On the surface, The Garden Detroit is a Michigan nonprofit organization that repurposes vacant land in Detroit into cut flower farms and sanctuary gardens. In just three years we have developed a comprehensive floral service business and turned our flower farm - Detroit Abloom - into a beautiful urban oasis. Yet for me, The Garden Detroit represents something much more profound.
The letter “T” in The Garden Detroit is capitalized because I believe the real “garden” we are meant to manifest is The Garden of Eden within us, nay, that is the very essence of our being. Throughout history native peoples, ancient civilizations, and religions, believed there was a span of tens of thousands of years when a heaven-like existence prevailed in human society. This outer state of existence has been called The Golden Ages, The Kingdom of God or The Garden of Eden. Since we live in a world based on the law of cause and effect, that heaven-like existence on Earth was the “effect” that resulted from an underlying “cause,” which was our ancient ancestors love for their Creator and all Creation. Put simply, their love created an outer state of equality, harmony and prosperity.
One view on human history suggests that animal eating and all the ensuing forms of human oppression gradually corrupted the soul of humanity, casting us into a world of human-made problems. Just as a forgotten fortune cannot benefit anyone, our soul’s innate love for all life cannot benefit anyone if we do not recognize its existence. Albert Schweitzer, who received the 1952 Nobel Peace Prize for his philosophy of “Reverence for Life,” wisely said, “Truly, to restore the earth, we must first restore ourselves. The inner and outer worlds are inseparable. They must be harmonious.” This wisdom is our perfect starting point, because it makes crystal clear that bringing forth The Garden in Detroit would depend on enough of us restoring our individual consciousness.
So, how must our inner world be restored? In a nutshell, we are all in illusion because we think and act as though our primary identities are merely these material human bodies. Incredible as it may seem, this bodily conception of life is the root cause of all human conflict and suffering. The reason is that the bodily conception of life causes us to falsely believe we are separate from our Creator and one another. The truth is that each of us is an eternal soul, a unique personality full of spiritual knowledge and bliss, temporarily encased in a body. Only when we begin to realize the nature of our soul-identity can we value just how much we are all family, absolute equals and here to help one another on our path back home to Godhead.
And it gets even better! All religions teach that if we seek The Garden first and live righteously, ALL THINGS WILL BE ADDED. In other words, all good things such as abundant health, prosperity, happiness, peace, and true self-expression will be ours, by God’s grace, if we allow our consciousness to be purified enough so that these blessings can easily flow through us.
As projects unfold in Detroit and the landscape changes for the better, there is a great deal of enthusiasm and a growing sense that something bigger than all of us is brewing under the surface. From a spiritual perspective, I believe we are being brought together and called upon to inspire the world, but not through our material achievements alone. Most importantly, we are meant to bring into expression The Garden in our souls, for this has always been the ultimate purpose of humankind.
The Garden doesn’t grow by itself. It depends on us sowing seeds of love and tending to them. The seeds can be all sorts of things – our spiritual practices, the people we help to raise out of poverty, injustice and despair, a listening ear, an encouraging word, a warm smile. They are our prayers, the hurts we forgive, the most vulnerable we protect, the kindness we share, the family members, neighbors and even enemies we love and forgive.
My friends, the loving seeds we plant will take root and grow, allowing the presence of The Garden to be realized more and more each day in our midst if we remain persistent in spreading them. We are not only the sowers of The Garden’s seeds; we help to manifest The Garden when we commit ourselves to its values. The core value of The Garden, the one upon which all values rest, is to love as God loves with unconditional compassion for all living beings.
Where an individual with a heart full of love walks, so walks The Garden. And where a city full of loving people blossoms, so blossoms a city that can inspire widespread healing, community and love. Detroit is well-known for giving the world the automobile, and Motown music. Now let’s give it the greatest and most awaited innovation ever - a magnificent outpouring of love that could lead to world peace.
My deepest wish is that we transform Detroit by transforming our own consciousness, that we not only repurpose vacant buildings and land but repurpose vacant hearts and souls, and that we join in a common vision to reveal The Garden in Detroit.