Putting your garden to bed: a guided visualization. | Image shows a the sun setting over an autumnal landscape casting gold over the entire image.

Putting Your Garden to Bed | A Visualization Practice

Oct 12, 2021

A Visualization Practice and Reflection for the Fall Season

by Sandra Kacher, MSW, LICSW

This visualization exercise is designed to help us work with the challenges of loving and letting go. I invite you to give yourself thirty minutes to read and reflect on the images and ideas that the exercise evokes in you.

Notice where you are right now…notice how you are, right now…settle yourself into a receptive posture—open and awake…alert and willing. Take a few minutes to breathe diaphragmatically, maybe rest your hands on your belly and feel it rising and falling back…letting your eyes close if that’s all right with you.

Wonderful…and as we go on if you get uncomfortable in body or mind, feel free to shift around, and if need be, just invite your attention back to your breath.

I’d like you to find yourself in a back yard—maybe yours, maybe someone else’s, maybe an imagined one. This back yard has trees with autumn leaves that are just at their peak…it is one of those glory days of fall, clear and a sky deep blue with that special October hue it gets. It’s mid-afternoon and the sunlight slants on the leaves you are gazing at…and you may notice that not only does the sun light up the leaves but the leaves seem to be shining themselves…they seem to be lit from within...they are aflame and you let yourself take in the red…yellow…orange.russet…ocher…

And as you look it occurs to you to wonder what it is in your life right now that is alight, brilliant, peaking…what is peaking for you right now? Is it your health…a relationship…an opportunity at work…a time with your family…a new car…an amazing meal you were just served. Our lives are always peaking somewhere in large and tiny way, somehow, small or grand…

What can you be grateful for just now?

And with that feeling of appreciation, take a look around the rest of this yard…pull your eyes away from the trees and notice that there are some overgrown and untended flower beds. They remind you that, unlike the trees, not everything takes care of itself. Many things need tending... and it’s time for you to put your gardens to bed for the year…

Notice how you feel about that…eager…inspired…reluctant. Ready to pull on those work gloves or dragging your feet to the task…no matter, just notice…and shake yourself into readiness…

It’s time to cut back this overgrowth…you begin by pulling up the annuals…those plants that sprout, grow, bloom and die all in one season...since they last only one season there is no sense in leaving them behind…Now this may call for some ruthlessness on your part—maybe there is a marigold just budding or a zinnia that’s half open…but really, there season is over…

What in your life is ready to be uprooted…released…what’s over—an old love, your son’s childhood…your own adolescence…a painful relationship…a failed attempt at something. Some things are finished…what do you need to really acknowledge the end of?

The other plants in the garden are perennials…they return year after year…we don’t uproot them…we just cut them back to the ground. Although they are finished for the season…they will return…they go dormant but await the right conditions for growth and return…

What in your life needs a rest? Maybe a relationship that needs some space…a creative passion that has gone empty for now…an activity you want a break from…trusting that you can let it go for now but that it will return when the seasons change…

Good job…you’ve pulled out and cut back…and you have a pile of brush and leaves that need your attention…it’s time to clean this up…if you leave them as they are they’ll just invite bugs and small animals to settle in…you might have some additional clean up besides just this years…maybe there’s an out of control area behind a shed or a spot where you piled brush last spring, intending to get to it later…we all have areas we mean to get to and fall is a great time…you may be feeling tired …perhaps it’s tempting to wait till spring…you’ll probably have more energy then…but spring has its own demands and you’ll want to use your energy for planting something new not cleaning up old messes…

Where is your clutter...your dry brush…your junk pile…what have you put aside with every intention to get back to…but haven’t…messy drawers…old photos...out- grown clothing…too many commitments that you couldn’t say no to but that are weighing you down…

What have you left till now in hopes that you’ll feeling like taking care of it?

Boy, have you been working hard…good job…just a bit more…your garden beds are cleared out…except for a few plants that are just more vulnerable...those rosebushes that despite their thorns need extra cover...maybe some raspberry bushes that need to set fruit on two year old branches…the rabbits are waiting to munch them down...ensuring that next year’s berry crop adds up to a half pint instead of many quarts.

In a garden you’re going to shield these vulnerable plants...and what is it in you that you need to protect as you move deeper into the cold and dark season? Where are you vulnerable…do you have scarves and gloves or mittens…are you vulnerable to Sad…do you need to get out your protective light…should you raise your vitamin D dose for the winter …do you need to be mindful of holiday stresses and set some limits on your or other peoples expectations…

All of us have some parts that need extra care…maybe we grieve our loneliness at Thanksgiving…maybe we miss people we used to celebrate with…maybe we believe that it’s our job to make others happy at this time of year…How can you plan for that and bring in protection? What will keep you sound?

Okay, only one more thing to do…as you look around at all you’ve done to care for your gardens and cleanup your clutter, can you let yourself feel the pride and or relief that comes from taking good care of things. See if you might feel a little surge of energy and contentment…an awareness that you’ve really cleared the space…

For what? For just a little planting. Yes even in the fall there are things that need to be planted...spring bulbs for example, tulips, daffodils, hyacinths all have to go in just before winter; they need a little chill.

What spring things might you want to plant now…this isn’t much work…the soil has been tended, you just need to dig a few holes and drop in the bulbs, cover them up and wait for them to grow…

You can plant some things in your life, forget about them, and be delighted by them later. In the garden we set bulbs, in our lives we set intentions. We name some things we want to bring into our lives but we’re not ready to work directly on. Susan and I…

What intentions might you have for yourself? A desire to feel more joyful…a wish for closer connections…an interesting new job or relationship…a desire to be more present to your life…

All right, you might have some sore muscles tomorrow, you’ve have been working diligently…Give yourself a few minutes to come out of this imagery, back into this room…maybe move your hands…feet, shoulders…maybe stand up and stretch a bit. 

Reflections on Putting Your Garden to Bed

Begin by writing or drawing what you saw in the guided imagery. Take as much time as you need for this, letting yourself express whatever comes up without evaluating or analyzing it.

Peaking—what is peaking in your life right now? What is flourishing? What can you be grateful for?

Cutting Back –what in your life is ready to be uprooted? What is over? What in your life needs a rest? What can you let go of for now, trusting that it will return when circumstances are right?

Cleaning Up—where is the clutter in your life? What have you put aside with the intention of getting back to it? What can you release so there is room for something new?

Protecting—where are you vulnerable at this time of year? Body? Mind? Heart? What needs support and protection?

Planting—What do you want to plant? What intentions would you like to set? How do you want to feel, what do you want to experience in your life? Don’t worry about how to make this happen. Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed. Look for the intentions/desires that you can feel some excitement about.



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This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice and is not a replacement for advice and treatment from a medical professional. Consult your doctor or other qualified health professional regarding specific health questions. Individuals providing content to this website take no responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. It is also essential to consult your physician or other qualified health professional before beginning any diet change, supplement, or lifestyle program.