top of page
  • Selva Lawler

The Garden of Your Mind

If we don't regularly maintain SpiritQuest Sanctuary, the jungle swallows everything in sight. Accordingly, we continue to perform maintenance at the Sanctuary even though we haven't conducted any retreats since March. In the last few weeks, I've pitched in. Armed with a pair of clippers, a rake, gloves, or any miscellaneous tool I can get my hands on, I've weeded our gardens, mowed, raked, and clipped dead or dying branches. Sure, things look more aesthetically pleasing when that dead stuff is removed from the picture. More significantly, we need to do that to enable space for new, vibrant things to flourish.  It's somewhat analogous to what we're experiencing right now. I hope that we can let the worst parts of ourselves, our ideologies, and our institutions die off to enable better and brighter things to come forth. If you've ever been responsible for a garden, a yard, or even a pet goldfish you won when you were five years old at a local fair, you understand that being a good steward requires commitment. As Vera Nazarian observes, “The master of the garden is the one who waters it, trims the branches, plants the seeds, and pulls the weeds. If you merely stroll through the garden, you are but an acolyte." As human beings —for good or for ill — we are the stewards for our Earth and for all of the creatures that inhabit it alongside us. "Did you ever grow anything in the garden of your mind?" Mr. Rogers once asked. "You can grow ideas in the garden of your mind...All you have to do is think, and they'll grow." Where do we grow? The lotus grows from the mud. Flowers grow out of the feces of life. We can't forget the place where beauty blossoms. Death, destruction, or straight up shitty times are often major catalysts for growth. Death can mean the ending of a cycle and the beginning of a new cycle, crossing a threshold, a fresh start and rebirth, or transformation. The caterpillar has to die to become a butterfly. The serpent needs to shed its skin to grow. A deciduous tree in autumn needs to lose its leaves to come back next year all the stronger. It's always darkest before the dawn. We should feel duty-bound to discard antiquated practices that don't serve us well and innovate accordingly. We cannot reach our potential by remaining where we are. "A comfort zone is a beautiful place," John Assaraf notes, "but nothing ever grows there." My default settings are wired to look on the bright side of life or to find silver linings when the going gets tough. A few of you write to me with some dissenting opinions about our trajectory. I appreciate the perspective. After all, "No matter how thin I make the pancakes," an old West Virginia mountaineer was rumored to say, "they always have two sides." The general theme I receive from people in this camp is that our best days are behind us. Our unsustainable lifestyle (it's virtually impossible to argue that the way we're living is sustainable, I'd fully concede) will lead to our doom. They believe that we've passed the point of no return and are accelerating towards a cliff. And oh yeah, we recently discovered that our brake lines got cut. As for me, I can't accept that our best days are behind us. Toby Ord has some powerful insights as to this point. He wants us to recognize that it's extraordinarily important what we do at this moment where we are positioned at the edge of the precipice. Ord reasons that all of us should feel deeply invested in wanting humanity to thrive and to raise the bar. There's every reason to expect that our greatest pieces of art, our most just societies, and our most profound discoveries lie ahead of us. Ord contends that human society is an intergenerational partnership. Our ancestors built this world for us. Perhaps it's a charitable interpretation, but I'd like to think that they did the best that they could with the tools they had at the time. There's no denying, however, that we've inherited a world with many flaws and that there's a lot of room for improvement. Be that as it may, 10,000 generations entrusted this world to us so we can put our signature on an unfinished agenda and make the world a better place, as daunting as that task may seem. If we fail, Ord concludes, we would be ranked as the worst of all the generations as we would betray the trust that they placed in us.  We're 100+ days into this coronavirus era. Congrats! I'm being completely serious. I'm a hard grader, and I see so many of you undauntingly overcoming resistance and valiantly giving it your all. You're being the light. It's inspiring. It's no small achievement to continue to endure in the face of so many unknowns. Resilience is a muscle, and what we're going through is strengthening the collective's resolve. Sometimes success in life is simply getting off the mat after you've been knocked down one more time. For many of you, this is instilling a new level of mental toughness that will serve you well for the rest of your life.  About one year ago, Don Howard was physically at the Sanctuary for the last time. He did a Q&A with the participants in that retreat, and one person asked him whether humanity had already passed the tipping point in terms of being "royally screwed." He admitted that he wasn't entirely sure. Nonetheless, he continued to dedicate his life to service and do everything he could to bring about a renaissance in consciousness. Later on, he told me that when it came to service, regardless of how the chips fall, "I intend to remain stubborn until the bitter end." In a world in which we are experiencing massive transformation, where the only constant is change, I too hope that as to this piece, I can stay similarly stubborn.

Lending a Hand in Support of SpiritQuest's Staff

Thank you so, so much to those of you who supported our staff! Every member of our staff was overwhelmed with gratitude and greatly appreciated the support. A number of you asked me to repeat that message in this newsletter. Needless to say, I'm happy to do so.  Due to the coronavirus and the total shutdown of international travel, SpiritQuest has been and will be unable to conduct retreats in April, May, June, and July. Although we hope to resume retreats in August, the state of international travel is very much in flux. In light of the uncertainties around future retreats, it's entirely possible that SpiritQuest may experience a prolonged shutdown. To not recognize the substantial possibility of this would be divorced from reality. Although SpiritQuest itself is financially stable, it's been an extremely challenging time for our staff, who have not been able to work since March. Many of them have sizable families and are otherwise not able to find employment in a crippled Peruvian economy. To describe the Peruvian economy as being on life support would be exceedingly euphemistic. You don't have to be an economist to connect the dots and recognize that a country that is highly dependent on tourism and has had zero tourism since March is in dire straits.  Perhaps Don Rober and his family provided profound healing that positively moved the needle in your life. Maybe Selva guided you through the best day of your life; a magical lifetime in a day. Hopefully the kindness of our workers who served you a meal or affectionately took you by the hand to the baño in ceremony deeply touched you. We fully recognize that these times are tough across the board. Indeed, it's impossible to give from an empty cup. However, if you are in a position to support the SpiritQuest staff and their families, they would be eternally grateful. We are accepting donations via PayPal. Our administrator, Victor (Selva's uncle and Reyna's brother), will continue to equitably distribute the contributions to our staff. I've included instructions on how to pass along donations below.

PayPal Instructions

1. Using either or the PayPal app, click on the “Send” button. When PayPal prompts you to “Enter an email or mobile”, please enter the email If you have previously sent money using PayPal to, you may see the correct name of Choque Chinchay Journeys EIRL populate (and that means it's working perfectly). 2. Proceed to enter in whatever amount you'd like. Select your method of payment. 3. When PayPal asks you to “Add a note” (on the online version, this appears at the beginning of the transaction, while on the app, this appears on the “Review and send” section at the end), please make sure to include your first name and last name so that I can personally thank you! 4. Finalize the transaction by clicking “Send now” on the app or “Send Payment Now” online. Please make sure to save your email receipt.

All the love, -Parker


bottom of page