And the secret garden bloomed and bloomed and every morning revealed new miracles.

Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

As one of my lovely confidants was leaving our retreat in the breathtaking Sonoma Valley, she said to me: “This group is my secret garden.” For many women, trying to find the time and space to explore the heart’s greatest desires, and finding a space that expects nothing from them and wants everything for them is rare.

For the women in the School of Self-image – extremely successful and smart- they have a place where they can escape the expectations, rules and the real world, and go to a place that allows them to dream, play and plan the next steps of their most exquisite lives, with Champagne in hand!

It’s a hidden gem in the dust of life.

I remember the first time that I heard about “secret gardens.” I was sitting at a small cafe along the Rue Cler in Paris.

My dear friend, Catherine, turned to me and asked: “Do you have un le jardin secret?”

“A what?” I asked, almost startled by the question.

 “A secret garden… that only you know about.  The place where you keep your secret desires, dreams and (in a whisper) your dirty little secrets.”

This question made me Stop… Think…. Question…

I questioned how I had been raised.

I was challenged to find a space that allowed me to be transparent, share my true self with others, open my heart and let the world see my most precious inner treasures.

The challenge was to not only share these truths with myself, but with anyone who would listen.

Walking away from that little cafe, I had a mission: I would create my own secret garden.

Life as an open book can be hard.

Spilling your emotions to the man at the coffee shop, sharing the details of your life and business disputes on Facebook, confessing your most sacred dreams to the neighbor who may not want to hear them, exploiting your children by sharing their personal struggles and offering your life to anyone who will listen, has some risks.

Honestly, it’s like throwing your precious sacredness into the winds of life.

At it becomes scattered, it loses its magic.

But… going back to the basics, and French Kissing Life, you must learn the art of discretion.

Personally, I find the balance challenging between being out in the world and craving my privacy.  Everyone is preaching transparency, and yet my heart tells me that you should save something for yourself.  How does Oprah do it?

For years, I’ve played around with an elegant approach to navigating the two, and it really comes down to creating sacred space for yourself.  It’s not necessary for you to tell everyone in the world your personal affairs or naughty little secrets (and, trust me, we all have them).

I have a rule for myself: I only share things that I’ve been through and have come out on the other side.  In other words, there must be a benefit for the recipient of my confession.  I value you way too much!

That’s why I have a secret garden, and I’d love for you to have one too!

When you feel the time is right, explore and carve out some special time to visit and care for your own le secret jardin.

I will even suggest some scintillating ideas:

  • Spend 15 minutes researching something you’ve always dreamed of mastering. Think: Gaelic folk songs, Baroque art, Italian cheese, Tonglen meditation, whatever you can dream of…)
  • Join a secret society where you can freely share without judgment and receive full support.
  • Spend 15 minutes a day locked away with a juicy romance novel.
  • Go into the bathroom, lock the door, put on your favorite music, and do whatever you want.
  • Paint your nails, take a bath, dance, play dress-up, make funny faces in the mirror, do whatever feels good.
  • Call an old fling to say hi and see how he’s doing… Who knows what could happen?
  • Explore an intellectual passion (poetry, writing, philosophy, painting, …) and spend time with it.
  • Pack a picnic, bring a great book, and find your secret garden (literally).
  • Create a sacred space in your home that you intentionally visit daily.
  • Discover your own secret public place that you visit regularly (bookstore, cafe, park, …)
  • Have a little bed and breakfast that you escape to every few months or so for a night.
  • Create your own little devotional book filled with delicious memories and decadent dreams for your eyes only.

Remember: The key word is secret.

Do these things without telling a soul (not even your significant other).

And– definitely– don’t tell the man at the coffee shop that it’s your secret hangout.

Creating your own cherished world that only you know about makes you a bit seductive, a puzzle to figure out, a woman of depth and intrigue.  You’re certain to have a glow that people will notice.

You’ll become a woman of mystery.  

When you casually cite Voltaire at the dinner table and someone asks: “How do you know that?”simply reply:

Je ne sais pas!”

But, truthfully, you do know: It’s because you have le jardin secret!

I’d love to hear if you have a secret garden.  You don’t have to tell us where or what, but maybe a hint or two will inspire others to carve out their own.  Leave a comment here or head over to Facebook to join the discussion.

Like this article?  I’d be honored if you’d tweet it;)

With love,


Self-Image Makeover

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