Duke Gardens, Raleigh Durham, NC
Have You Watered Your Flowers Recently?
Zen monk and peace activist, Thich Nhat Hanh shares a practice for creating more peace in our lives. Beginning Anew is a practice for reestablishing communication. It is a four-part process for addressing hurts and overcoming separation. When we are injured by another, there is the habit of retreating and allowing the resentment and misunderstanding between two people to grow. When we use the practice of Beginning Anew, we first stop and recognize that we are in a relationship, even if it is a business interaction, every exchange we participate in is a relationship. There is a Vietnamese expression, “it takes two hands to break a chopstick.” This means that it takes two people to break communication. When one person refuses to allow a misunderstanding, or hurt to stop communication, the relationship has an opportunity to heal.
When we are upset by another, we pause and allow ourselves time to come back to our calm center. We can use mindful walking or breathing to calm the storm of emotion and the biochemical reactions in our body. When we are calm, we practice looking at the person who hurt us. We acknowledge that this person is more than one thing, more than their unskillful words or actions. We can remember all the positive qualities of this person and let them know we appreciate their kindness. If we do nothing else, but recall the goodness of another who has hurt us, this alone can shift our perception of them.
If we can go further and share our appreciation with the other person, letting them know that we value them, this can change the tension and soften the hearts of both participants. This verbal expression of gratitude and appreciation is called Flower Watering. It is not a compliment, or praise. It is not designed to motivate someone, to flatter or persuade; it is remembering the ways that this person has made our lives more wonderful and how they have contributed to the happiness of the world. This is the first step of Beginning Anew.
In our culture, it is much more common to find fault than to flower water. Flower Watering can maintain healthy relationships. We don’t have to wait until there is a problem before we tell someone that we noticed that they volunteer as a Little League coach, and we see their service to the happiness of children, or expressing gratitude for an employee who consistently comes to work on time and allows her employer to be more relaxed and peaceful.
We can water our own flowers as well. Stopping and appreciating the moments that we enact a kindness, when we wish another well, or take a risk for something we believe in. Many of us are conditioned to diminish our good actions and focus on where we can use improvement. Watering our own flowers can give a sense of kindness and acceptance to ourselves that we can share with others. This is not about vanity or narcissism, but the practice of noting when we are free of anger, hatred, and delusion. Watering our own flowers is a way to establish open and loving communication in ourselves. Giving ourselves appreciation and attention can encourage the practice of compassion, for ourselves and for others. Please try to water some flowers this week, your own, or a friend’s—or maybe someone’s whom you are having difficulty with. Interesting things happen we water the flowers of those we find difficult. It may surprise you, what goodness you notice in them—and it may surprise them that you see it.
May we all be peaceful and at ease.