By way of introduction let me share with you an essay I wrote to answer a question “What does Ikebana mean to you”? It was one of the assignments towards the end of the teachers’ training program at the Sogetsu school of Ikebana. Here is what I said:
“For me Ikebana is first of all the “flower way” – the way of personal and spiritual development. By practicing Ikebana I am challenging myself, testing my limits and learning more about who I am. Ikebana is essentially a meditative experience. It allows me to separate from my daily worries, to get connected to nature and eventually to my deeper self – a great way to slow down in our crazy modern life. Ikebana resonated with me from the start and I knew that I wanted to go as far as the flower way would want to take me.
Working with plant material provides a great opportunity of contact with nature in our predominantly urban lifestyle. You start by learning to see unique characteristics of different materials. Then you learn to notice how each individual branch and flower was facing the light and in which direction they were growing. Then you start to see a special line of a branch “hidden” by foliage, an unusual texture of leaves, patterns and color aspects of flower petals… After a while you develop the ability to distill the essence of a particular material and to express it in an arrangement. You learn how by removing non-essential parts of the material, using contrasting or complementary colors and textures you can bring out the key points. And if you did it right the magic happens and the spectator will see what you have see, what you wanted to show and to share. And maybe, just may be, somebody will feel a few moments of peace or a spark of surprise by seeing familiar objects in a new, fresh way.
Finding those special aspects in the ordinary materials is only possible by deeply connecting with the object itself. In the Ikebana teachings there is a notion of becoming one with the heart of the flower. For me it is the ultimate goal of my practice of Ikebana. I feel that it can help making my human experience more complete. And by becoming an Ikebana teacher I want to help others to find this peaceful experience and hopefully contribute to the overall harmony in my small way.”
Were you also asked to answer similar questions in your Ikebana schools? It would be great if you share what Ikebana means to you in the comments section.