As we enjoy the benefits of warmer weather, sunshine, summer storms and the nature that flourishes in this time of year, I thought we may benefit from some metaphoric self reflection. The Garden of Self is an expressive prompt I have used in the past to encourage thinking about ourselves, and the way we work with the world around us and inside us (our emotional selves). I say expressive prompt in the sense that it can be a creative exercise, used in song, in art, in writing or in our own visualization exercises. Thinking about ourselves in these creative ways can offer perspective and catharsis. Perhaps as you read this I invite you to bookmark it and revisit this when you have a moment to explore this metaphor in your own way.
Maybe it is writing a song about this garden, or a poem or creating a collage. Maybe it's a bulleted list or you are sitting and visualizing this garden. This is your garden and your opportunity for self reflection, if you’d like. If this is something that does not resonate with you, that is okay too!
So, what is the garden of self? The idea is to think of what a garden represents to you, what elements go into a garden and to use these elements to reflect on your life. Below I have listed some questions that may spark this metaphor for you, there is no right or wrong way, so I encourage you to trust the process.
Thinking of the sun: What helps you grow? What beams of support, or opportunities help you? (Examples: my sense of humor, my friend, my brother)
Thinking of garden tools: What coping skills or strategies do you access? Are there tools that are more helpful than others? (Examples: walking, distraction, Netflix)
Thinking of the flowers, or vegetation (maybe it's a vegetable patch instead): What things are going well? Goals? Relationships? Physical and mental health factors? (Examples: laughter, work stepping stone, exercising 20 min every day)
Thinking of the insects: What supports your garden, who can you talk to or rely on when you are having a more challenging time? (Examples: my roommate, my partner)
Thinking of the seeds: What are things you are working on, or wanting to flourish? (Examples: my language skills, my relationship, managing my anger)
Thinking of the weeds: Are there old habits that are overgrown, or things you want to get rid of, things that you want to take up less space in your life? (Examples: my nail biting, my negative self talk)
Again, I say these are only some ways to interpret this metaphor. Gardens can look very different all over the world, even all over this city. You get to decide how you interpret this metaphor and where you would like to self reflect. Because you spend the most time in your garden.
Vera Bednar, LMHC is a licensed mental health counselor (LMHC), a registered yoga teacher (RYT-200) and certified in dialectical behavioral therapy (C-DBT). A Lesley University graduate, Vera earned a bachelor's in counseling and art therapy and a master's in clinical mental health counseling with a specialization in trauma.
Prior to joining Looking Glass Counseling, Vera worked in a wide variety of clinical settings including inpatient, residential, intensive outpatient and an assisted living center with an art therapy focus. She also worked in partial hospitalization programs specializing in trauma, LGBTQIA+ individuals and young adult transitions as well as substance use.