1. Garden of Bliss is your second book (the first being Awake in the World). What inspired you to write your new book?
Garden of Bliss was inspired by secret gardens and by the desire to share a very active and conscious process for cultivating one's inner landscape through connecting with intuition, learning to pay attention to and trust dreams, and allowing one's self to be guided by inner wisdom. For people interested in a spiritual journey, I aimed to reveal how the process works through drawing attention to the different seasons of soul growth. These include breaking new ground, planting seeds, and cultivating the inner landscape of the spirit through different seasons. The final section is about harvesting joy.
2. You use the metaphor of an inner garden for personal bliss. How did you decide on such a representation?
I spent a lot of time in Europe and secret gardens kept popping up in casual conversations across languages and cultures. In France during a deep conversation with a man, he suggested I take my reflections into my "jardin secret" to explore more deeply. Later in an Italian-speaking area of Switzerland a similar situation occurred, and someone said to explore my spiritual questions in my "giardino segreto." I started to research the origin of secret gardens and discovered that secret gardens sprang up in Europe during the Middle Ages, a chaotic period plagued by wars, drought, and power struggles where little could grow outside of the protected walls. Secret gardens became sacred, walled enclosures where healing herbs, fruit trees, and delicate flowers could be tended and harvested. I find that the symbol of the secret garden is a very appropriate symbol for our times. It's a place within us where we can safely explore our spirits, allow ourselves to grow, reconnect with emotions, nurture ourselves with loving kindness, and find joy.
3. Your previous book, Awake in the World, provided 108 exercises to help readers live a divine life. Does Garden of Bliss provide similar exercises?
Yes, Garden of Bliss also offers suggestions at the end of chapters on how to tend to one's inner life. There's a guided visualization to help readers discover what their secret garden of the soul looks like and what messages it holds for them. I love to work with dreams, symbols, and synchronicity, and there are sections that encourage readers to pay attention to the signs in their lives and discover the language of their soul. There are exercises on staying groundedan essential element in soul growthand one of my favorites is to create the fragrance of one's life using head, heart, and base notes like perfumers do.
4. Garden of Bliss was described by Janna McMahan, best-selling author of Anonymity and The Ocean Inside, as being "[l]ike Eat, Pray, Love< without the whine." What do you make of that comparison?
I worked on Garden of Bliss before reading Eat, Pray, Love, and when I finally read it I couldn't help but notice that author, Elizabeth Gilbert, had also found her spiritual self through travel. Garden of Bliss is set in Europe, where I lived for many years. It also touches on travels to Egypt; India; and my return to Charleston, South Carolina. It reveals personal stories (some of them quite painful) with the aim of exploring the exciting, mystical, and sometimes challenging experiences of spiritual growth, and it ultimately aims to encourage others to set out on the journey or continue along the way if they've started.
5. What do you hope your readers will take away from Garden of Bliss?
I have found that reading about others' spiritual experiences has helped me to understand my own. I hope that readers will feel inspired to explore their inner secret gardens and cultivate them. In one secret garden workshop I presented we did an exercise on planting seeds, values and qualities that we wished to grow in our secret gardens. Later I talked about the effort it requires to calm and train the mind and find peace. A woman said to me afterward, "I never realized you had to work at it!" The discovery changed her life, and she actively began to cultivate peace in her inner secret garden. The result was that she found her world held less and less drama and became more peaceful, too. Cultivating inner sacred space means facing some of the darkness within us. But as we clear out the junk, we become more peaceful and find joy. So the take away from Garden of Bliss is that all of those things we think we'll find outside in the worldhappiness, satisfaction, peaceare actually inside of us and we find them by actively going inside and excavating.