Mindfullness is what everyone is talking about these days. Being present. Being grounded, appreciating the now. Hundreds of books and websites are dedicated to this practice. You can spend thousands on retreated to learn the practice Schoolchildren are being taught how to be in the now so they don’t flip out in the classroom and can focus on their “work”. Flowers can place an important role in achieving that goal.
I learned to be there when I was practicing yoga. When I was focused, really focused, my head would clear and I would stop thinking about things, only breathing and what I wanted my body to do. It was great and I could see the world with better clarity. Suddenly, everything didn’t feel so complicated and I didn’t feel so frozen.
I was in a cab rushing to a client meeting and there was traffic. I was starting to stress a little and started nervously chatting with the cab driver. He was one of those sage, old, salty guys that you get every once in awhile. He was a writer and semi-retired and drove his cab for enjoyment. He liked to talk to people He asked me if I have ever cleared my mind to only see white.
He said to me,
“Our brains are like the cover of a magazine, so much going on that when messages come in we are supposed to hear, we can’t see or hear the words. By clearing our brains, by making the cover of the magazine a white page, we can see and hear what is important.”
I thought about it and no one had explained it to me so clearly. I thought about the moments when my brain is clear and I thought about yoga, where I consciously made that decision and I thought about flowers, where when I looked at them, that state was automatic.
Flowers have been a part of human celebrations and life events since the beginning. They are a part of birth, graduations, milestones, marriage, and memorials. Flowers with their fleeting beauty cause us to pause, to consider and appreciate. They are incorporated into milestones because these times are so important, we want to experience them in the now, and flowers coax us into that place.
Part of their attraction is their temporary nature. You are compelled to enjoy them now, because they may not be here tomorrow. Appreciate them for what they are. When admiring flowers, you don’t think about yesterday, or tomorrow, or the day after. You look at the petals, how velvety and soft, the small imperfections, appreciate the scent, the subtle hues and changes of color, the curve of the leaves and twists of the stem.
My early childhood was spent in the country. We didn’t have any close neighbors, just an elderly, Mennonite woman who lived on a farm over the hill from our house. She still used the hand pump on her kitchen sink and heated her water on an ancient kerosene stove. I loved to visit but that is another story for another time.
My time as a child was spent wandering through the fields and the margins of the woods. I was too scared to go deep inside, too afraid of indian ghosts, snakes and bears.
Before I learned how to read, nature was my playmate. Flowers were special to me and I loved to watch the petals sparkle in the sun and to see all the colors that they could be, the variations, the lowlights and highlights. If you look closely, it is like looking at a Seurat painting. I loved to smell their scents and close my eyes to hear bees buzzing. Watch the ants crawling in and out and the hummingbirds and their frantic flight.
My father was studying forestry and botany and taught me all the names of the flowers. Daisy fleabane, dutchmans britches, trillium and bluebells. Flowers that I never see in the commercial markets or in garden centers. When they had names, they became very personal to me, they became friends. We took long walks in the woods and he taught me the names of the trees and how to identify them. Larch, sycamore, redbud, and loblolly pine. “Hello Loblolly”, I would say, “nice to see you, Fleabane”
As an adult, I turned to flowers and gardening to stay calm and focused and to forget and remember. When I look at the petals, I am brought back to those warm summer days where time seemed to be suspended and I think of nothing but their beauty. I didn’t know that I was being “mindfull” Sansa Stark is often pictured in the gardens to escape her tormentors and to find a moment of peace and clarity.
Flowers have the ability to heal. When placed in hospital rooms, the patients recover 30% faster. Scientific American recently discovered that Hospital Gardens Have Medical Benefits. Nuns, with their cloistered gardens have known this for millenniums. There should be more women in science.
Perhaps if we did have more flowers in our lives, more greenery, more living things around us and truly looked at them and appreciate them, we wouldn’t have to try so hard to clear our heads and be in the present.
If you are having trouble being mindful. Get some flowers. Look at them, smell them, appreciate and you will become present.