A long time ago, when I was working at the East West Bookstore in Menlo Park, California, I was assigned the task of creating a display with a line of colorful aromatherapy candles. I was new at the store and didn’t have a clue where to begin. My friend who was in charge of gifts and display simply offered me a puzzling suggestion, “ask the candles how they want to be displayed.” Rejecting the idea immediately as ludicrous, but having no other idea of how to start, I gave it a go. It turned out to be a very valuable lesson for me that I’ve always remembered. No matter what it is in front of me, tune in and listen.

Charles Evans, a very intuitive gardener here at the Meditation Retreat, finds that often people can’t listen to nature because they don’t think they can. His training in the Findhorn tradition has helped him tune into and listen to the spirit in the plants and trees; and the stories he shares are often an important part of the visitor’s experience here.

Ten years ago, all the eye could see in any direction was a dry, thick forest of manzanita, spotted with oaks and pine. His effort to try to get flowering and non-native plants to grow in what is now a lush garden sanctuary, was not easy. In the beginning, all his efforts to nurture new plant life were ever-completing with the neighboring oak tree’s roots that invaded the new plants and absorbed their nutrients.

One day, Charles, who is also rather psychic, got the message- “I need to ask the oak trees if I can plant a garden! I never asked permission!”

Inwardly he prayed, “Divine Mother in the form of your oaks, manzanita and pine, may I plant a garden so that others can appreciate your towering beauty?” He said he then felt a definite presence in the two largest oaks trees in the garden area and it was to these elder trees he felt he should address his query. “Could you draw your roots away from these new plants so we can have garden?” As soon as he made this plea, he felt Divine acquiescence from the towering oaks guardians.

The joy of listening to nature is the basis of Joseph Cornell’s work in helping people to become centered in themselves by carefully listening and observing nature. By becoming very still, one can easily feel the flow of Divine Mother’s creative power in everything around us, and in the center of our own heart.

Since that time, over the past 10 years, the garden has become rich in many varieties of plants that adorn the serene meditation sitting areas linked in a labyrinth of paths. It is now an extraordinary devotional garden. Many visitors stop by weekly to visit the garden and meditate.

One my personal favorites, is siting upon the rock placed next to the Grandfather Tree; the patriarch oak spirit to who Charles appealed for permission to grow a garden. The Grandfather Tree has become so friendly, that the rough bark that creates the back to rock chair that sits next to the tree’s broad trunk is covered in moss. The other day, a guest was sitting there against the Grandfather Tree and said, “I felt instantly comforted, and then acutely aware of every sound- bird calls, wind, squirrels, flowing water. I felt  so much love.”

Trees standing firm, hold the secret of inner power. Give us when tested, strength to endure.

—from the song, Channels by Swami Kriyananda