The Unhappy Flower

“Negativity is totally unnatural,” Eckhart Tolle asserts in The Power of Now. “No other life form on the planet knows negativity — only humans.”

Case in point? The unhappy flower. “Have you ever seen an unhappy flower or a stressed oak tree? Have you come across a depressed dolphin, a frog that has a problem with self-esteem, a cat that cannot relax, or a bird that carries hatred and resentment?” The only time animals are in “a bad mood” is when they live with humans, thus inheriting our negativity, Tolle claims.

I love this analogy for two reasons. First, because it feels inherently, factually true, even though no one will ever prove that hypothesis. Second, it perfectly illustrates that what we strive for when we say “mindfulness” is actually “mindlessness.”

“I have lived with several Zen masters, all of them cats,” Tolle continues. “Even ducks have taught me important spiritual lessons. Just watching them is a meditation. How peacefully they float along, at ease with themselves, totally present in the Now, dignified and perfect as only a mindless creature can be.”

Mindless. No mind. When the mind is absent, what follows is peace.

A flower has no mind and is, therefore, perfect at every stage. In The Practicing Mind, Thomas Sterner explains that a flower simply does whatever a flower does at its current stage of life. A seed must sprout, and a sprout must grow into a stalk. The stalk then grows towards the sun, and eventually, one day, beautiful blossoms appear. Then, they release their seeds and wilt away, starting the process anew.

The flower does not fret about getting to the stage where it blooms. It is not anxious about “making it.” The flower is not worried about how its blossoms will look, nor what the other flowers, let alone humans, will think about them. It is equally unconcerned about dying shortly thereafter, nor sad about the little time it gets to spend in its “ideal” state.

Do you see the potential for tremendous peace in living more like a flower? Imagine waking up in the morning, unfazed by the ebb and flow of everyday life. You do your best to stay in the moment and simply complete whatever tasks lie ahead. And the next day, you do it all over again. You are perfect at every stage.

If you ask Will Smith, affording yourself this kind of mental and emotional space is what true (self-)love is about: “I think that the real paradigm for love is ‘Gardener-Flower.’ The relationship that a gardener has with a flower is the gardener wants the flower to be what the flower is designed to be, not what the gardener wants the flower to be.”

“Watch any plant or animal and let it teach you acceptance of what is,” Tolle encourages us. “Surrender to the Now. Let it teach you Being. Let it teach you integrity which means to be one, to be yourself, to be real. Let it teach you how to live and how to die, and how not to make living and dying into a problem.”

Treat yourself like a flower. Look after yourself so you may sprout, grow, and blossom. Give yourself whatever you need at any current stage, but never be in a hurry to get through the whole cycle of life. Take your mind out of the equation whenever you can, and negativity will subside.

Unhappy flowers and stressed animals don’t exist because they were never meant to be. There is no reason we should assume anything else for our own, beautiful species.