Awake in the World

In France it’s not uncommon to hear someone say, “Keep that to explore in your jardin secret.” The secret garden is an ancient European symbol that grew out of the chaotic and troubled times of the Middle Ages. Sometimes called the Dark Ages,  it was a time of  wars, famine, drought and plague. People felt uncertain and fearful, and there seemed to be no place for beautiful, fragile things to grow.

Secret gardens sprang up behind walled enclosures. Here fruit trees, medicinal herbs, fountains and flowers were protected. They could grow unhindered by the madness.  Only those who had a key could enter. The garden became a safe, serene place where people planted and tended vines and harvested rare and precious fruits. Initially these places were associated with Mother Mary and probably reach back into ancient history and reflected a deep reverence for the Mother Earth with her mysteries and powers.

In Italy the phrase is the same, but in a different language: giardino segreto. These gardens existed in England as well. The garden is a universal symbol of a place where things can flourish and take root. It may appear in dreams to reveal the inner state of the soul. If a tree is withering it may reveal a need for more attention to the spiritual. If flowers are about to bloom or fruits are ripening, this may illustrate the results of good work on both the spiritual and physical level.

Take a moment and imagine your secret garden. Cross the threshold and enter inside. What does it look like? What do you find here? Are there trees or flowers? Are there people that need to be put out or others that offer guidance. If you’d like draw or collage an image to keep with you as a reminder of your secret garden. This is your sacred space.

Bio: Debra Moffitt is author of Awake in the World: 108 Practices to Live a Divinely Inspired Life. A visionary and teacher, she’s devoted to nurturing the spiritual in everyday life. She leads workshops on spiritual practices at the Sophia Institute and other venues in the U.S. and Europe. Her mind/body/spirit articles, essays and stories appear in publications around the globe and were broadcast by BBC World Services Radio. She has spent over fifteen years practicing meditation, working with dreams and doing spiritual practices. Visit her online at

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