In the center of our recent ‘circle’ (Gardeners of Peace conference call, Sept. 29, 2007), we could sense a deep desire for a community of heart-centered people who are alive, awake and able to connect on an essential level, with the ‘gardener within’ and together as a developing community. It is from this ‘opened space’ that the collective wisdom, heart and spirit will continue to grow and take shape. The Garden (Gardeners of Peace) provides the 'vessel' in which this growth will emerge, expand and ultimately bear 'fruits' of all kinds, and where you are invited to reflect privately or aloud with others.

You may ask, “What is this Gardening all about, and what is in it for me?” Please realize that only you have the answer to these questions, and only you know how to contribute to make this world we live in a better place. No one among the Gardeners is here to tell you what to do.

We hope that you will find meaning in these few lines of introduction, as well as in the invitation, and that you will feel called to join us in our active search for peace, in our active gardening of our lives and of our earth. Gardening can be a very meaningful activity and a potent metaphor – and a very simple one as well. It is an activity that allows us to reach and tap our deepest identity: human beingness.
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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Starting our Walking Journey

Dear Gardeners, and Friends of the Gardeners,

How are you all doing?

As we are about to enter the winter season in the northern hemisphere, it appears that new activity is about to sprout – an undercurrent of weeding and seeding that will bear fruits in the spring of our lives.

Several of us gathered virtually this past Saturday and decided to start “walking” – start walking the Presence Process, a guided journey into self initiated by Michael Brown.

http://tiny.cc/q8lAh for a link to Amazon

It will take us eleven weeks –or eleven chapters of the book– to walk this process and we have formed groups of 2-3 walkers to make this process more intimate and easier to manage, from a logistical perspective.

Although it is up to each group to decide about their meeting patterns, it is very likely that each of them will gather once a week to reflect and share on what happened during that specific time.

Please feel free to join one of these groups; now would be a good time as most of us are planning to start walking on Sunday, December 21, which is the winter solstice.

Should you want to commence the journey at a later date, feel free to contact us and we will put you in touch with others who might be interested.

Wishing you a very nourishing winter season, and a beautiful 2009 filled with wonder and peace!

Gilles & Lenore

The Presence Process - Invitation to Walk!

Sent November 14, 2008

Dear Gardeners, Friends and Friends of the Gardeners,

This is Gilles writing from the Garden State, with a unique kind of “gardening offer” today.

During the course of a recent Art of Hosting gathering, Tenneson and Teresa mentioned to me a book called The Presence Process – a book that leads us into a Healing Journey into Present Moment Awareness.

I bought the book upon my return and what I discovered in the first few pages made me want to enter this rejuvenating process, which takes eleven weeks to complete.

While talking to Lenore, I found out that she already bought the book, but didn’t have a chance to start walking the process.

We would like to “start walking together” early December, meaning that we would connect periodically to discuss our progress and struggles along this self-exploratory path.

We would like to invite each and every one of you to join us.

Please find attached a short excerpt of the book, which defines ‘present moment awareness.’ As well as a link to amazon.com where you will find additional comments.


Depending on the number of ‘walkers,’ we will decide how to get together.

Happy Gardening!

Gilles & Lenore

Friday, October 17, 2008

Gardeners of Peace phone council 28 September 2008

Present: Judy Wallace, Jackie Wasilewski, Gilles Asselin, Jennifer Jones

Judy: Equinox last Monday - now entering fall. Flowers now starting to fade. Seems imperfect - holding space for cycles and their imperfect beauty.

Moments of silence

Question: As you join this circle today, what are you noticing about cycles in your life, in your garden, and in your inner garden?

Gilles: Funny anecdote about animals visiting the garden. Groundhog visiting, resting under the shed in the neighbor’s garden. We visited Longwood Gardens, 30 miles south of Philadelphia. The gardener at the Gardens told us that groundhog is worse animal for gardens as he eats everything. Groundhog inside our vegetable garden the other day, holding a tomato in his mouth. Interesting coincidence as person from Longwood Gardens had mentioned groundhogs. Cycles of the seasons here are pretty regular. Indian summers. Inner gardening is more of a spiral for me - an unfolding.

Jackie: Issue of cycles - transition from Japan to New Mexico - and also retiring - now post-professional life. Entering the fall of my life. My fall garden in NM has its own spectacular beauty. We've had more rain here than usual and so the blooming of the late summer flowers has been spectacular. High elevation here - snow in wintertime - high desert. Flowers in the desert don't come on a regular basis. Dormancy. Decrease of the life force. Idea of imperfect cycles - is there such a thing as an imperfect cycle? Christianity has tried to eradicate death - which is part of life. Navaho weavers - always make a mistake - so that the creator doesn't get caught in their own creation. Perfection is somehow static. Gardening - you have to cope with constant change. Inuit have always lived on the ice - which changes - similar to plate tectonics in geology - whereas on ice - these changes repeat themselves every year and there's a process of constant change. Field beyond wrong doing and right doing. Book about forgiveness - the giving up of all possibility of an alternative PAST.

Jennifer: Spring Equinox, and full moon. Now new moon tomorrow and fall Equinox.
Interesting time for me. Axladitsa in Greece. co-hosing Pioneers of Change 10th anniversary gathering. 5 hours drive from Athens. Teaching sound and voice tomorrow. Conscious of chest infection. Changes going on around me to do with my own path and cycles. Everything called into question for me. Teaching others how to breathe and make sounds and my own - I am having trouble with. Hope my voice will hold up. The Field - Rumi - myself and questioning. Shock that other people see me differently than I see myself. Shock that I have seen myself. Not very positive about myself. Cycles. Autumn - preparing for winter, everything dying down, readying for the hibernation period. I am winding down and hoping I will come out before spring. Pagan calendar - Equinox the middle of fall. Nov. is the first of winter.

Judy: Appreciation of such a rich garden as our beginning. Groundhog digs up the garden - nature - how we're all in this dance together. Not always appreciating one another. I noticed moving into the fall inside me - going inside more than usual. That's also the cycle of the earth - the phases of the seasons and the transition from the light and the brilliance, as we move deep into the dark and fertile place of the womb - see what we will recreate - it's the dying of the old. I see a larger system dying - in our dying throes - and we don't quite see how that will happen. Something is shifting on a very large scale. Nature is always changing - I think what caused me to put the Rumi quote in, I feel that we are meeting in a “field” - we come together to create together, to create a new way of coming and being together - of speaking and holding space - the “field” is beyond all of that. A place of beauty in all of its messiness and imperfection. A lot brewing inside. It brings me to a place of reflection as to how I want to be present for this call.

Jackie: 10,000 thoughts - idea of creating a place of beauty - in my time in Japan there was a philosophy professor - Scottish - and his family had been engaged in spiritual practice in Scotland SINCE CELTIC TIMES. The centre of philosophical activity IN THE WEST HAS BEEN EPISTEMOLOGY, OR WHAT IS TRUTH BUT in Japan it HAS been aesthetics, OR WHAT IS BEAUTY, PARTICULARLY WHAT IS A BEAUTIFUL SOCIETY, WHICH IN JAPAN MEANS A HARMONIOUS SOCIETY. Navaho in getting centred will see beauty all around. Present system which seems to be falling apart - Mayan predictions about the world falling apart - and we just don't get it. In NM when the rains don't come, it means that the people are not in harmony. It's up to us - there's an enemy but the enemy is us - it's up to us to create that place of beauty. It's a creative process.

Judy: I really resonate with that and I do think that the piece about it's up to us - how do we learn to create relationship together to solve complex problems - different ways of conducting dialogue. We work in cross-cultural work to be a bridge to bring people together. Book on Japanese philosophy - Wabi-Sabi - value imperfection - notice the opening that imperfection creates.

Jackie: In Japanese aesthetics things are not symmetrical.

Jennifer: Conscious of big changes going on. Chaos we are experiencing. Things out of control. AoH thread. Noticing where are we going. Not knowing, what can we do to create something better? Astrologically some pretty hefty stuff going on - Pluto in Capricorn for the next 10 years - death and transformation and death and money. Restructuring. Out of my control what is happening. Just allow. Noticing that we have no control.

Gilles: it's raining hard - and I'm enjoying it. I'm facing the window and looking at a tree outside the house - and the leaves are still green so it doesn't feel like fall here. But things are beginning to die. If we want to rejuvenate, we need to let old patterns die off. Fall is an important part as it allows us to welcome what comes next.

Jackie: Reminds me of a quotation BY E. L. DOCTOROW about writing a novel – IT IS LIKE DRIVING AT NIGHT with headlights - you can only see what you can see in the headlights, BUT YOU CAN ACCOMPLISH THE WHOLE JOURNEY THAT WAY.

Judy: Another question: What is the relationship of imperfection to nature, to cycles, to beauty, to life, and how do you experience that?

Jackie: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and maybe Imperfection IS too. As we're beginning to understand in the larger economic situation - WE NEED TO allow things to die. Wolves are considered to be imperfect for sheep and grazing animals. You only need to worry about a wolf when he or she is hungry. When you lose the ability to notice, maybe you're not able to contribute any more. It's like an actor - you need to know when to go offstage. We've been trying to allow everyone to stay on stage all the time and it's not balanced.

Gilles: Morning Glory - some are still open even though it's getting late for them. And the zucchini have bloomed but no zucchini fruits. White butterflies around too - something I usually only notice in the summer - things seem to be different from normal. How much are human beings responsible for these imperfections? We need to stop damaging the world.

Judy: A couple of thoughts came to me - Jackie talked about balance and things being out of balance - and Gilles talked about the amount of rain. There are also the bees which have declined badly. Some say that is why the vegetables have not produced. Being out of balance - maybe something new is emerging. Sign of Libra – trying to come into balance, equilibrium, and harmony.

Jennifer: My sense about this - certainly imperfection in the world and the things we are doing to the planet that are not good; but also something bigger than that. Hard to find the words. Planet going through some evolution - maybe it is due to our behavior - but something else. An intelligence to our planet. Feels as if something is happening - a new order emerging. Feels really definite - the weather, the bees, the zucchinis. Open to possibility that something good is emerging and old ways - death and transformation - spiritual and physical. There is a perfection that we don't recognize. We will find a way of coming through.

Judy: In all of this uncertainty and imperfection and cycles and balance or imbalance. What do we think our role is now? What is it that we might be or do or be present in this time of death and transformation?

Jackie: This speaks to the original reason to why I was interested in this group - when I first heard about this from Gilles it made me think of Voltaire and tending one's garden - in the midst of turbulence it's something you can always do. Links also to doing what needs to be done - in the space illuminated by the headlights - this also connects to Paul Hawkins' book - Blessed Unrest - he developed the first organic supermarket chain in the US. He now HAS A CATALOGUE THAT SELLS all the things you need for a sustainable life. He was saving all the business cards HE WAS GIVEN WHEN HE SPOKE IN DIFFERENT PLACES and realised THESE CARDS CONSTITUTED a network of people. OUT OF THESE HE BEGAN TO CREATE THREE WEBSITES: WISEREARTH.ORG, WISERGOVERNMENT.ORG AND WISERBUSINESS.ORG. Subtitle of book is “the biggest social movement in human history that nobody saw coming.” Change is a little dicey.

Gilles: Different ways and levels - my role, my responsibility is to evolve and I need to continue on my own path, being willing to move forward and onwards. I will meet the people I need to meet and do the things which I need to do.

Jennifer: Change is dicey. Change is the only constant. Challenging for all of us. Question of noticing change. When it begins to tear apart our lives and the planetary system. Scary for me and others. What can we be or do in this time of death and transformation? It's about staying present and conscious. Not allowing myself to be pushed around by media and telling us how to think. Believe that we will emerge in a more conscious way - slowly but we are becoming more conscious. Creating balance on the planet. Remaining present and open to what can emerge.

Judy: I really resonate to a lot of what you all said - being present to our own evolution as individuals and being present to the whole. In this time of uncertainty and chaos and not knowing what's going to happen, we probably have a capacity to be present without energising fear and panic. Putting one foot in front of the other and bringing the gifts that we have into the world - and being present in more of these circles and conversations. Energetically it makes new ripples in consciousness and maybe we can send a more present and calming effect into the field where we all live. We are probably each moving into that each day - what are my next steps, what am I meant to be now? What shows us and going there - there was a women's gathering in Boston which Meg Wheatley held - start anywhere and follow it wherever it goes. We are conscious enough that we can do that in a meaningful way - we don't necessarily know what's on the other side but it's about whatever needs to be done is called for now.

Jackie: Elderly friend of mine - Polish Jew - walked out of Poland four days after the Germans moved in - and later ended up in New York. She went to Japan 56 years later – students were asking her if she had one thing to say. “Actually life is quite simple - you make a move and either you survive or you don't. There's little to worry about.”

Judy: Closing thoughts - what themes have emerged in our collective garden?

Jackie: Incredible richness which can emerge when you create this kind of space.

Gilles: The rain has stopped. Leaves are still wet. A lot of responsibility is emerging in this call. Very healthy time - more and more people will come to that awakening. We are the ones. Much more power coming from society. Sign of hope - many of us are looking in the right direction. Many more are finally coming to terms with the idea that it's up to us to do something if we want this world to evolve in the right direction.

Jennifer: very appreciative of this space. Sacred space we create. Amazing technology allowing us to connect. Going away tomorrow – I was unsure whether to join tonight, but spellbound by the call and didn't leave early. Also believe there is great hope. There are those of us consciously moving to a better place - in relationship to one another. The “me” and the “we”. Individual and collective. Different expressions of the One. Where does the “me” end and the “we” begin? And maybe it doesn't matter.

Judy: Quite a question - I've been holding that – the “me” and “we” and consciousness which is emerging through us - we all become present and each contributes quite a bit to who we are and yet it’s a collective space - the field Rumi talks about. I don't know where the intersection of me and we is, but as long as we keep that open and as long as we continue to seek to evolve, there is hope. I so appreciate each of us being here. It's a small group but maybe we've been in a deeper place as a result.

Jackie: This has been a fantastic first participation.

Judy: Great appreciation to you all - maybe as we move forward with our lives we will carry part of this with us.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

July 27 Phone Council Meeting

For me the metaphor of a garden is a powerful attraction. I have said that my physical garden -- my yard -- is not necessarily groomed well. At the same time it does represent me -- the side of me that is a little untamed, spontaneous, sprouting ideas that don't seem to fit.

When I walk past the gardens of my neighbors, I see all those same differences in their gardens. Some neat and well maintained, others a bit unkempt but interesting none the less. Some people plant wild flowers and let them grow in their own way. Others plant neat rows of hostas. All of these gardens say something about their gardeners -- about the values they possess and carry on.

When I lived in Indonesia, I studied art and culture of Bali. It struck me that in Balinese art no space is left untouched in a canvas. It is busy with images that reflect the realities of life in Bali. There is lush vegetation everywhere and people are always out and seen on the streets and in the villages. Their gardens are rice fields, forests, and orchids that bloom. In the front of their houses, offerings are made daily to the gods.

At the last meeting, I couldn’t stop thinking about our metaphor – our physical gardens, our spiritual gardens. What do those gardens look like? What do they represent about us, about our values and beliefs. We often talk about the necessity of weeding, but some gardens weeds are another gardens flowers. It seems like such a huge subject in a simple disguise.

In the above quote by Basho, the chestnut represents that which is holy in Japanese literature – so, I thought perhaps that is it. Often what we value is around us and beautiful, but we fail to notice its presence in our lives. As each of us has a different garden, with vastly different plants – so too are the differences in our values and beliefs – our spiritual path.

These are my thoughts. I hope the phone council meeting on the 22nd of June is a good one. I definitely am looking forward to the conversation that evolves.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Phone Council June 22nd Invitation

If you are in the garden, I will dress myself in leaves…I will present myself with all the laughters I can muster. And if you are angry I will come, calm and steady, with some small and easy story.

Mary Oliver, Rhapsody

Please join us for the June phone council of the Gardeners of Peace

Sunday, June 22, 3:30 – 5:00pm EDT
(We are meeting on the 4th Sunday of each month)

We invite the space and quiet for reflection.

Here is one question to consider for our time together:

Who is someone who taught you how to garden well, literally or metaphorically? What story might you tell that would illuminate the wisdom of his or her gifts?

Tel: (712) 432-1100 Access Code: 497860#

Please feel free to arrive 10 minutes early and join us in silence

RSVP: holly@ourellipses.com

Sunday, May 18, 2008

story practice as healing/gardening

Dear Friends,

I feel deeply grateful for the abandonment stories and questions you have shared here. It is validating for me, even comforting to give voice to this part of gardening.

Michele how you have offered your and your mother's story especially (through our email chain) affected me, reading it as I prepared to go on retreat both made me feel less alone and allowed for more of those shadow questions to come out and be seen.

As I drove down through the heart of Florida, in the northeastern Atlantic side of the state, down to the southwestern coast, I think I cried about 4 of the 5 hours of the drive, in touch with a deep and much larger than personal abandonment story. It felt true to the land herself, to the old cultures of Florida, to these strange and beautiful migrations in body and or in spirit we make in trying to connect with each other.

It is an interesting place I find myself lately. Asking for our abandonment stories to come out, to be seen, not so much so that we may wallow in our wounds and salve each other with surface compassions, but so that the secretness or the perception of isolation of these stories can meet the light, can meet each other's.

Perhaps that is what has pained me when I visit that little abandoned garden and like places, not that the abandonment has happened to whatever degree, but more that the story was is not being tended to? I don't know what to do sometimes with what I kinesthetically 'hear.' And I do believe that hearing such stories together releases something powerful of the pattern....

As I continue to ponder Gilles' and Terry's new questions -- "How do we beautify and nurture ourselves?" and "Do we have to abandon what contaminates our lives...?" -- both today are bringing me back to the healing work of storytelling and storycatching (as Christina Baldwin names it).

Listening and gently questioning the stories we tell ourselves in our inner gardening (I am not financially secure; I will be abandoned) as well as those we share and cultivate outwardly seems a critical stepping stone for our own paths and the paths in which we work to come together on.

Perhaps that is at the core of what I appreciate about the simplicity of our virtual circle calls for that reason.

I would say to Terry's question that stories of what contaminates our lives can be a great lever for not abandoning what contaminates us by inviting that shadow or toxin to be seen, heard, and come to be loved different, and this yet allows for new creation to emerge more intentionally....and so in this way story practice is one way in which we may beautify and nurture ourselves.

My time with the Art of Hosting retreat in Tampa, of which Tenneson was a part as well, confirmed the power of this for me. In releasing some of the stories I had carried, stories of Florida violences not my own that I feared had gone un-listened to, and in hearing others' stories that paralleled or coalesced with my own curious journeying was/is healing practice.

And this practice is what I am growing into as a shape for my being and doing in the world....which is fascinating because as a 'creative writer' and 'professor' I have a good deal of training in many methodologies of this and I am delighted to be letting go of making room for these practices we and like circles are discovering!

Much gratitude,
you all will be in my thoughts next Sunday though I will not be able to join the call
With heart,