Simplicity in western society life styles is a much under-valued commodity. Do we really need the latest digital technology, designer fashions and holidays in hip locations to fuel our journey along the road marked ‘everlasting happiness’?
Maybe all that’s needed is to open the door in your mind signposted ‘imagination and vision’ and follow the avenue where hope and purpose mingle with the heady perfume of life affirming blooms – creativity, spirituality, self-love and contentment all waiting to be picked.
Best of all: you don’t have to max out your credit card or travel to deepest darkest Africa to reap the rewards of a life less complicated – to get started: read Elizabeth Murray’s new book, Living Life in Full Bloom, 120 Daily Practices to Deepen Your Passion, Creativity & Relationships.
This lovely book explores four inspirational entities – the Gardener, Artist, Lover and Spirit Weaver.
The mystery of how to connect with and nurture these personalities within you is explained simply, with encouraging advice on achieving not just self-knowledge but increasing feelings of delight, passion and gratitude for the gift of life.
Writer, Elizabeth Murray includes personal experiences in the book’s introduction.
Personally, my gut feeling is that as an experienced, joyful inner gardener, Elizabeth Murray is passionate about sharing the way to expand life to heighten intimacy, fulfill dreams.
What’s really important: allow the spirit to run free.
Ensuring learning and creativity are mixed with a healthy dollop of self love is at the heart of Elizabeth’s recipe for successful living.
Four separate sections are devoted to Gardener, Artist, Lover and Spirit Weaver. I particularly liked the pages in the Gardener section under creating a sacred space and welcoming the birds.
There is though, heaps of interesting, unusual and fun information on how-to-do-life-properly all through Living Life in Full Bloom.
Examples of the narrative that will help and heal are: ‘Becoming a Peach’, not sure if I can do that but I’ll certainly try and ‘Open to Being the Lotus, when the light is right, the lotus ascends through the water, emerging into full blossom’, this poetic notion is followed by advice on how to overcome painful times.
30 guided activities for each pathway help readers take small but vital steps to redefine their busy lives and put them on a path to discover what’s important to them and how to gently, little-by-little change focus so that self realisation and fulfilment are not just a dream but a reality.
There are profiles of ‘bloomers’; all personal friends of Elizabeth Murray.
These full bloomers have had the courage to live their dreams; caring, sharing and loving, their life experiences are an inspiration.
Going on a long trip without a map is something most people wouldn’t attempt so it’s surprising that the most important journey any of us take – life, is more often than not, uncharted.
The last chapter in Living Life in Full Bloom, Life Mapping is great, it explains how to find out who you are, where you are going and how to get there.
The really useful advice includes: getting started on your life map, exploring where you’ve been and deciding on the right future path, identifying passions and skills.
You also need to work out where you could offer a helping hand to those in need.
Elizabeth Murray found time in her busy schedule to answer the following questions:
Q1. Do you ever wake up feeling just a teensy weensy bit that life’s bloom isn’t all it used to be and, if you do, what’s your recipe to shake the blues away?
Yes and here are a few things- depending on time, and weather, that help me.
Always the first thing I try is to feel something to be grateful for; the light- finding something that sparkles or illuminates, feeling grateful for someone or something I love – then taking a breath, breathing calmly and fully into my heart, a cup of coffee or tea, the warmth and flavour, my dog (fur under hand does a lot for the chasing the blues!.
A walk (especially with my dog or a good friend who will listen, reflect or be silent with me), although my number one best activity for shaking blues is arranging flowers.
If I can go to the farmer’s market or find bits of foliage and flowers in my garden and or a wild place and make flower arrangements that is my favourite- getting lost in it- it is sacred work to me as well as so artistic.
Working in my garden on a task I can complete and that makes it feel more beautiful is also wonderful.
Bird watching- listening looking, being in delight of nature- or if at night look at the stars- connecting to the worlds beyond my immediate concerns or funk.
Making soup- chopping and stirring then feeding someone- inviting a friend over- or bringing soup and flowers to someone who is sick or needs some cheer….
Writing in my journal so that I get to have a personal dialog with myself, to understand where is this coming from? To rest more and to be sure I eat in a healthy balanced way, otherwise exhaustion and diet with low blood sugar, can add to it.
I have found I can’t eat gluten- that it can cause depression by swelling the brain so I indulge in a walk on the beach, as a meditation, moving my body with a walk, yoga or swimming works.
Making something in my home beautiful – like clearing clutter, setting a pretty table, making the entry beautiful this can do it…. and making art!
If blue- it is important to make it all play- a gift to yourself. I use inexpensive materials like student grade oil pastels that I can really scribble and rub and experiment with- scratching, layering- I get so absorbed with curiosity and delight that my mood transforms.
And a great stand by is to call a friend!
Always best to be watering the garden or weeding when talking- in is about the inner and outer tending to cultivate spirit.
I will say that after my husband died I cried so much I had to wear waterproof mascara for years- and learn about homeopathic and Ayurveda herbs as well as deeply dive into my spiritual life.
I did every healing remedy from grief support groups to vision quests in the desert and Amazon jungle to find my inner guidance and make sense of such an enormous loss.
Our marriage was 19 years ago and his death 18 years ago, and it is both the most joyous time and the saddest for me. I have been able to take the heartbreak and see it is a way that totally expanding the capacity of my heart to love- holding the joy as well as the sorrow.
Q2. The need to garden not just physically but spiritually, a powerful message in your writing was their a special someone, something or some place that set you on this philosophical life path?
As a very young girl I had a couple of elderly ladies that had big gardens.
I would steal flowers from them for little bouquets for my mom or to sell back to them for 5-10cents.
They kindly invited me into their walled gardens and I realized it was a sanctuary – a magical place.
There was also a wild garden I played in where an old house had burned down decades before and the lilac grew into a tree and the ivy on the trees made it like a jungle Tarzan would love.
We could swing on the vines and climb up the trees, make tree forts, and eat from the orchard that had been left. We also knew about the native people who had lived on that land as we found their artifacts.
This instilled in me a great love of the wild and the cultivated – which for me feels like sacred space.
I was raised to go to church and as a teen explored many religions – as an exchange student in Japan at 17 I lived between Kyoto and Nara in a small village with no cars- they had not had a blonde girl there before.
Going to the temples and Imperial gardens I spent hours soaking in the connection of gardens as sacred space- that were loved, and cared for as a spiritual work of intention for hundreds of years.
This deeply moved me and also inspired me.
At 18 I moved to Maine and made my first organic garden for vegetables. We did it in a spiritual way, and I was introduced to the renown Scott and Helen Nearing who were the gurus of Organic gardening in their 80’s.
Their chosen life style of simplicity moving from academics (Scott was a professor at Harvard) to live off the land was philosophical as well environmental and politically a choice.
They lived in alignment and integrity to their beliefs – entertainment was playing musical instruments, singing, writing.
I was invited to attend Quaker college, which was a farm school and had a strong mission for peace and service.
I brought organic gardening and teaching children about nature with the garden- this was the beginning of me teaching what I felt was a connection to love of Earth, to everything I valued, peace, love, creativity, health, beauty, important values, life style.
For the rest of my education (Environmental Studies and Art), spiritual seeking, professional work and life style the weaving of nature, spirit and creativity come together.
Meaning, over materialism- falling in love and following heart, listening, being led, trusting, having a deep faith. Both as I work and play in the garden or other areas of life it is about love, appreciation, gratitude and delight.
Q3. What’s next for you?
First it is to help plant the seeds for my book Living Life In Full Bloom to really bloom and get out into the world and inspire people.
Cultivate Full Bloomer Groups to gather like book clubs in gardens, kitchens, churches, schools or retirement homes and follow the practices together- to help Stewart one another’s growth and dreams.
To catch up on my own garden which has gone over to the much more wild side, to teach more creativity workshops and retreats. I will soon offer some writing and Full Bloomer retreats. I want to get out my oil paints and do some big paintings for my winter show.
I will continue to photograph each day with my iPhone and layered Apps – it keeps me energized – and my eye and creativity fluid. I will spend more time with youth, creating and mentoring, having fun in nature. The next big project will be another book- more of a memoir – which is both exciting and terrifying.
When it has the combination I know I must dive in!
Elizabeth Murray’s gorgeous vintage photographs were selected with care to reflect the text and this would be a delightful book to give as a gift.
Actually, it would make a great gift for the most important person in the world – you.
Janet Walker, Special Features Correspondent Victoria, The Culture Concept Circle, 2014
Watch a Video of Elizabeth discussing Living Life in Full Bloom