Architectural landscaping is fascinating to me, as a therapist, because of its similarity to the therapeutic process: You have to admit there is a problem with the way things are and you have to have a clear vision of what you want it to become. The slow, hard work occurs between the two points.

If you are undertaking an enormous landscaping project, you don’t have to have a clear vision of every detail.

1. Start with your intention and a specific plan for the first leg of the project, then trust that your spirit and The Spirit will guide you along the way. Be flexible and make room for the unexpected and some pleasant and unpleasant surprises. It may take years to complete the entire project.

2. Next, you must break up the surface earth and remove the grass, stones, bricks, or cement. You must pull out the weeds and their strong, long roots. The earth is hard and resistant. This is back-breaking work. It takes hours of labor to dig, rake, shovel, and load the debris into a wheel barrel. It takes muscle and balance to push the heavy loads. You literally have to “get your hands dirty” and commit to the process.

3. The mess you create at this point can be discouraging and unsightly. Temporarily, things look worse than before you started and they might stay like this for some period of time. Your hands, legs, and back can ache from the strain of the hard work. You grow thirsty and tired, and can easily feel that you have taken on more than you can handle. That’s when your spirit must take over. You must hold on to the vision of your project. You must imagine, specifically, the beauty you want to create and disregard the mess.

4. If there are any good plants or trees in the initial landscape, you must carefully remove them and transport them to a safe place, for future planting – making sure they have sun and water, healthy soil and sturdy containers to support them during the move. In addition, there might be some bricks or boulders or flagstone that can be re-worked into the new design. It is important to assess what is of value and not discard everything.

5. Once the earth has been prepared, you must begin the “construction phase.” This, too, is a slow process that requires proper materials, tools, craftsmanship, and a specific plan. You can’t be in a hurry. You must pay attention to every detail and stay focused on one step at a time. The architectural element is achieved by incorporating wood, stone, marble, water, brick, bamboo, granite, terra cotta, plaster, or a variety of other materials into your design. By interweaving them with the plants and trees you are planting, you achieve a balance of “yin” (the growing things, the feminine aspect) and “yang” (the earth elements, the masculine).

6. Slowly, your inner vision emerges as a reality. You create the architectural framework, you plant the trees and plants which you have carefully chosen for their specific qualities, and then you water and fertilize and nurture them while they grow. The locations where they are planted must match their needs for sun or shade, and they must be planted in the proper season.

7. To protect them while they are growing, your plants must be pruned, watered, weeded, fertilized and sprayed to protect them from pests. Plants respond to the love and attention you give them. They grow larger and produce a more bountiful harvest when they are loved and surrounded by positive, spiritual energy.

8. At the end of your project, you are rewarded for all your hard work. The barren environment has been transformed into a place of beauty, a sanctuary that inspires your body, mind, emotions and spirit. People and wild life will be attracted to and nurtured by what you have created. What you do in your external, physical environment transfers to your internal world, and vice versa.