This week Carolyn West, senior teacher and trainer for the Stress Reduction Clinic and Oasis Training Institute, offers a reflection on learning from the ways of flowers… Carolyn tends her garden in Ludlow, Massachusetts.
It’s mid-July and the day lilies in New England are blooming—opening and closing, coming and going with the rhythm of the summer days. Shades of yellow and orange, blood-red and tangerine, their softly fluted petals curl back each morning, spreading their faces to the rising sun. I’ve been noticing how they seem to settle and be happy most anywhere, planted purposely in a garden or making an unscripted appearance among the Queen Anne’s Lace along the rural roadside; and I’ve been noticing, too, how their long, reed-like, surprisingly sturdy stems stretch and arc naturally and predictably away from the shade and toward the light…No instructions needed…no staking or training…no resistance or grumbling…something in their essence sensing—knowing—responding to what they need.
I’ve also been noticing more stiffness in my body these days—this, too, a natural response to the seasons of life, and meeting me in the mornings, especially: Fingers a bit less limber, shoulders and neck registering some tightness, back muscles less immediately pliant. There are mornings when I simply push through the discomfort, ignoring the messages of my body and collude instead with the mind’s insistent pull toward its insatiable desire to do and accomplish. Most days, though, I spread my yoga mat along the broad open floor, a fitting place to receive this body and the effects of the night. Lying on my back in resting pose, I immediately experience some release… No longer in a hurry, my body easily offers a knowing of what is needed…in response, I lift my arms and stretch long and full, allowing my eyes to close and the sensations of the stretch to be savored. Releasing, limbs and torso, bones and flesh sink more deeply into the mat. I roll my head slowly from side to side, sensations emanating from the back of my skull and neck, facial muscles softening… …No agenda, here…the body finely attuned to what is enough. Now a stretch, a holding, a release…this movement, this twist…nothing planned or forced…my body leading the way.
Day lilies, our bodies, we have this in common…an innate knowing of what is needed, what will serve. The day lily receives no argument from the stem as it reaches for what will nourish it. We humans, on the other hand, have a mind that can easily override the body’s wisdom, postponing until later or another day, that which nourishes.
I roll up my mat, slip on my shoes, and move downstairs, the mind is quieter now, my body more at ease. I am grateful on this day: I listened.