My alarm clock went off in the early hours each morning. Though it was still dark and often cold, I knew that if I didn’t get up immediately, I’d be late. My small trailer had no electricity or running water; I’d light a kerosene lamp, wash up with water from a gallon jug I carried home each day, and then sit to meditate.
My meditation completed, after grabbing a quick breakfast I’d rush off to meet our head gardener, Haanel Cassidy, at 7:00 a.m. to catch a ride to start the workday on the farm. Haanel had had a lifetime of experience in organic gardening, with some seventy years to his credit, and had become a dear friend and mentor. He would always be there waiting in his green Toyota pickup truck, “Tigger.”
So began each day during my first years at Ananda Village. Working with people who were to become my lifelong friends, and learning gardening skills from Haanel—these remain among the greatest joys of my life.
We didn’t need to look far to see spiritual lessons in almost everything we learned about raising vegetables. The climate at Ananda village is one of extremes: it’s either constant rain or drought. Watering the cultivated acres during the long dry season was always a challenge. Here are some things I learned about life from watering our gardens.
Connect to a Source. All of our irrigation was done with gravity-fed water lines from reservoirs higher up than the gardens. Keeping the water system functioning and in good repair required our constant attention.
Lesson:If you want to grow spiritually, look for people of higher wisdom, keep a good inward connection with them, and have the humility to allow them constantly to water your consciousness.
Channel the water where you want it to go. The vegetable beds were set on a slight downward slope, so that gravity would draw the water from the top to the bottom. With our hoes, we’d dig one main trench across the top of the bed, and then smaller trenches feeding off of it leading to each row. Each day we’d open or close the smaller trenches to allow the water to flow where it was needed.
Lesson:Life is full of choices: Direct your energy to where you will spiritually benefit the most, and block off the other options.
Watch out for impediments to the flow. Sometimes if we were inattentive, we didn’t notice that a rock or lump of soil had fallen into a trench and was diverting the water. Later we’d come back to discover the vegetable rows were still dry, while the weeds around the garden were sitting in big, muddy pools.
Lesson: Always be on the watch for harmful attitudes or habits that are blocking the flow of your energy. That energy must go somewhere, and usually finds its way along the course of least resistance.
Be sure to water the whole garden. We had to pay close attention to ensure that every row was getting the moisture it needed, so that the entire garden could flourish. Gardens are most productive and happiest when every plant is getting what is required.
Lesson: Live a balanced life.Don’t neglect any area, but sure make that all aspects—body, mind, and soul—are getting the energy they need.
In these ways I learned that God can be found in watering gardens, for His presence is everywhere. As our guru, Paramhansa Yogananda, wrote: “Like a silent, invisible river flowing beneath the desert, flows the vast dimensionless river of Spirit through the sands of time, through the sands of experience, and through the sands of all souls.”
May the flow of divine grace always water your soul.