of human experience and history—social, emotional, psychological, and spiritual is contained in what he called the collective unconscious. The book describes how Mary was unwittingly tapped into this collective unconscious and was guided by a series of synchronicities that lead her to discover the secret garden.
Moreover, Mary sensed the spirit of Colin’s mother, her auntie, and was guided by her to help Colin heal and unite him with his father. Highly perceptive Dicken was certainly aware of this, he says to Mary:
"Mrs. Craven was a very lovely young lady," he had gone on rather hesitatingly. "An' mother she thinks maybe she's about Misselthwaite many a time lookin' after Mester Colin, same as all mothers do when they're took out o' th' world. They have to come back, tha' sees. Happen she's been in the garden an' happen it was her set us to work, an' told us to bring him here."
It is Dicken and Martha’s mother, Susan Sowerby, who operates as the ‘wise woman’, assisting from afar, her words reach Mary’s ears through her children and help stir Mary’s spirit. Susan Sowerby represents all that is wise within us, the part that draws information from the collective unconscious. She also represents the ‘Mother’ archetype: nurturing, generous and supportive. Moreover, Susan Sowerby’s characterization is very much like that of the Divine Mother, and we see this when she appears like some holy apparition in the garden. Throughout the story she is omnipresent operating as some kind of benevolent being, bestowing important resources at the right time, like the skipping rope, current buns and milk.
There is more to exercising than merely striving for the ‘perfect’ body, more importantly it fully engages your breath, allowing you to take in more life force energy or ‘chi’. Taking up a meditation practice is not for relaxing, although stress is released from the body, the benefits go far beyond this, allowing you to experience higher levels of consciousness. So get moving, anyway you like, dance, walk briskly, try yoga or tai chi, just make sure you enjoy it and allow some time to simply be. Learn to meditate, there are many kinds, experiment and choose what you like.
5. Create some magic
“Every morning and evening and as often in the daytime as I can remember I am going to say, 'Magic is in me! Magic is making me well! I am going to be as strong as Dickon, as strong as Dickon!'” (Colin)
There are so many references to magic and manifestation in the story. Colin makes a connection between the power of his thoughts and his ability to get out of his wheelchair and walk again. Your thoughts are like magic. Chanting and casting spells are what we call affirmations today. As Louise L.Hay says in her amazing book You Can Heal your Life, “What we believe about ourselves and about life becomes true for us.”
The repetition of positive affirmations, infusing them with positive intention will also help put you in vibrational alignment with your desires. As Abraham would say through Jerry & Esther Hicks, abundance comes to those who already have it, more importantly you need to feel as though you already have what you want. Using affirmations on a daily basis is a powerful tool to help re-program your thinking. These messages are heard and processed by your body/mind to create a state of wellbeing and abundance of all kinds.
Colin realizes this too.
“If you keep doing it every day as regularly as soldiers go through drill we shall see what will happen and find out if the experiment succeeds. You learn things by saying them over and over and thinking about them until they stay in your mind forever and I think it will be the same with Magic. If you keep calling it to come to you and help you it will get to be part of you and it will stay and do things."
"I once heard an officer in India tell my mother that there were fakirs who said words over and over thousands of times," said Mary.
It’s important to note that while doing affirmations is a wonderful tool for healing and manifestation it is also equally important to get to the root cause of your thinking patterns. Merely thinking positive things won’t help if you haven’t made any attempt to heal unpleasant experiences that are causing your negative thinking!
I love the way Sandra Anne Taylor puts it in her book fantastic book ‘Secrets of Success’, it really makes a lot of common sense. She says:
“So to get to the root of the external results in your life, you need to know what’s going on inside. Only then can you understand what’s destined to happen outside.”
“To get the Law of Manifestation to work the way you desire, you must consider the whole. It’s not enough to say, “If I only focus on what I want, then I’ll get it.” You need to support that intention with a positive multidimensional view of yourself. You must see yourself as capable and worthy of receiving – and perceive the world as abundant and willing to provide. You can visualize buying a winning lottery ticket all you want, but if you look in the mirror with judgment and self-doubt, your outcome will be consistently disappointing.”
Most of us have already heard most of the techniques I’ve discussed in this blog, either from teachers or parents. When I was a typical teenager, full of angst, my mum used to tell me to “go out and get some fresh air, smell the roses listen to the birds, go for a walk” but it all sounded so trite and too simple. Of course I didn’t take her advice and would continue brooding for a few more hours. However, when it all got too much, I used to take off on long walks just to ‘get out of my head’ and would notice my mood much improved afterwards. Sometimes the easiest, simplest things to do are the best.
I leave you with trailer from the 1993 movie, even though some parts differ from the original story, I still think it’s a lovely rendition and is worth a look.
Burnett, Frances Hodgson. The Secret Garden, Grossett & Dunlap, New York, 1938.
Hay, Louise L. You Can Heal Your life, Hay House Inc, Carlsbad, CA, 1984. (page. 1)
Mayur, Michelle. Healing the Inner Child, http://www.angelwings-healing.com/page43.htm
Myss, Caroline. Sacred Contracts, Awakening your Divine Potential, Harmony Books, New York, 2001. (pages. 372 – 374)
Taylor, Sandra Anne. Secrets of Success- The Science and Spirit of Real Prosperity, Hay House Publishers, Carlsbad, CA, 2008. (page. 16 & 17)
Tolle, Eckhart, Oneness with All Life – Inspirational Selections from A New Earth, Dutton, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., and Namaste Publishing, New York, 2008. (page. 257)