A Spiritual Exercise from Inner Gardening: Four Seasons of Cultivating the Soil and the Spirit by Diane Dreher

Diane Dreher, author of The Tao of Inner Peace, has written an edifying and inspiring book on gardening. Here is a passage on what can be learned from this activity about the spiritual practice of transformation.

"Working in our gardens, we discover enduring principles of growth and renewal. A compost pile turns leaves, grass clippings, and kitchen waste into rich new soil. The same principle holds true for our inner lives.

"Composting is part of the natural cycle in which nothing is wasted. Apple parings, ends of vegetables, onion skins, tips of green beans, last week's leftovers, vegetables that have gone bad in the refrigerator — all go into the compost bin. No apologies. Whatever they are, wherever they come from, they're part of a larger process of transformation, turning remnants of the past into better tomorrows.

"In an examined life everything is compost. Cherished memories empower us and enrich our lives. But so can our mistakes, old habits we'd like to break, patterns we've outgrown. Instead of dwelling on a negative experience, we can compost it. Becoming more mindful, asking, 'What can I learn from this?' and then moving on can turn any negative experience into a new cycle of wisdom and growth.

"Personal Exercise: Composting the Past

"This week think of something in your life you'd like to compost:
* an old habit you'd like to break
* a negative experience that keeps nagging at you
* something you did that you regret

"Write it down on an index card: "I compost __________(name the action)." Then sign and date the card.

"For the rest of the month, look at the card each morning and say to yourself, "I compost__________," stating what you've chosen to compost.

"It takes time to break old habits, so don't be discouraged. Whenever you find yourself falling back into the old pattern, stop and tell yourself, "I've composted that."

"At the end of the month, take the card, tear it up, and bury the pieces in the ground, adding your compost to the soul."