“Seeing beauty in a flower could awaken humans, however briefly, to the beauty that is an essential part of their own innermost being, their true nature. ” Eckhart Tolle

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love flowers.

Peonies and irises

Peonies and irises -Sorin garden

I have memories as a child of my mother bringing cut lilacs, irises and peonies in from the garden, arranging in vases – playing with flowers for hours  – like an artist at work – until they pleased her eye.

She then would judiciously place them on the dining room  and kitchen tables and buffets where several times a day I passed by and inhaled their intoxicating scents and gazed at their alluring beauty.

Without knowing it at the time, these living works of art opened me up to the world of ‘wabi sabi’ – an aesthetic that perceives beauty as impermanent, imperfect and transient.

And most importantly, flowers made me happy. When I was around them, I felt a profound sense of  well-being and for lack of a better phrase ‘quiet rapture’.

ranunculus and tulips

Ranunculus and Tulips

Although gardeners and florists intrinsically know that being around flowers raises their ‘happiness factor’, most of the world refuses to buy into a ‘theory’ until there is research backing it up.

And today there is plenty.

“A seminal study done at Rutgers University and led by Jeannette Haviland-Jones, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology instituted a 10 month study of participants’ explored the link between flowers and life satisfaction in a 10-month study of participants’ behavioral and emotional responses to receiving flowers. The results show that flowers are a natural and healthful moderator of moods.

  1. Flowers have an immediate impact on happiness. All study participants expressed “true” or “excited” smiles upon receiving flowers, demonstrating extraordinary delight and gratitude. This reaction was universal, occurring in all age groups.
  2. Flowers have a long-term positive effect on moods. Specifically, study participants reported feeling less depressed, anxious and agitated after receiving flowers, and demonstrated a higher sense of enjoyment and life satisfaction.
  3. Flowers make intimate connections. The presence of flowers led to increased contact with family and friends.
flowers and happiness

Gerbera daisies

“Common sense tells us that flowers make us happy,” said Dr. Haviland-Jones. “Now, science shows that not only do flowers make us happier than we know, they have strong positive effects on our emotional well being.” ”  Source: About Flowers

Playing With Flowers

I’ve been giving gardening workshops for several years throughout the U.S.

This exercise called Playing With Flowers is probably the most loved exercise we do in them.

Philadelphia Flower Show- playing with flowers

Philadelphia Flower Show 2014 – playing with flowers

Here’s what to do:

1. Take a trip to the nearest street vendor, farmer’s market, grocery store or florist that sells locally sustainable flowers, fair trade, or organic. Whole Food Market has a Whole Trade Guarantee for fair and ethical trade. Slow Flowers is a new and expanding site that lists American grown flower sources.

Playing With Flowers

Tulips at open market

If you’re a gardener and you have flowers in your yard in bloom, you’re in luck!

2. Pick out as many flowers as you can afford and carry home. Just let your eye go to what it likes and add them to your bunch.

This is not the time to scrimp. My philosophy when doing this exercise is that ‘more is better’.

Flowers at Market

Flowers at market

3. Ideally you want at least three different varieties of flowers, in a range of colors. If you want to add some greenery or flowered branches, feel free to do so.

4. When you get home, remove any excess leaves and trims the bottoms of the stalks on the diagonal. It is easiest to use a pruner, which you can find at any gardening center or big box store.

5. Place the flowers in a sink filled with cool water with the bottom of the stems submerged.

Flowers soaking in sink

Flowers soaking in sink

6. Go through your cabinets and take out any kind of vases or containers you have that could hold flowers. Think outside the vase. You can use teakettles, jars, glasses, cachepots, or pitchers. And don’t limit yourself in terms of size – even the smaller tumbler or toothpick holder can look lovely holding the top of one blooming rose.

7. Put on some music you love, unplug the phone and just let yourself play with different arrangements. Experiment with a variety of combinations and see what you like and dislike.

Notice how colors, shapes, and textures of leaves and flower petals work together.

If you start placing flowers in a container and don’t like the way it looks, dismantle and start again.

There are no rules here – no boundaries, no goals you need to strive toward.

I know there are countless books and articles out there about how to create lovely flower arrangements, but that’s not what this is about. You don’t have to be a professional florist here; in fact, striving for any kind of perfection negates the whole point.

This is about just letting yourself go and playing, trusting your eye, and noticing all the interesting things you come up with.

8. You may find that the critical voices in your head are quick to sabotage.

I can’t do this. 

This is too hard for me. I’m not good at things like this.

This is stupid. Why am I bothering?

This is all the product of the ego, rising up to make sure your spirit stays buried, right where the ego likes it, thank you very much.

9. Notice how much you question and censor yourself.

Let your kinder inner voice lead you through and nudge you into letting go and just being in the moment.

Remember, you don’t have to do this brilliantly. You don’t even need to do it well. You just need to do it for the sake of the child like soul within.

10. When you’re finished playing with flowers, place the containers in various spots in your home where you’ll see them often.

11. Change the water and trim the bottom of the stems every day to keep them fresh and living longer (and to continue your interaction with them).

Benefits of Playing With Flowers

This exercise has so many benefits.

It shows you how to start trusting your instincts.

It inspires you to slow down and be in the moment.

It opens you up to experimenting and exploring.

It invites you to shed your critical, self conscious ego and unleash your playful childlike soul.

It opens you up to the profound beauty and power of flowers.

It gives you the opportunity to experience how playing with flowers and surrounding yourself with them is a tool for well-being.

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