I’ve just returned from the 17th North American Regional Conference of Ikebana International in Asheville, NC. I was thrilled to see so many people who’d come from all over the world—Asia, Europe, Hawaii, and all regions of the US—to participate.
Ikebana is the Japanese art of flower arrangement. I first got interested in it in my 40s when I was juggling single parenthood with the all-consuming process of leaving a safe (but stultifying) corporate job to start a consulting practice. I didn’t start practicing ikebana until my 60s. I wish I had started sooner because ikebana requires so much concentration that it shuts out stress and anxiety, much the way meditation does. And a piece of art comes with it.
Now ikebana has become such an integral part of my life that I study with a sensei (a certified teacher) and plan vacations around ikebana workshops.
What’s the fascination? I can’t draw or paint, but ikebana does help me create beautiful, albeit temporary art. Then again the evanescence is an essential part of ikebana, one of whose tenets is that beauty, like life itself, is temporary, whether it’s contained in a perfect bloom, glorious sunset or autumn leaf.
I’ve also found that besides really enjoying the process of making an arrangement, I can apply what I’ve learned about ikebana with everyone from my granddaughters to my business clients. It teaches patience and humility. It encourages you to notice details, and see how disparate elements can connect into to a harmonious composition. It connects you to a different culture’s understanding of contrast, balance, grace and form.
Above all, studying ikebana keeps me immersed, not just in learning but in others. I’ve joined a fascinating, diverse community of people I’d otherwise not get to meet.
That’s an important thing to do. It’s easy to stick to a routine, socialize with the same friends over and over, and harden rather than expand our worldview. But it’s my experience that the best way to stay interesting (to yourself and others) is to actively seek out new experiences, philosophies and relationships.
In a busy life, this can be great in theory, but hard in practice. My sensei, Patricia Bonarek, constantly pushes me, which I need. Then again, she privately refers to me as her White Tornado. I hope she’s right.
What serves as the ikebana in your life?
Learn more about ikebana here: http://ikebanahq.org
Learn about my great Sarasota chapter here: http://www.iisarasota.com