I have a recent ritual of gathering flowers in the morning for my mother. She uses them for her prayers, where she recites verses asking the universe to care for everyone’s well being. The flowers that I gather are the “Paarijata” flowers (Botanical name: Nyctanthes arbor-tiristis) also called as the coral jasmine. They bloom in the night and drop to the ground with rising sun. Since they wither away very quickly, picking them just around sun rise is the only option.
As a child I disliked having to pick these flowers from a neighbour’s home, as it meant I had to be up early. I considered it a tedious task as each flower must be picked one at a time, as they are delicate and squash easily if you rush through. In the last few months since I started picking them up, I have begun enjoying hinging from the hip and getting a nice stretch in my ham strings. It sets me up well for rest of the day. I also find it a great tool for mindfulness as I focus on picking each one off the ground and tread the earth below carefully, so as not to step onto the flowers accidentally.
As the flowers on the floor move to my little bowl, I give a gentle shake to the plant and more flowers fall like a mini rain. I have been warned to watch for caterpillars that might drop down too, but so far, I have been lucky. However, every time I give a gentle tug to the slender tree trunk, I notice that along with the flowers, some old leaves and dry twigs drop down to the earth. These are parts of the plant that are not alive any more. I am surprised to see that everyday there are some leaves that fall. I look around and I find, not just this tree, but every tree sheds some old leaves each day.
For new to generate and grow, the old that has lived its purpose must go, tells nature. Every living thing constantly regenerates, replacing something old with the new. Our bodies are constantly replacing old cells with new. I read that every 7 years what we have in our body is completely new. This set me thinking, if this is how nature operates, then there must be a lesson for us in terms of how we learn, how we grow.
In my posture class, I sometimes have people who have read a lot and have thorough knowledge about how the body works. They know research findings from 20 years and now. They ask a lot of questions. But many a times are unable to move from their intellectual concepts to their body and mind. They struggle to grasp the small and subtle changes that one teaches them to experience in their body. In such cases, I tell them to empty their cup of knowledge for the brief period they are learning the method. Absorb and take all that is offered and when they go back from the class, they can choose what they want to put back into the cup. It is only when you empty yourself, can you fill it with something new.
With the organsations that I consult with for transformation, this holds true the most. Every company wants to change, be geared up for the new, scale for growth and offer new kinds of solutions to their clients. Yet many hesitate to change their culture, the way they operate or groom their people or how they market themselves. May be every organization needs someone in charge that thinks like a tree. To ensure all the deadwood is shed, all the overgrown fat unproductive branches are pruned, and more importantly, drop the dry leaves. To make space and care for the small shoots appearing in unexpected places, to bend branches to seek out more sunshine, nurture new tender leaves and grow roots to find more nutrition.
As for myself, I am learning to let go of the old things that I carry in myself. Not just habits, but ideas of what is appropriate and what is not, what is success and what is not, what is being open and what is not. Beliefs about life and what it means to be fully human. I realise, I need to develop a discipline of shedding some “dead” things periodically so that I make myself available to receive new things.
Paarijata blooms every morning with fresh flowers and sheds old ones with no hesitation- a life drama enacted every day in quiet dignity. Same simple, yet profound message. It is in dying that we live. We shed, to renew.