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Growing a Heart in the Garden of Aloha
by Stewart Blackburn

When we are privileged enough to enjoy a continuing relationship with a person, a pet or even some beloved object like a house or car, we often experience our love "growing". While the experience of appreciation and joy seems to get more intense, I would like to suggest that our ability to experience love is growing as well. In essence our hearts are growing. We become more willing to experience the intensity of love and joy and this has a profound effect on the rest of our lives. We can see this in the fact that when our experience of love for one person or thing becomes greater, our love of many other people and things grows as well.

Many of us have something of a set point, a level that is the limit of intensity that we can experience before we go start feeling overwhelmed. We allow ourselves to feel only up to a certain level after which we lose our sense of being in control. Falling in love can be like that; it's that sense of free fall that can be both fantastic and scary.

Since the experience of love is so wonderful wouldn't it be great to experience it much more often and more expansively in ways that aren't so scary. When we focus on the notion of growing our hearts as opposed to looking for specific things to love and more people to love, we can look at what nurtures our hearts in general and take note of the things that contribute to that feeling we enjoy so much. In this way we expand our capacity for love and our ability to feel more deeply.

So let's pay attention to what's involved with growing a heart, and what better way than to grow it in the Garden of Aloha. -------

In growing a heart you are the garden, the gardener, and the plants all at once. Like most dreams you are all the pieces, interacting with all the other pieces or aspects of yourself in your own particular way.

The first thing that you have to do, as in any garden, is to prepare the soil. This you do by getting rid of all the weeds that you can, all the fears, doubts and uncertainties. These weeds suck up the vital energy that your heart needs. They choke out the growth you're looking for and overshadow the sweet, tender new shoots. Sometimes this weeding takes some doing; many of these weeds of doubt and fear are quite tenacious. But once you do what you can for now, you want to mix into the soil love, compassion, kindness, and peace, pretty much in equal measure.

As the gardener it is your job to hold the vision of how you want your garden to grow and to do what is needed to support that growth. This first part means that you maintain an image of the heart you want to grow. Is this a heart that sees clearly all around you? Is it one that heals others with its love and focus? Is it one that teaches and motivates others to be fully who they are? What kind of heart are you growing?

The second part of this is being mindful of the weeds that inevitably come sprouting up. To grow a heart successfully you will need to be vigilant about not letting fears and doubts take hold. You will need to water your heart often with lots of love and good feelings. You will also need to feed your heart with the elements that it needs for good nutrition, like challenges, new insights and perspectives, fond memories, and good times. With what do you water and feed your heart?

You also hold the space for the heart to grow in. This is to say that as the heart grows it will need room to expand into. If there are too many other things growing nearby, too many other worries, distractions, and duties, then the heart won't grow as quickly and as fully as you may want. So it is important to keep enough space in your garden open for the heart to develop. How much room in your life do you make for your heart to grow?

And, of course, you are the heart itself. Like all living things your job is to explore being who you are. Taking in all the nourishment that you need, breathing in the energy-laden air, and expanding into the sunlight of love are all joyous imperatives.

So is sending down roots into the earth, roots of confidence, interest, and desire. It is with our roots that we connect so deeply with the Earth. We also connect with the roots of other hearts, twisting and turning, touching in a myriad of ways and places. As we grow we sensuously connect to even more hearts in a great tangle of loving roots as though we were all just one big heart.

At some point you will be ready to flower, to show the world just how magnificent you can be. These flowers say, "This is who I am. What do you think?" There are so many shapes, sizes, and styles of flower to choose from. Some are quite modest and others are preposterously flamboyant. Some are so deliciously fragrant that people's lives are changed, while others say, "don't come near me!" Some flowers have little treats in them for just the right visitor, while others don't mind eating their visitors. What kind of flowers does your heart have?

Flowers naturally lead to fruits, the results of all the efforts heretofore. Some fruits are so tantalizingly sweet and fragrant that everyone wants to share in their delights. Others are so sour that it takes a lot of sweetening up to make them palatable. Some fruits take a lot of work to get anything out of while others take but the gentlest nudging to open up. What are the fruits of your heart like?

The Garden of Aloha is that place in all of us where we nurture the things that are most important to us. It is where we hold our greatest treasures. The people we care most about, the memories that we most cherish, and the things that we have done that we are most proud of all live in our Garden of Aloha. The foods that we most enjoy, the artwork that we prize so highly, and the music that delights so sweetly, they, too, live in our Garden of Aloha. What a great place to grow a heart! And, there is nothing more wondrous than a fully matured heart. To see a heart that radiates in shimmering colors, mystifying us with the penetrating beauty of its flowers, and yielding one amazing fruit after another, is one of the greatest joys on Earth. I can't wait to see yours.

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