I have an orchid placed where I meditate. For years I had the belief that I couldn’t take care of orchids, because after a couple of months the flowers would drop off and I would be left with a barren stalk. A dear friend educated me, sharing that orchids experience a dormant period before blooming again. This invited the quality of patience, not knowing when the orchid would bud but having the confidence that it would, and importantly not writing it off.
The orchid bears a symbolic quality for me. In it’s dormancy it speaks to all those aspects of life that are dormant, unresolved questions, conflicts, situations, or the uncertainty around how things will turn out, the unknown. It reminds me that there are natural processes at work, and that I too, and my life, is a part of a larger organic process. That just as nature has her seasons, so too, metaphorically, does a human life. We can see this clearly in the process of human maturation, the springtime blossoming of the newborn, the summer of passion and ripeness, the autumn of mid-life, and the winter of the elder years when things slow down. As well as exploring a whole human life within the context of seasonality, we can also experience this seasonality in our own interior lives in the changing weather patterns of relationships and life situations. Parker Palmer, renowned educationalist, speaks to this interior seasonality in his book, ‘Let Your Life Speak’:
“In my own life, as winters turn into spring, I find it not only hard to cope with mud but also hard to credit the small harbingers of larger life to come, hard to hope until the outcome is secure. Spring teaches me to look more carefully for the green stems of possibility; for the intuitive hunch that may turn into a larger insight, for the glance or touch that may thaw a frozen relationship, for the stranger’s act of kindness that makes the world seem hospitable again.”
We forget. Winter descends whether literally or metaphorically and we fall into the illusion that it will always be like this. However, if we create the space, and capacity, to observe this seasonality both internally and externally, through regular and sustained mindfulness practice, we begin to experience that eventually everything changes. We cultivate greater patience, acceptance, equanimity, we strive less for things to be different, we trust. This is such a relief! If we are too busy, either in the external world, or in our heads, we are driven on automatic pilot, blown here and there by the weather patterns of life. High when the sun shines, low when rain clouds arise. What might it be like when the winds blow to be a windmill rather than a wind cheater. Working with rather than against the forces of life.
There are four buds on my orchid, two quite large, and two quite small. I am watching them with a sense of expectancy, a sense of wonder, ‘When will the buds open and flower?’, ‘What invisible processes are at work within the stalk?’ Dylan Thomas speaks to these forces of nature in his ode, ‘ The force that through the green fuse drives the flower.’ We too are an expression of these invisible forces. These buds speak to so much in my life, where in ‘the soil’ of my world – relationships, work, home and family – seeds are planted, some shoots appearing, in other areas only dark ground. We go each day to the interior garden, we like any good gardener observe, and respond to what is present, today weeding, tomorrow planting or harvesting, we let our lives speak and respond to that.
( This post was subsequently published in the German magazine ‘Growing With Children‘, April 2016)