When I began to study a spiritual form of Japanese flower-arranging called Ikebana-Sangetsu, I discovered I was slowly developing a deeper understanding of the connection between all life.
In our first class, my teacher said that flowers can actually talk, that they each have their own way of being beautiful. They have "prana," life force, so you have to pay full attention to them, rather than imposing your own ideas of beauty on them. So I began to ask the flowers how they wanted to be arranged, what positioning would make them feel most beautiful, and I waited and listened.
Even after the flowers had been set in the vase, I would discover sometimes that in the morning they had rearranged themselves during the night. Even though they were secured in the vase, they always seemed to be minutely straining to find their right place. At the same time, they were not fully independent; they needed loving care. They were dependent on me, or whomever their caretaker was for the day, to water them, to keep them moist.
Sometimes I would watch other people spraying water on the arrangements and I would feel so moved. The droplets left on the green petals and flower buds seemed to be dewdrops of compassion, so delicately poised, touching the source of life, nourishing the heart of beauty.
This experience made me feel how simple it could be, if our minds and hearts are set in the right way, to water not only plants, but human beings -- to treat all living creatures in a way that allows them their right to be beautiful, in their own space and time.
What we came to notice in our class was that flowers could also listen. Our teacher urged us to always remind the flowers when we passed how beautiful they were and to thank them for sharing that beauty with us.
When we did this, when we made our arrangements with this kind of love and devotion, we always found that the flowers remained beautiful and fresh for many more days than expected.
© 2010. Pamela Bloom, All rights reserved. From The Power of Compassion: Stories that Open the Heart, Heal the Soul and Change the World (Hampton Roads, 2010), available in bookstores and at Amazon.com
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