Posted by: Zane Maser | December 13, 2011


The following excerpt is drawn from our book, “The World is in My Garden.”1 The “I” voice speaking is my husband, Chris.

By committing myself to be a gardener, I am, above all, making a promise of stabilitas. Stabilitas is the Latin word for “steady; steadfastness.” The astrological correlate of stabilitas would be wise-old Saturn, the planetary realm that requires patience, discipline, focus, concentration, and slowly earned excellence. St. Teresa of Ávila invoked the principle of stabilitas powerfully: “Now stand firm.”

The commitment of stabilitas is not only a promise to persevere within a particular physical space but also, and most important, a promise to persevere in my commitment to live as consciously as I can and thereby make every place I touch by my presence a place of beauty and peace for all life, to the best of my ability, whether it be bug, bird, beast, or my brother human.

In thinking of a garden, I do not in this case mean just the physical location in which a particular plot of soil happens to exist, but also the human-spiritual component of gardening as expressed most clearly in the monastic concept of stabilitas. Simply put, in the religious connotation, stabilitas implies not only abiding in a particular place but also identifying with the community in all its simplicity and austerity, its work, its ups and downs, its tensions, sorrows, and joys. Stabilitas means perseverance in and fidelity to one’s true self and a community of people (or the community of a garden) over the long-term.

In monasticism, the vow of stabilitas is administered to prevent a monk from deciding to follow a wandering path from one monastic community to another under the appearance of seeking greater potential (a “greener pasture,” as it were) and in so doing lose the present good and “work in progress” already at hand. The purpose of the vow is a stark but vital opportunity, which ideally enables a monk to understand that steadfastness is an immense good. Moreover, in a vast majority of cases, it constitutes a much greater good in the end than might be superficially gleaned by changing monasteries, changing scenery, and changing people.

If a monk or nun will retain stabilitas, they open the door to effect the greatest and most significant change—that of inner transformation—into a more conscious, compassionate person blending easily the balance between spirituality and materiality. They can live, that is, on a different, deeper level well able to attend to other voices than those of the outer world, as Thomas Merton puts it. Stabilitas is much like Minnie Richard Smith’s gem: “Diamonds are only chunks of coal that stuck to their jobs.” The same principle applies to our own secular life. If we continually seek a multiplicity of outer distractions or the next over-the-hill adventure, moving from place to place and/or job to job, dissipating our precious account of life’s energy, we too lack the focus to achieve the inner transformation that could be ours—here, now.

In monastic life, the monk or nun comes under the direction and helpful guidance of a spiritual teacher, a process meant to assist them in overcoming internal blocks and hence smoothes the way for greater evolutionary growth. In secular life, it is beneficial to commit personally to a high purpose or individual “calling” that is aided through the support and guidance of a true spiritual teacher, who some are fortunate enough to find. I found such a loving teacher in my garden, but only after I took the vow of stabilitas to create our own sanctuary of peace and joy.

Included within the central intent of stabilitas in gardening is the slow, serene, day-by-day attention that brings stability, harmony, and balance to the small piece of Earth entrusted to us. Stabilitas is holding my center amidst constant change and fluctuating variables, such as a long, dry summer or freezing winter winds, both of which can be deadly to some plants. Gardening, like life, is full of enlightening moments! In its broadest sense, it’s a masterful teacher instructing me about the deeper values like patience, serenity, focus, nurturance, love, faith, trust, mercy, compassion, sharing, and seeing beyond observation—the knowing beyond knowledge.

I came to gardening late in life. As a young man seeking outer world adventures, I was in search of knowledge. I was too impatient to work the soil quietly, simply, faithfully with spade and hoe, hand and heart. I was taught I needed to make my impression on the world more than I needed to be a calm, contributing part of it. “In modern life,” Thomas Moore writes in his Meditations, “it may appear that real work is located in the heroics of surviving and succeeding in the world. For the monk [and the gardener] the challenge is in non-heroic intimacy with oneself, others, and the world [Nature]. The monk’s [and gardener’s] occupation is soul work.” Soul work, as well as gardening, is above all about listening to and honoring timing.

I was trained as a scientist to search through the labyrinth of knowledge for the answers to society’s questions about Nature and our place therein, but after many years I discovered science does not hold answers to the probing questions most dear to the human soul. In hindsight, what spoke to my heart and called my soul was the Eternal Governance of Nature—the Unseen behind the apparent, the Knowing behind knowledge. Nature, the visible manifestation of Divine Laws, is the Cosmic Reflection of what I am. And as I participate consciously with Nature as a gardener, I become. I have grown to cherish the inner silence of spiritual solitude. Spiritual solitude means standing squarely in front of myself with no distractions so that I can see, as truly as I have the courage to accept, what I am in light of what I might become.

Gardening is an act in which spirituality and art merge onto the canvas of Nature. To garden with gratitude and joy even the tiniest piece of the Earth, it is good to begin to garden the outer mind, which demands stabilitas, as British philosopher James Allen affirms so beautifully:

A man’s mind may be likened to a garden, which may be intelligently cultivated or allowed to run wild; but whether cultivated or neglected, it must, and will, bring forth. If no useful seeds are put into it, then an abundance of useless weed seed will fall therein, and will continue to produce their kind.

Just as a gardener cultivates his plot, keeping it free from weeds, and growing the flowers and fruits which he requires, so may a man tend the garden of his mind, weeding out all the wrong, useless, and impure thoughts, and cultivating toward perfection the flowers and fruits of right, useful, and pure thoughts. By pursuing this process, a man sooner or later discovers that he is the master gardener of his soul, the director of his life. He also reveals, within himself, the laws of thought, and understands, with ever-increasing accuracy, how the thought forces and mind elements operate in the shaping of his character, circumstances, and destiny.2

Gardening is giving to the Earth and all its inhabitants, including ourselves, the only things of value that we each have to offer: our love, trust, respect, and the benefit of our experience. The very process of gardening is thus the process through which we become intimately attuned with Nature and, through Nature, with ourselves. To treat the soil and vegetation in a sacred manner, as a vehicle to approach the Eternal Mystery, is to enter into continual prayer in which we touch all the marvels of the Universe and find included all the challenges and ultimate resolutions of human existence on this wondrous planet suspended in Infinite Space.


Related Posts:

• Little Angel Band

• Venturing Out

• Gone Gardenin’

• Slow Down!

• A Wall Of Love

• Quiet Spring

• A Visual Autumn Feast

• A God-Filled Life: Julian Of Norwich

• Preparations for and A Guided Meditation


1. Chris Maser with Zane Maser. The World is in My Garden: A Journey of Consciousness. 2005. White Cloud Press, Ashland, OR. 303 pp.

2. James Allen. 1981. As a man thinketh. Grosset & Dunlap, New York, NY. 72 pp.

Text © by Zane Maser, 2011. Photos © by Chris and Zane Maser, 2011. Illustrations © by Leslie Edgington, 2011. All rights reserved worldwide.

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My editorial guru and technological wizard is Chris Maser, my delightful husband.

If you are interested in an astrological consultation and/or a specific question answered by a horary chart, please visit SunnyCat© Astrology.

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