Thoughts from Annie
The Co-Arising of the Flower and Me While Roger Peed
Walking my dogs up Mt. Weather in the Blue Ridge Mountains recently, I saw a little white flower that had survived our mild early winter. I would have easily missed seeing it, except that Roger, one of our feisty little Terriers, had stopped to sniff and pee nearby.
Whenever Roger, or his brother Woody, stop to pee, I take the moment to look around and see what’s unique about that particular spot. This time, my eye happened upon the tiny white flower on its even tinier green stem.
After admiring the flower for a few seconds, my mind cut into the moment. “What is the purpose of such a tiny little flower? It can’t provide much pollen for bees. Maybe it’s yummy food for the deer?” As I ruminated about the flower’s purpose, I lost the deep sense of connection I had been feeling when I was completely present with the flower. I no longer experienced the flower as it was in the moment, I experienced only a reflection of the flower in my mind.
Had I not been fully present, eyes and mind making contact with the flower in that moment, the flower I have described here would not have existed. My particular optic nerves and retinae received the reflection of light created by the flower in that particular instant.
In contacting the flower with my full sensory attention, you might say I brought the flower into being. At the same time, I brought myself into being as the observer of the flower. As subject and object, the flower and I manifested together. It sounds cliché, but the flower and I made each other come alive on that mountain trail.
Consider Roger and Woody. They may have looked at the flower, too. But, because they have dog eyes, the flower they saw was not the same flower I saw. Only because of who I was in that moment, I saw that flower. Subsequent moments, impermanent as life is, may or may not bring contact between me and the flower. So, what existed in that moment is now gone. The flower, and the person, too.
Thich Nhat Hanh describes this kind of deep looking as “direct perception.” When I made contact with the flower, my mind wasn’t filled with aversion or craving, and I wasn’t distracted by thinking about something else. So, I was able to truly see the flower as it was. When I switched to thinking about the flower, the flower was no longer real, and, in a way, neither was I.
The little white flower doesn’t have to go anywhere or perform any feats of wonder in order to be who she is. She is already enough. I know that eventually she will be trampled by a boot or a bear, run over by an ATV, or succumb to a pile of snow. But she is fulfilling her purpose right now by being a flower. Whatever she does or doesn’t do, however big she grows, or deep her roots dive into the earth, she still remains herself, a flower. It is only because both of us were fully ourselves for that one moment that we were able to make direct contact.
“YOU ARE HAPPENING NOW. RIGHT NOW. RIGHT AT THIS MOMENT AND YOUR HAPPENING IS BEAUTIFUL.” — NAYYIRAH WAHEED
In her poem, Holiday, Denise Levertov says, “No one confirms another unless he himself rays forth from a center.” So, if we want real relationships with flowers (or people) our practice is to be the center, to ground ourselves enough to create a moment of real contact. To do this, we stop ruminating and be just as we are. We are enough. We don’t need to figure out a better way to be or be someone or something else. When we are solidly ourselves we can make true contact in this moment. We are who we are. They are who they are. We must know ourselves before we know another.
The white flower knows herself. She shared her beauty with me on a barren day while my dog peed. Can we know ourselves enough to stop our mental chatter and simply experience another?
When we settle into the fullest most wholehearted expression of who we are, we see and deeply affirm each other. Subject and object arise together. This may be the most beautiful gift we can give another being.
So, goodbye for now, little flower. I will never forget how we manifested together on this mountain.
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