At the center of my vision board for 2021 are four little words:. “You can’t fake delicious.”

They are my mantra. My touchstone. My reminder for when I get all tight up in my head.

Delicious looks different for different people. But it is undeniably fruit of cultivating our inner garden.

I thought it would be fun to offer a few “tastes” this week of what delicious looks like as I am inviting you to participate in my Cultivate Your Inner Garden Challenge.

So far I have talked some about what the Challenge is helping us each to remove (invasive weeds of imposter syndrome, self-doubt, perfectionism and other negative voices.)

🍋 But what do we gain from cultivating our inner garden?

🍋 How does a nourished inner eco-system make it more likely that we will succeed?

First, some truth talk in a culture addicted to speedy results and myths of individual success: some inner hopes and dreams take a long time to come true. (The one I describe below took more than a decade!) And almost always we need help from many other people to make our desires a reality. Inevitably there are some challenging surprises. 

Cultivating our inner garden helps us grow our capacity to be resilient and receptive.

If you have been looking for a good container in which to nurture some of your goals or dreams, even if you don’t yet know exactly how to make them real — ESPECIALLY if you don’t yet know how to make them real! — I hope you will join the challenge. Click here and enter your name and email.

You might want to grab a cup of tea for this story, which starts with me feeling trapped in my minivan in Dallas, enduring the 40 minute round trip commute I had twice a day to take my kids to school, even though I worked from home and longing for more beautiful hikes or nature immersions nearby.  

Read on for the full story + suprises.

Yours, Courtney

For each person who registers for the challenge I am donating a dollar to the Loveland Foundation to support their work in healing trauma in Black women and girls. 

Delicious Case Study Number One: Quality of Life

Years before I found myself caught in my minivan I was in graduate school in Boston. Rich and I were newly married after the Peace Corps. We had a tiny and growing family. And we caught wind of something called co-housing, a Danish model of creating little villages of houses 🏘🏘🏘️ around shared green space + a common house. I’ve always been interested in community. I vibe with what Francis Weller says in his book The Wild Edge of Sorrow, that there is a certain kind of sadness or loneliness we feel when we are hardwired to have a village around us and to live within a daily web of relationships and belonging. Even though at that time we were far away from being able to afford the homes I saw in cohousing communities in New England, a flame was lit in me. 🕯

The longing continued to simmer as we moved to Dallas, had our second and third children, bought a mid-century ranch home and developed our professional lives. I remember one vivid experience during my coach training program, where a friend and fellow trainee led me through a visualization exercise called “ideal day” where you imagine a future day, a regular non-vacation day, and what it feels and looks like. I had a hard time getting into the exercise until finally she said, “OK Harvard, put your brain on a shelf. And just tell me what you see.” With her caring support, a vision bubbled up from deep within. I see deer I said. We live on the edge of a greenbelt or nature preserve.🦌 

Another “soul ping of recognition” came when we visited family a few years later in North Carolina. Picture the drive, our three kids in the back of our minivan sedated with unlimited screen time and the occasional fresh bag of chips we tossed into the seats behind us. Rich’s eyes were closed beside me and I had a brief moment of communion with the road and the evergreen trees that appeared as we neared the Carolinas hugging us on either side. 🌲🌲🌲The Avett brothers singing on the speaker and I burst into tears. Something in me knew we were getting closer to our new home.

But despite our best efforts we couldn’t find or help create a cohousing community in Dallas and we couldn’t figure out financially how to move to NC and leave behind Rich’s job in the nonprofit sector. (There is a saying in Asheville. BYOJ. As in “Bring Your Own Job.”) 

We had maximized our quality of life in Dallas, living in the artsy/edgy part of town (Hello Oak Cliff!) Enrolling our children in nature-based preschools and Spanish language elementary. We had an amazing group of friends and my irreplaceable family nearby but still we felt stuck. 

Right after I wrote the Flourish Formula, Rich and I decided to melt everything. We still didn’t know how to move to our dream house/community in the US, so we decided to take our kids on a global adventure. 🌎 We sold our minivan and home and all of our stuff and moved to Nicaragua. As Rich explains it, it was almost like the book was daring us to take our own dreams more seriously.

Our time in Nicaragua is its own big story but for today’s purposes I want to highlight that when we needed to come back to the US earlier than we expected, the pieces came together for us to first rent and then buy our home in a cohousing community. This was a wild and unexpected ride. 

Our house is on the edge of urban woods that we share with our neighbors. The creek which runs behind all of our houses is a wildlife corridor.

Shortly after we moved one day my husband put his hand on my back and said quietly, “turn around.” There was the most beautiful buck with a full rack looking right up through the window. I’m not sure I’ve ever felt more witnessed in my life.

And so now we get to live the dream we held for so many years. The kids can walk to school, when there is school, and we have friends and neighbors to learn, grow, dance and karaoke with 🎤.

And we have shared gardens and trees who take all my exhales, the mindful ones and the frustrated periodic huffing (because hey, this is still real life!) and convert it to oxygen. And I get to sit here and write to you from my back porch office with birdcalls in the air and chipmunks and the world’s fattest hedgehog nearby.

Living here makes me happy. It fits me and continues to teach me some of the lessons — like how to live in rich relationship with the earth — that I am most eager to learn. 

Quality of life dreams come in many different forms. For example I worked with one client who wanted to wake with the ocean 🌊 and now daily walks the beach and enjoys the tides. And another who wanted a beautiful ranch/retreat house to be a hub for family and friends and now spends her days nurturing a space where roses, sacred conversations and creativity can bloom. 🌹 Many clients want a simpler, sane life that fits who they are now, not who they think they should be or who they used to want to be! 

It is also important to say that this past year has been a lot, with Covid fears, needed racial justice conversations and more. So it is OK, recommended even, to give yourself space and time to integrate all the lessons and clarity that this year has brought to the surface.

But regardless of externals, authentic dreams don’t go away. They seek and search for a patch of sunlight to take root in your life.

I hope this casestudy of my decade-long dream has been helpful to you. Click on the button below to read more details about the challenge and register. I would love to hear more about the goals and hopes you hold and to help them become real. I hope to see you inside! 

Warmly, Courtney

Courtney Pinkerton is a certified life coach and the author of the Amazon bestseller, The Flourish Formula: An Overachiever's Guide to Slowing Down & Accomplishing More.

Courtney is an inner life coach and Enneagram mentor. She helps conscious women (and a few amazing men!) to pursue their most salient creative, professional and quality-of-life dreams and to discover more pleasure in their everyday.

She has dual master’s degrees from Harvard Divinity School and Harvard Kennedy School, is a certified Wayfinder life coach and has been studying the Enneagram with master teachers for over a decade. After selling their house and all their belongings and spending a year in Nicaragua tutored by their neighbors in the art of slowing down and living more, Courtney and her husband and their three children now make their home in a co-housing community in Asheville, North Carolina.


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