The Second Idea
I’d signed up for this session with Kia for a quiet get-away, a personal time of meditation in a small room with a few others before the bustle of the busy day ahead. It was listed as Flower Meditation. I had no idea what that would be. But sure, I’d try it.
The experience turned out to be as relaxing as advertised. (Read about it here: Dead Flowers Can Be Arranged, Too.)
But now it’s over. We’re finished. It’s almost 9 a.m. and I’m ready to dart out to my first scheduled class of the morning.
Yet something holds me back.
It’s Kia’s second idea. I linger to hear more.
Will This Look Weird?
When Kia had originally signed up to lead Flower Meditation as a bonus activity for the conference, she’d imagined offering it in the conference center itself. She’d hoped it would be in a convenient space where people could make a quick escape for an intentional break to catch their breath throughout the day, not in this tiny meeting room we were assigned in an obscure corner of the adjacent hotel at an early hour.
Nonetheless, she’d made it work.
And yet . . . she’s now sharing her larger vision with us. She thinks it might still work. She longs to offer respite to more people throughout the day.
She’s suggesting we pick up the leftover flowers, walk together to the conference center, and build a mandala in the middle of the lobby.
Hold on a minute, Kia. It’s one thing to sit quietly in a small room with a few other contemplatives like myself and construct our personal flower mandalas.
But to step uninvited into a huge space with people all around and do it there? What will people think? Won’t we draw too much unwanted attention? Won’t this seem weird?
It’s too late to say no.
Take a Seat on the Floor
The five of us gather the flowers into our arms. We walk through the hallway, down the elevator, and into the main lobby of McCormick Place, the largest conference center in Chicago and in the U.S.
Kia picks a spot in the center of the floor. We lay down our flowers. Then we sit on the floor together.
We start picking off the petals, then watch as Kia begins to reconfigure them artistically into a small circle, starting a collective mandala for us all to add on to.
I feel torn.
Part of me wants to participate in this spontaneous act of creating beauty on this early Saturday morning. But another part of me wants to step away from this spotlight and hurry away to my first class of the day.
I sit and participate for a few minutes, watching the time.
The lure of the classroom eventually wins me over. I thank Kia for introducing me to flower meditation, but I must leave. She and one other woman remain behind on the floor, building the mandala, as other participants rush to their next classes, too.
Look at the Mandala Now
After my class is over, I walk back through the lobby. But I have trouble finding Kia.
I finally see her, but just barely. She is still seated on the floor.
She is surrounded by people. A crowd has gathered. New people are now seated on the floor beside her, people that hadn’t been in our early-morning Flower Meditation session.
They, too, are tearing flower petals off the stems. They, too, are adding them to the larger and larger mandala that is growing in the middle of McCormick Place.
Kia has set up a box holding more petals. She written a note on it:
“You are welcome to add to this. It is dedicated to all of us.”
Some of the cleaning staff have even placed orange cones around the mandala to better protect it.
Those who don’t have time to sit and create still make time to stop and gaze in awe at the beautiful piece of art coming to life in this unexpected place in this unexpected way.
Kia explains to the passersby that this practice is soothing and healing. That anybody can do it. That it’s something they can recreate when they return home in their own spaces.
It’s not how Kia had planned it.
But she is getting to live out her greater vision for Flower Meditation after all. One flower petal at a time. One passerby at a time. She is providing rest, offering a space to breathe, even in the middle of a crowded mass of people, far removed from the tiny space we began in early this morning.
I pass by the mandala several more times as the day goes on. When time allows, I sit and add a few more petals myself.
And breathe a little deeper each time.
And the Next Day?
The next day, I pass through the lobby as I walk to my final class in the conference center. I look again for the mandala.
But of course it is gone. All the flower petals were swept away overnight. As we knew they would be. As we knew they had to be.
The flower mandala had been temporary. Investing in humanity—with our humanity—often feels temporary, especially when our efforts are uncertain, small, spontaneous.
But the memories and impacts from creating the mandala, from investing our humanity? They can live on and on and on.
Never underestimate the permanency of investing your humanity.
How do you invest your humanity? Share in the comments.