Rumi said that “for every garden we tend without, we tend 10,000 gardens within”.

Such is the power of consciousness. It is our leverage beyond the material world into an imaginary/imagining world with infinite possibilities and directions for growth.

I am always looking for the natural laboratories that show us how communities self-organize and emerge into nodes and then constellations. Sometimes in such labs just a container or just a stage of emergence is visible in a short time frame. My recent cruise offered a case in point.

The cruise ship became the container for a temporary swarm of humanity to alight and engage with one another. On the surface we were 1330 individuals attended by 600+/- “officials” aka crew.  Thus our little floating city provided all the elements of a shore-side city to support the bio-physical survival of its inhabitants. We carried our resources and administrators with us in the vessel, replenishing them as our voyage progressed.

But what fascinated me, was that every person who embarked on the cruise brought with them in their consciousness, a whole world of their own — one that framed their likes, needs, wants and choices. In fact many people on this cruise brought whole families along with them. And each member of the family brought their own world. I watched these worlds interact with each other in mini-constellations – moving in nodes, forming and re-forming as they navigated around the ship. The individuals and the families broke away and allied with other individuals and families in a constant sway, like the sea life in a coral reef.  Given the schedules for eating and entertainment on the ship, these individual planets and family solar systems moved in and out of dining rooms and theatres like the very currents and tides on which we sailed.

On this particular cruise, I was intrigued that almost everyone seemed to be reading something. A bloom of  books, magazines and Sudoku puzzles in old tech hardcopy and new tech ( I-pods, I-Phones, Blackberries, I-pads, Kindles +++) accompanied people to meals, the pools,  the bars, the shops, (the casino??? I didn’t check), the front desk, the outside decks and on excursions. When I imagined all the worlds these portable reading technologies offered to the human readers, I imagined a tsunami of worlds emerging in the minds of all on board. Each reading technology offered one or many worlds that expanded the world already existing in the mind of each person. Even if we only supposed that each person brought along one literary world to supplement the one in their own mind/brain, we easily doubled the planets and suns in the constellation on board the ship – probably each day.

Because let’s suppose those imaginary worlds – which rose and set like the sun each day — interacted with one another through conversation, inquiry and eavesdropping. As they did so, they were refined and redefined in each person’s mind – growing ten thousand stories within – as each and all tried to make meaning from the myriad of meanings they encountered. For a short time we were amazed that such a multitude of people (from 15+ countries and many languages) could negotiate their encounters with one another, with relative peace and goodwill. The stories we told ourselves from our 1330 times ten thousand gardens, were honoured as a micro-world of the larger world of peace and goodwill to which everyone aspired (especially at the Equinox, Christmas, New Year season).

And I imagine that it is the myriad world of possibilities — the ten thousand stories we re-grew every day — that gave us the flexibility to navigate unexpected shoals, rough waters and uncertain beliefs while we were in the safety of the container of our ship. It demonstrated what a miracle of blessing consciousness is. The storytelling that emerges from our unlimited supply of conscious connections. It makes so much more possible than just bio-physical existence — and it certainly enhances that in ways that are as uncountable as all the stars in all the galaxies. Just think about that the next time you are watching people interact in a single garden “without” — imagine how much more amazing are the stories they are telling themselves amongst the multitude of “ten thousand gardens within”.