Sunday, June 14, 2009

Symbols of Enlightenment

Yesterday I had to take the ferry into Edmonds to drop off some artwork for the annual Edmonds Art Festival. I always take along a book for ferry rides, but I finished my book on the way over so had nothing to read on the way back.

On a whim, I decided to listen to one of my Eckhart Tolle CDs (I have the ones from his Findhorn presentation, Stillness Speaks, always in my car). It turned out to be exactly what I needed to hear -- all about the futility of getting too caught up in forms, in past and future worries -- and I decided it must be time to read Tolle's wonderful book, A New Earth, again.

So this morning I began re-reading New Earth, and this time -- unlike the last time I read the book -- I took the time to read the introduction. I've known for a while now that Tolle has a unique appreciation for art and beauty: it was he who said "The purpose of all great art is to serve as a portal to the sacred." But I was reminded of that at another level this morning, when I was reading what Tolle had to say about the flowering of human consciousness.

He begins by talking about the first flower, and then says, "flowers would come to play an essential part in the evolution of consciousness of another species. Humans would increasingly be drawn to and fascinated by them. As the consciousness of human beings developed, flowers were most likely the first thing they came to value that had no utilitarian purpose for them, that is to say, was not linked in some way to survival. They provided inspiration to countless artists, poets, and mystics...

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. The first recognition of beauty was one of the most significant events in the evolution of human consciousness. The feelings of joy and love are intrinsically connected to that recognition. Without our fully realizing it, flowers would become for us an expression in form of that which is most high, most sacred, and ultimately formless within ourselves. Flowers, more fleeting, more ethereal, and more delicate than the plants out of which they emerged, would become like messengers from another realm, like a bridge between the world of physical forms and the formless. ...we could look upon flowers as the enlightenment of plants."

I had never really considered before that flowers were a major shift of presentation from their original plant forms -- nor had I thought of them as symbols of enlightenment. But now I see why it is that I've been so drawn to photographing them these last few weeks, and why I've played with this particular image several times, trying to get it more balanced, and why the light -- which is what I thought was imperfect about this image -- so needs to be there. Everytime I tried to remove some of the light by introducing other colors or other images the picture lost its appeal for me. Now I see that my job is to just accept the image as it is: it's another gentle reminder that I don't always know what's best, or even what's important, and that I need to step back and accept what is given to me in this moment, appreciate it for what it is and not always try to change it.

Ah. Another brief moment of enlightenment. And then today's Rumi poem arrived from Spirituality and Practice, and it seemed to fit right in:

If ten lamps are present in one place,
each differs in form from another;
yet you can't distinguish whose radiance is whose
when you focus on the light.
In the field of spirit there is no division;
no individuals exist.
Sweet is the oneness of the Friend with His friends.
Catch hold of spirit.
Help this headstrong self disintegrate;
that beneath it you may discover unity,
like a buried treasure.

[Rumi, Mathnawi I, 678-683]

1 comment:

altar ego said...

Flowers are one of my favorite things to photograph, almost compulsively. This one is lovely, and puts me in mind of a dress that my mother made for me when I was younger (or maybe it was hers? I really remember the fabric more than anything else). The Rumi is wonderful! Love the idea that light can't be separated from its source when its communal!