Mind of a Flower
The Mind of a Flower
By Jerry Dorsman
How can we make a better connection with the world around us? Let us first consider what we are.
As Gretel Ehrlich revealed in her book The Solace of Open Spaces: “Everything in nature invites us constantly to be what we are.” Not who we are, but what. By understanding our connection with nature, with everything in the world around us, we can better understand our own whatness. By entering nature, we can enter ourselves.
Yet, each of us lives almost exclusively within that separate self which is a “who.” Knowing who we are, we know only how we’re different from the world around us and different from other people. Knowing who we are sets us apart.
Also, by knowing who we are, we know only that which is impermanent. For who we are depends on our personality, yet personality changes. Who we are depends on our beliefs and our chosen behaviors, but as we acquire knowledge or apply some effort these can be changed. Finally, when we die, it’s the “who” which dies.
On the other hand, knowing what we are, we come to appreciate how we’re the same as others and the world around us. Knowing what we are connects us with all that is. Upon realizing our whatness, we discover that we’re at one with the world. Also, it is the “what” within us which is eternal. It is the what which lives on after we die. By realizing our whatness, we know beyond a doubt that we are part of something permanent.
In order for us to honor the world around us, we must know how we’re the same as the world, not how we’re different. But for the past 3,000 years of human history, we have accumulated hundreds of ways to see ourselves as different from one another, from other living things, and from the world itself. Surely we are the only species in which each individual member views itself as exclusive from everything else surrounding it.
So this gives us a hint, a direction. This gives us an idea of what we need to change.
Just as a flower opens itself to the light of day, we too can open. In thoughtful meditation, we can experience the shimmering brilliance of the world surrounding us. We can open our minds to the world as a flower in the morning sun might open its mind to the world. Look around. What are you?
Opening the Flower Within
Can we awaken ourselves to the world?
We do need to awaken. For each of us lives within a dream…dreaming this about the world, dreaming that about the world, and day after day we find ourselves proposing that these dreams are in fact reality. Sometimes we insist that these dreams are absolute reality, as if our beliefs about God, the natural world, and ourselves are the only possible “true beliefs” and that all other beliefs are false.
Now we go to sleep and we have more dreams. These don’t look at all like the same reality as our waking dreams but some of us nevertheless seek to discover some real meaning within. To compound matters even more, some of us have dreams as we teeter at the brink of death. Sometimes these dreams, known as “near death experiences,” seem neat and coherent, or at least the dreamers remember them as such upon waking. Sometimes these particular dreams offer a powerful promise of life after death and hold enough internal credibility to become worthy of a book. This book may even capture the imagination of other people as if it were, somehow, with some solemn certainty, a lucid representation of some underlying reality. And the book may then enjoy such widespread popularity that it goes on to become a bestseller. (1)
Without a doubt, the human mind is a dreaming mind. We dream the world to be a certain way, and that’s how we see it. As conveyed enigmatically by Edgar Allen Poe in one of his poems, “All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream.”
What we need, however, is to move away from dreams and awaken to the world. To see the world—eyes wide open, without superimposing our dreams upon it—is to see the world anew. We needn’t come near death, we must get very close to life.
Let us seek “Near Life Experiences.” Everyone of us can have one. They occur whenever we see things clearly. All of a sudden, the world comes into focus. We stop imagining the world and begin to see it as it is. At once, specific details of the universe become known to us, as if they had been fully explained; but now they’re explained to us through our senses only and represented within our deepest understanding, for no words appear. Indeed, at these moments, we realize that no words are adequate.
Even when we achieve a brief awakening, a momentary glimpse into this “true” reality, it can change our lives forever. Knowing this reality is what we call wisdom. Connecting with this reality brings contentment and peace within.
Hence we need to focus less on dreams, imagination, and near death experiences, and more on facts, clarity, and our own near life experiences. We need to perceive the world directly, to participate in what’s happening this very instant, and to immerse ourselves in this glorious energy called life.
About 2500 years ago Siddhartha Gautama, in a final effort to solve the riddle of suffering in the world, spent 49 days meditating under a Bodhi-tree. During this meditation, he persevered long enough to overcome the distractions of worldly temptations and other-worldly demons, until finally he became enlightened. At last, he had solved the riddle. From that day forward, he has been known to us as Buddha which means “the Awakened One.”
To Buddha, the world of illusion disappeared. The dreams that overlay reality vanished. But he found that the content of his enlightenment was ineffable. It could not be described. Because of this problem, he simply continued his silent meditation under the tree. But soon, out of compassion for fellow humans, he broke his silence and began to teach. Notably however, his teachings concentrated on method rather than myth. He used few words to portray the world as seen by the enlightened mind, while he used many words to tell others how they could awaken and experience this world for themselves.
We too can awaken.
To do so, we need to drop all images created by our imagination. We need to stop imposing our beliefs on the outside world. You’ve heard that saying, “seeing is believing?” In fact, the reverse is also true: Believing is seeing. What we believe exists in the world will appear there—whether it be Santa Claus and elves, or God and angels. And, although we project these images onto the outside world from our imagination within, we nevertheless make the presumption—or leap of faith—that the images are “out there,” not “in here.”
Meditation: Imagine Yourself a Flower
Most of the time, we use our imagination to create a world of images outside of ourselves. But with this meditation, we’ll use our imagination to create a world within.
Settle yourself into a comfortable sitting position with your spine straight but not rigid. Then begin swaying, back and forth, in a gentle motion, while imagining your spine as the supple stem of a great and beautiful flower. Now begin humming, but for your “hum,” forget the “h” and the “u” in the word, and just stay with the “m.” In the mantra tradition of Hinduism, the “m” sound calls forth the “unconscious state,” the state of deep sleep during which we have no dreams. Yet it also represents that point in our personal consciousness which connects us with absolute consciousness. In other words, the sound Mmm connects us with the universe itself. (2)
Allow your breathing to become steady and even. Now, on each out-breath, intone: Mmmmm. Move the entire out-breath through this sound: Mmmmm. Keep swaying. Inhale in rhythm with your swaying motion. Exhale: Mmmmm, in rhythm.
Imagine the top of your spinal column as a flower. Imagine it delicately and ever-so-slowly opening. Imagine your “Mmm” as the powerful energy from your body that will open the flower. In one of his poems, Dylan Thomas said: “The force that through the green fuse drives the flower/ Drives my green age . . .” Imagine your spine the green fuse and your Mmm as the rising force that drives the flower.
Allow your spine to be flexible. Invite your own deep rhythm to enter your movement, your breathing, and your humming. Invite the flower gradually to open.
Now, as the flower opens, notice that your entire self falls open. You fall open to all the world. Mmm….
Meditation: Celebrate a Flower in the Sun
For this meditation, you will purposely avoid the use of your imagination. By so doing, you’ll find yourself experiencing reality directly.
On a sunny day, plan to watch a flower. Choose one flower, or a bed of flowers, and set aside a time when you will watch. For most flowers, morning is the best time. Set aside at least a half hour.
Find a comfortable way to sit and then begin—waiting, watching. But remember, during the entire time, keep your attention focused on the flower. Keep the flower focused in your vision. And also keep the flower focused in your olfactory sense. Inhale through your nose during this entire celebration.
With each inhalation, be aware of any trace of fragrance from the flower. As time passes, notice the gradual increase in fragrance coming to you from the flower. Note how you can participate with a flower on a personal level by allowing its fragrance to linger inside of you.
Watch. And wait. Think no thoughts. Simply meditate on the flower’s image and its scent. Imagine nothing. Clear your mind of everything but what you see with your eyes and smell with your nose. Remain open, remain receptive.
Here, in this spot, breathe this flower in.
Celebrate it. Celebrate the energy of life that you observe in this flower. Celebrate this flower’s life inside of you; celebrate your life inside of it. Now—as your connection deepens—celebrate life itself. Awaken to the inherent interconnectedness of all things.
Meditation for Today
During the day today
let me embrace nature,
all of nature,
that beautiful presence
living inside-out of me
like a flower
in the cycle of the sun.
(1) From 2010 to 2013, Heaven Is for Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back by Rev. Todd Burpo, sold more than 7.5 million copies. Also a book published in 2004, Don Piper’s 90 Minutes in Heaven, became a best-seller, and sold more than 5 million copies by 2013. Source: USA Today, “Publishing world cashes in on heavenly journeys” by Craig Wilson (Jan. 11, 2013). Or consider one of the biggest books in this category. That was Betty Eadie’s Embraced by the Light which was first published in 1994. Between then and 2017, this book has sold over 13 million copies. Source: Betty Eadie’s Biography, Amazon.com sales page for Embraced by the Light (July 17, 2017).
(2) As noted in The Encyclopedia or Eastern Philosophy and Religion (Boston: Shambhala, 1994), p 255: “The M sound, third syllable of the mantra ‘Om’ [A-U-M], “symbolizes the unconsciousness, which we call deep sleep, but it is also a connective link, for it is closest to the point that represents absolute consciousness.” Or, as described in the Mandukya Upanishad: “The consciousness experienced during the deep state of sleep is M, the third letter of Om [A-U-M]. One who knows this more subtle state as well is able to comprehend all within himself.” –quoted from Enlightenment without God: Mandukya Upanishad by Sri Swami Rama (Honesdale, PA: Himalayan International Institute, 1982).
Jerry Dorsman is coauthor of the book How to Achieve Peace of Mind in which he described dozens of meditations and meditation techniques. He is also the author of two self-help books on breaking addictions.
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