Flower Gazing is one of the most beautiful and powerful forms of Taoist meditation practice. Technically speaking, it's a form of "shamata (calm abiding) with object." The "object" that is used to help stabilize our mental focus is, in this case, a flower.
What gives this practice a distinctly Taoist flavor is the acknowledgment that we benefit not only from the flower as an "object" -- but also from the flower as a living being, whose unique vibratory pattern (i.e. energy) can be deeply healing. Enjoy!
- Choose a flower to use as support for this practice. What works best -- at least when we're first learning the practice -- is a single stem/blossom, in a vase or small pot. In other words, avoid using a huge bouquet, or a rose bush with dozens of blossoms. So choose a flower, with a single blossom, that inspires you.
- Find a quiet place to practice. (Indoors is best, in the beginning.) Sit comfortably, either in a chair or on a cushion on the floor, with the flower placed 12-16 inches in front of you, at eye level. Be sure you can hold the flower comfortably within your visual field, without having to turn your head to one side or the other, or tilt it up or down. In other words, you should be able to keep your spine and head in an upright and comfortably aligned position, throughout the practice.
- Take a couple of deep, slow breaths. With the exhalations, release any unnecessary tension, especially in the muscles of your neck, face, jaw and shoulders (smiling gently will help this to happen). Feel the stability of your feet, legs and pelvis, connecting with earth-energy. Feel your spine naturally lifting, rising up out of your pelvis, like the stem of a flower, rising up out of its vase.
- Now, allow your gaze to rest gently on the flower in front of you. Smile gently, as though saying "hello" to a friend.
- As you continue to gaze gently at the flower, allow your eyes to remain relaxed, soft, and receptive. It's as though we invite our eyes to receive the image and energy of the flower -- rather than using our eyes to reach out and "grab" the flower. Explore these two very different ways of using your eyes, your visual focus, and then settle back into the "receptive" mode: allowing the delicate beauty and healing energy of the flower to flow into your eyes, continuously.
- Play with maintaining this kind of relaxed and receptive focus on your flower-friend, while at the same time allowing your peripheral vision to be open and wide. In other words, be aware of the flower in the context of the entire room, while at the same time choosing to keep the flower in the foreground of your attention.
- Feel that your eyes, in their receptive mode, are drinking in the color, shape, scent and healing energy of the flower. Allow this healing energy to flow into your eyes, and from your eyes into every cell of your body.
- Generate feelings of appreciation and gratitude for the gifts of healing and beauty being so generously offered by the flower.
- When you're ready to end the practice, allow your eyes to gently close. See if you can still feel the presence of the flower in front of you. Then take a couple of deep, slow breaths -- bringing your attention fully back into your own body. Rest quietly for a minute or two, noticing the effects of the practice, and then open your eyes.
- Thank your flower-friend for being such a wonderful support for your practice.
- If your attention wanders, no problem -- simply notice that this has happened, and then bring yourself back to the practice.
- After you've practiced for a while with your favorite flower, experiment with using different kinds of flowers. Feel the differences in their energy, and notice how they affect you differently.
- Remember to keep your gaze soft, receptive, playful and relaxed -- this is the key! Our eyes then become portals through which the healing energy of the flower can flow, as nourishment to every cell of our body. There's a feeling, simultaneously, of deep intimacy and spaciousness.
What You Need
- A precious human bodymind
- A single flower
- A chair or cushion or sit on
- A quiet room