Talk by Thich Nhat Hanh
My boat sails in an ocean of mindfulness… Remember not to be drowned in an ocean of pain…
Arranging flowers is arranging ourselves. We're all flowers.
This is the school of non-duality of flower arrangement: the flower arranger and the flowers are one.
Beauty is the aim of flower arranging. The three characteristics of beauty are:
Arranging flowers is a meditation. It is the pleasure of the action itself. The arranger takes time, meditates on the flowers and the arrangement. No need to sit on a cushion to meditate. Time, peace and quiet are needed to arrange flowers.
Non discriminating flower arrangements means removing distinctions between:
1. arranger and non-arranger
If the flower arranger, the arranging and the arrangement are not appreciated by the family, the arranger will be discouraged and will eventually stop arranging flowers. If the family appreciates the arranger arranging the flowers, they become arrangers themselves. One arranges, the other appreciates - they both become arrangers, through appreciative words and smiles. If you see and appreciate a family member arranging flowers, you can become a practitioner - one smile and the whole family profits.
2. arranging and non-arranging
The beginning of writing is not when you sit down and write, but you write while you live your life. You carry the story in you while gardening, washing dishes… - you observe. When you sit down, you give birth to a story, that you have been carrying with you for a while, while doing other things. In the time we don't arrange flowers (e.g. while walking) we arrange them. The moment you sit and arrange, you just put it all together, but the arrangement is already determined (through prior observation & mindfulness…) in your idea of beauty, harmony and aesthetics. The beauty of the flower arrangement depends on the quality of time when you are not arranging flowers.
3. flower and non-flower
You should recognise flowers in non-flowers (e.g. compost, rocks, people). A dead branch is a flower on its was to become garbage, to become another flower. A dead flower has to be nourished immediately to remain fresh. Life is always there to spring out.
4. matter and space
Matter is made of space and space of matter (in the language of modern science). Even without flowers you can arrange flowers. There has to be enough space between two things. Space will create matter. The art of arranging space gives a sense of freedom in the people contemplating the flower arrangement.
5. arranger and flower
In classical art of flower arrangement, there is a distinction between sky, earth (nature) and human. In non-dual flower arrangement, sky is contained in the earth and humans, earth in sky and humans, human in sky and earth. all is contained in all else (e.g. miniature landscapes in Vietnam). Seeing the other elements in one, not as separate entities, but all deeply integrated in nature. The flower arranger reveals the beauty of a flower through mindfulness, the flower relieves the suffering of the arranger through its beauty. The first ingredient of flower arranging is walking, then recognising flowers as flowers.
Humans, sky and earth are contained in each other - as an interbeing. People ARE flowers. If they look tired, we don't take good care of them, they don't smile and don't breathe…
If you don't live mindfully, you can lose your smile. A flower can keep the smile for you, you can get it back by getting in touch with the flower through meditation. You can get back your smile that is kept in flowers and non-flowers.
We are sick because we see everything go wrong. Practicing mindfulness you see how many things do not go wrong. How many things are still fresh, healing and magnificent. You can recover your health very quickly. This is the art of arranging flowers.
First take care of your own flower (yourself) before you can see other people as flowers. First recognise them as flowers. If you don't recognise them as flowers, it is through our lack of mindfulness. When you recognise people as flowers, then you know how to protect them, and let the flowers bloom. Arrange flowers every day and leave enough space, enough freedom.
First, go back to yourself: establish oneness of mind and body (through breathing). Pull yourself together. Only in oneness can you touch flowers. Be present, be yourself and smile.
Second, touch the flower. Make the flowers reveal themselves, be themselves in harmony and peace. Just look and breathe. Observe the changes. True art must be based in deep observation. The source of true art is mindfulness. You become one with what you draw. You can leave, and you remain the flower. You will radiate peace and harmony and help your community. You don't have to do a lot, just arrange flowers.
As you exhibit the flowers, you will exhibit peace, harmony and reconciliation through the work and in your own heart. This builds up happiness of your family and community substantially.
When finished, you have to arrange your house to have space to put the flowers. Good flower arranger first looks at her house (her heart) before beginning the arranging. A place to put the pot is the flower itself.
Just thinking of arranging flowers is reconciliation for your whole family. Flower arranging is about people, the place, the pot, the flowers, the space - all have to be arranged.
It should all come from our environment. Never say flower over there is better. Only use what is around you as flowers.
Non-duality in flower arranging means that no one is serving the other. Everyone is helping each other to stand up.