Photo Credit: Louie Schwartzberg
In her new book, Flowerevolution, Lotus Wei founder Katie Hess shares wisdom on how connecting with nature helps us appreciate our own inner beauty,
Excerpted from Flowerevolution by Katie Hess, published by Hay House (November,2016) and available in bookstores and at hayhouse.com.
When we’re young, nature has a way of giving us a direct experience of interconnectedness with everything around us. As we grow older and spend less time in nature, we may forget about that feeling we had as children. However, for most of us, flowers make cameo appearances at crucial moments in our lives, serving as a point of connection between ourselves and other people.
All cultures use flowers to denote important occasions. In the U.S., for high school proms, corsages are crafted with special flowers and ribbons and stored in the refrigerator until the moment comes to pin them on lapels or wrap them around wrists, an adornment that makes us feel special and marks a memorable moment of passage.
At weddings, flowers are found on every table and in the bride’s and bridesmaids’ bouquets, and petals are often strewn before the couple as they walk down the aisle. In India, the flowers in weddings are even more dramatic—made into huge mandalas, or garlands of red roses and orange marigolds, including a garland that gets looped around the couple, connecting them together in ceremony. Each time the couple walks around the mandala, the guests reach their hands into baskets of fragrant flower petals and throw them up in the air—like an offering—showering the petals down on top of the smiling couple.
“Spending time around flowers and plants changes people’s attitudes, connecting them with their authentic selves and with the world as a whole.”
In many spiritual paths and religious traditions, offering flowers is an expression of devotion, love, prayers for others, and wishes for self-actualization. In Asia, Hindus, Buddhists and Taoists have elaborate altars for making offerings, in which there is an abundance of lotus flowers, jasmine and roses. In Mexico, for Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, massive altars with bright orange marigolds are created for loved ones who have passed.
When people we love are sick in the hospital, we bring flowers to cheer them up. Studies show that patients heal faster when they have flowers around them; even simply having images of flowers on the walls in hospital rooms helps patients heal faster!
Culturally, flowers almost always play a role at times of profound transition: at a birth or after a death, when we fall in love, marry, or when a loved one is sick. These are all times that remind us how precious life is—and that it is always changing. Flowers appear during these key moments to remind us of the evanescent beauty of the world we live in.
Flowers Make Us Feel More Connected to Others
According to a study conducted at the University of Rochester, being exposed to flowers and nature inspires more compassion, generosity and sense of community. Dr. Richard Ryan led the study, in which more than 370 people were exposed to either natural or man-made settings, and then were tested on their values around close relationships, community, fame and wealth.
The scientists’ findings? Natural environments increased the participants’ caring for others and their generosity. They noted that spending time around flowers and plants changed people’s attitudes, better connecting them with their authentic selves and with the world as a whole. As a result, people were more likely to be concerned with the needs of others, and therefore more generous. In the exercise, the participants who spent time in natural environments gave away more money than those who were in man-made environments.
As a result, one of the scientists, Netta Weinstein, remarked that if we spend less and less time in nature we may lose connection with each other: “We are influenced by our environment in ways that we are not aware of. Because of the hidden benefits of connecting with nature, people should take advantage of opportunities to get away from built environments. When inside, they should surround themselves with plants, natural objects and images of the natural world.”
The study also showed a direct relationship between spending time in nature and how deep our connections are with each other. Dr. Ryan commented, “A lot of times we don’t take the time to really immerse ourselves in nature, to really appreciate the surroundings and the green living things that exist everywhere around us. We’re pretty busy. We’re rushing through life and we’re not in touch with those things. What these scientific findings show is that to the extent that you pay attention to the living things around us, that connects you more deeply with the human race.”
Flowers Act as Messengers
Flowers connect us with our loved ones. Giving flowers to someone involves far more than putting a pile of petals, pollen and green stems into their hands. We’re giving them not only the miracle of life—something that is literally alive—but also a profound expression of a particular essence or feeling that cannot always be expressed in words. When we buy flowers for other people, we consider them as we choose the flowers. We access that “feeling” part of us to see what kind of flowers suit them or embody the particular feeling that we want to convey.
Each flower embodies a unique quality. Irises, for example, evoke an elegant and wild creativity, with their royal purple, paint brush-like tips that ruffle out into full bloom and the bold streak of yellow in the center. Gerbera daisies, on the other hand, are all joy; they’re expansive, radiating liveliness and vitality with their radial shape like the sun. Orchids are an entirely different story, otherworldly in their exquisite sophistication and beauty.
Imagine for a moment giving an orchid to someone. Now visualize giving the same person a bouquet of peonies. Next, see yourself giving them a bouquet of sunflowers. How does it feel? Each gift of flowers feels totally different, right? And they will likely provoke different responses from
There are some flowers that we wouldn’t think of giving to certain people. For instance, you’d never give your grandmother the long-stemmed red roses that you would give a lover. These are things that we know intuitively. We may not be able to put it in words, but it’s a wisdom that we possess.
Even when you buy cut flowers or a potted plant for yourself, your choice expresses or brings out a certain quality in you. Some flowers you feel particularly drawn to, and others you simply don’t. More often than not, the flowers you are drawn to are not the same as the flowers the next person is attracted to. Based on our internal landscapes, we gravitate to specific flowers for the way they make us feel.
These preferences are not based on traditional symbolism; they come from understanding the flowers through our hearts. We already speak the language of flowers, without knowing it. The flowers that we are most attracted to are those flowers that have qualities we want to embody or that dissolve, shift or awaken something inside us.
Flowers Magnify Special Qualities
A rose feels different from a daisy, an orchid, or a lily. And a water lily has a very different quality than a tiger lily. This is something that we know on a deep, intuitive level—so deep we may never have stopped to acknowledge it.
Each flower makes us feel different, because each flower has specific qualities. When we are attracted to a flower, we connect with the essence of that plant and those special qualities are evoked within us. Interestingly, with the same flower, other people may feel the qualities but express them in a slightly different way, or tune in to one aspect more than another.
Flowers magnetize us with their beauty and reflect back to us our own essence. Their qualities magnify positive aspects of ourselves. They serve as messengers to remind us of the preciousness of life at the most crucial times of our lives. Flowers are doing this for us all the time, and all we have to do is pay attention.