The farmer had never told anyone his secret. For decades, people came from miles around to admire his farm, and purchase his harvests from the shack by the road…the ones they could carry anyway. His blueberries were the size of apples, his apples the size of pumpkins, and his pumpkins the size of automobiles. The 150-foot tree in the meadow struggled to hold onto pecans the size of watermelons.

As he lay in bed, a spring breeze gently blew the curtains near his head. His only son was kneeling by his side, praying. The old man slowly lifted his hand, crooked his gnarled index finger, and started to whisper…

(Stories need only touch on this topic in some way to qualify.)


That’s the single-word response that I give when people ask me the secret to gardening success. It’s incredibly disappointing to most, as this was not the quick fix, the “get rich quick” scheme that they’d imagined I possessed. In fact, once I mention stratifying the seeds before sowing, many simply get up and walk away, throwing bitter glances as they disappear into the distance.

Believe me, my work would be so much easier if I could just plant the seeds, splash a little water on them, then expect a bumper crop in 6-8 weeks. But that’s not how it works, not with any of the seeds I sow.

Take Peace, for example. People ask me to plant Peace for them all the time, but before it can be placed into the soil of their hearts, it must first stratify, spending its time wrestling around in the cold darkness of their sorrow, before it can sprout. This takes time and effort, and even then sometimes the seeds fail.

Happiness is another one that takes a long time to germinate, and cannot be immediately planted. This is perhaps the seed that frustrates people the most, and 9 times out of 10 they try to plant it too quickly, without first sitting with the darkness that is necessary for it to be ready. ‘You cannot have the light without first addressing the darkness,’ I always say, but so few want to hear that.

There is a tremendous amount of work involved in preparing the planting bed, too. Most who seek my knowledge have beds full of weeds. My days are spent helping people identify those weeds and pull them, because no amount of stratification will save a Happiness seed from a bed taken over by Negative Self Thoughts or Perfectionism.

And the thing about weeds is, you’ve got to pull them up more than once to be effective, because they keep coming back on you. A patch of Anxiety Disorder does not come out willingly, and you can only imagine the muscling involved in eradicating a bed overtaken by Repressed Trauma. Monitoring the weeds is something that has to be done for the life of the seed, every season.

I can’t say as I blame anyone who doesn’t have it in them to wait for a stratified seed, or the person who lacks the ability to clean the beds. It’s hard work, and messy. In the worst of beds, you always come out of them with a bit of a rash and a wicked sunburn, exhausted and covered in sweat. There’s a reason I am sought out, a reason that people can’t do this work on their own.

I realize that all of this sounds so discouraging, but please, let me reassure you that with patience and effort, any garden is capable of breathtaking results. One of the most beautiful gardens I have ever seen was once filled with 6-foot tall thorny spindles of OCD. Its owner took months, years, clearing it out, and now her garden is filled with Empowerment, with blossoms as big as your hand.

There’s still a small patch of Self-Doubt in the back of that illustrious display, and perhaps that is the greatest gardening secret of all. Sometimes, you need a small patch of land, dedicated to the weeds, accepting that they exist. Most of these weeds feed on Denial or Anger as their fertilizer, so when you use Acceptance instead, they are weakened.

Besides managing the weeds, one must also attend to any pests that pop up among the plants. A great pesticide that is also good for the soil is Forgiveness, for yourself and for others. Seeds won’t grow where Resentment resides, and adding in a healthy amount of Forgiveness takes care of this pest problem.

And if you are someone looking to help another with their lackluster garden? Forget everything you’ve read in those fancy How-To books, and put down the Condescension, the Just Be Happy, and the Cultural Normalities. If you really want to help someone as they try to stratify their seeds, you need only one ingredient: