I am a huge lover of audio books. I listen to them pretty much every day. It’s not that I don’t read books; rather, I take advantage of the times that I spend in the car to listen to wonderful literature from some of the world’s most gifted writers. I have a particular penchant for the Classics: most recently I’ve listened to Joules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days; Shakespeare’s Macbeth; Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Greengables and I have just finished what I think is my new favourite book: The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett.

The general plot is that a young girl called Mary is sent to live in a large house and estate in England following the disappearance of all the people looking after her in her home in India. Mary is a stubborn young lady used to always getting her way and so she struggled to adapt to the way of life in Yorkshire (the county where she finds herself) where, although there are servants in the house, most wouldn’t take kindly to such poor treatment by her! The sort of treatment that she would inflict upon her servants in India involved hitting and it had moulded her into a way of treating people that was very unkind. Mary arrived in England pale, thin, tired and most disagreeable. She was, though, to have a transforming experience over the coming months.

One day, Mary explores the large gardens and discovers a garden that has been left untended for a very long time. It is a robin that she first of all befriends (possibly the first friend that she ever had) who hints as to the location of the garden. Over several weeks she enters the garden and starts to dig a little area where she plants some seeds. The garden plus endless opportunities to run and explore the Yorkshire Moors, changes not only her body making her stronger and more healthy but changes her mind as well.

In fact, we might say that she changed her mind about the circumstances that she found herself in and decided to think in a different way. She noticed herself becoming stronger and free; she noticed herself changing to something she actually liked more.

Colin also impacted Mary’s life. Colin was the son of Mr Craven, who’s house and estate Mary found herself in. Colin believed that he was a sickly boy, surely to be a hunchback and to die very soon. He spent all day in his room, locked away from people outside of the servants and the doctors let alone the garden and the Moor. He refused to be in the fresh air, save it would make him worse. He treated the servants disgracefully and the doctors and nurses just as poorly. Perhaps his treatment of them mirrored his treatment of himself. He was a poor, sick boy and was soon die. Why treat anyone let alone yourself in a positive way?

Mary was curious though and heard his screams on several occasions. Finally, she was determined to track down the owner of the screams and discovered Colin locked away in his room. Used to taking no one’s orders, Mary spoke unafraid to Colin and had such a positive impact upon him over the coming weeks (for Colin too was used to everyone cowering and doing whatever he ordered them to do) that their friendship developed and finally Mary told Colin about the secret garden. Under strict orders to stay away once the servants had taken Colin to near the garden, Colin and Mary spent many days and weeks in the garden; both growing stronger and stronger by the experience. Dickin, perhaps the true hero of the book (you need to read this book to fully appreciate his many talents!) wheeled Colin into the garden every day and taught Mary and Colin how to dig and plant, how to cultivate plants, how to exercise: how to be truly free! All done in a supportive, kind, caring way: never once telling them what they should do; never once dictating.

In the end the lives of Mary and Colin were utterly transformed from self-centred, sickly (they both were quite sick; just in different ways) unhappy lives to a free, strong and truly liberated lives.

How? The final chapter (the book was written 100 years ago) is called In the Garden and in essence expounds how what one thinks dictates how one will lead one’s life. It also remarks that this is new thinking: the power of the mind to decide how one is going to think, feel, act and do. We might take this for granted today, 100 years later, but this was clearly new thinking at the tun of the last century. I suspect that Dickin and his mother (you really must read the book!) somehow, instinctively, knew all this even if they weren’t quite able to articulate it! They just lived it: how good is that?!

Quoting from the final chapter:

So long as Mistress Mary’s mind was full of disagreeable thoughts about her dislikes and sour opinions of people and her determination not to be pleased by or interested in anything, she was a yellow-faced, sickly, bored and wretched child. Circumstances, however, were very kind to her, though she was not at all aware of it. They began to push her about for her own good. When her mind gradually filled itself with robins, and moorland cottages crowded with children, with queer crabbed old gardeners and common little Yorkshire housemaids, with springtime and with secret gardens coming alive day by day, and also with a moor boy and his “creatures,” there was no room left for the disagreeable thoughts which affected her liver and her digestion and made her yellow and tired.

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

We now understand more completely that we will only switch from a mindset (by the way, it’s not ‘set’ at all) and the resultant cause of action when something more desirable takes its place. It was no good telling Mary – or indeed Colin. They needed to experience the alternative and recognise its liberating joys for themselves. They were then free to choose them for themselves.

So, what have you decided? Is that what you want? If it is then go for it. If it isn’t what alternatives are there that will create a more attractive future for you? If you need help with finding those alternatives please contact me.

If you’d like to read this wonderful book online then click here. I think, like me, you might be hooked…