I spent a wonderful afternoon learning about Ikebana (the Japanese art of arranging flowers) at the Asian Arts Museum last Saturday with the President of the Wafu School of Ikebana in the California chapter, Fusako Hoyrup Sensei.
The word Ikebana means “live flowers in a container”; it allows us to enjoy indoors the charm and beauty of landscapes, the seashore, or lakeside. The practice dates back to the 6th or 7th century in Japan as simple offerings on Buddhist altars but has now become an art form in everyday’s life. There are now about 3,000+ schools of Ikebana in Japan.
The Wafu School, founded in the early 20th century, emphasizes complete harmony among the flowers, vases, and the environment. Wafu style brings out the “natural beauty”, respecting the flowers and plants in their natural state.
The fundamental way of arranging the flowers is to create a trigonal pyramid (or more accurately an inverted, oblique trigonal pyramid.) The lengths of the 3 main stems are different and can be simplified as long, medium (2/3 of long), and short (1/3 of long). The length of the long can be determined by the height of the container + the width (at its widest) of the container. Then, you can add complementary or supplementary stems as necessary.
I love learning that these flowers and plants harmonize each other as well as with the artist and the environment. You would know which flowers to buy or use because flowers talk to you. Arrange the flowers and plants facing toward the sunlight because this is the natural way how plants grow! This way gives the arrangement more depth and natural beauty.
So here is the result of my very first Ikebana lesson – ta da!
Could you guess that the focal point of this arrangement is the 2 lowest-placed tiger lilies? Can you sense that the flowers are coming toward you?
Thanks to Sensei Fusako Hoyrup, I have learned some simple but very important lessons of life as well – bond with nature and appreciate it anywhere. Here is a lovely arrangement by the master, herself.
A couple of weeks ago during Sunday lunch, I attended a University alumni function at the St. Francis Yacht Club in the Marina district, described as the most prestigious yacht club in the Western U.S.
While the club is no doubt very nice, what captured me the most that day was the surroundings and the leisurely San Franciscans on a sunny, beautiful afternoon by the Bay in San Francisco. I ended up walking back home from the marina – about an hour of leisurely walk! What a feast for the eyes and goodness for the body!
After spending almost ten days in Victoria in British Columbia, Canada, I decided it is one of the best places to have a relaxing vacation.
Victoria, the capital of B.C., is actually on the Vancouver Island not Victoria Island and is famously known as the City of Gardens and, if I may add, the City of Bikers, as 10% of residents bike to work! The city was named after Queen Victoria and was established as a Hudson’s Bay fort in 1843. The first Chinese in Canada settled in Victoria due to the gold rush. Its food scenes are not only British but also very diverse, and locals and visitors enjoy cuisines with the freshest ingredients including seafood, veggie, and fruits.
Although it is on an island and has a population of about 350,000, there are direct flights from its international airport to cities such as Toronto, Calgary, Montreal, Seattle, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Los Cabos and also Cancun. The airport is extremely friendly. There are more cool facts about the City here.
What I enjoyed the most is its natural, untouched beauty, its relaxing pace, friendly faces as well as its Britishness. I was fortunate enough to stay with my Dad’s high school friend, who lives a 10-minutes walk from woods, park, and beach! Compared to Vancouver, Victoria has milder temperature and less than half of the rain with precipitation falling between November and February. No wonder it is popular with retirees.
I have been hearing great nuggets from online talks from Hay House (free until May 26) to help one to de-stress, build up the immune system and positive thoughts, and increase oxytocins, the hormone of joy and love.
From John Norseman’s talk in Hay House:
The power of [ONE] positive thought negates 85,000 of negative thoughts…you can’t afford to think negatively…but when you can’t help but feeling a negative thought, just think of something beautiful and something very positive, and you can clear the whole thing; having negative thought not just lower your immune system but your physical strength in your body (concept was proven by the Kinesiologists.)
…There can be no healing without forgiveness…the first step: you forgive, the second step: you bless, the step 3: you thank him [the person who wronged you, for all the efforts you expend to overcome it]…and you receive the freedom.
…Love is like a precious flower, it needs to be nurtured and refreshed everyday, always putting the others first, never taking the other for granted…make the most of everyday, living life as if each day is our last.
Of all the pattern-interrupting techniques that I’ve shared throughout the world, the one with the most powerful effect in the shortest amount of time is perhaps the simplest one. It’s a game changer, and I call it “16 seconds to clarity.” Not only does it have a profound destressifying impact in the moment, but it can also be the foundation for greater clarity of thought, heightened creativity, deeper intuition, and making better choices. Let’s try it right now. It’s okay to keep reading as you go through this exercise with me.
Think of something that has irritated or bothered you in the past few days . . . a difficult conversation, a disappointment, an unmet expectation. Perhaps someone said they would do something and they didn’t, or they said they would meet you at a certain time and they were late, or they unexpectedly shared something about you with another person and it got back to you. (Don’t go too deep. This isn’t therapy.) But right now, feel free to envision that other person’s face . . . maybe replay the moment in your mind’s eye, even notice someplace in your body that feels connected to the irritation. Take a few moments to settle into that space.
Now take a long, slow, deep breath in through your nostrils, and as you do . . . slowly count to four, and observe the air as it moves into your nostrils and to the back of your throat. Watch your breath as it moves down your chest and deep into your lungs. Feel your belly expand.
Observe your belly being filled, and hold that breath in to the count of four. And just witness the breath in your belly as you silently count. One, two, three, four.
Now slowly, to the count of four, release your breath and watch it as it moves up into your chest, into your throat, into your sinuses, and out through your nostrils.
And when the last wisp of air is out of you, hold that breath out to the count of four. And observe it, watch it, witness it . . . as it dissipates into the air.
Now breathe normally, and let’s try it with your eyes closed. Remember: in four—hold four—out four—hold four. And make sure you follow your breath. Observing it along the way is key to the process. (I’ll wait right here . . . it’s only 16 seconds.)
I’m guessing you’re back right now, eyes open and breathing normally. Well, our whole experience was 32 seconds: 16 seconds with your eyes open and 16 seconds with your eyes closed. And in that half a minute while you were observing your breath (assuming you were playing along), you were totally present. You were not thinking about the past or any of its grievances or regrets, nor moving into the future with all its predictions and projections. You were not thinking about your irritation. You were totally in the present moment. Your mind is a little calmer; your heartbeat has slowed a bit. You’ve filled your body with heavily oxygenated blood and nourishing hormones, and in the process, you’ve released a little bit of stress.
In under a minute, you have taken a powerful step into destressifying. The formal terminology for what’s happening in 16 seconds is introducing a pattern interrupt. You actually just jammed the brakes on a potential surge of stress hormones and all the negative bodymind reactions you were starting to feel. You broke the flow of conditioned physical and emotional responses. Just the thought of this irritating situation or person triggered a memory of the stressful circumstances, and in 16 seconds you returned to the present moment. Then in the 17th second, you’re clearer—beyond the moment of emotion. You are a bit calmer . . . a bit lighter . . . a bit easier.
From Julie Daniluk:
The Role Of Serotonin
Serotonin creates a sense of peace, self-esteem, happiness and safety. Beyond concentration and relaxation, the more serotonin you have on board, the less pain you will experience. We boost serotonin levels naturally by embracing the practice of yoga or tai chi, prayer and meditation. Even going for a walk amoung the trees and sitting in the sunlight can boost serotonin naturally. Talking with a close friend or writing to love one can bolster the love hormone oxytocin and serotonin levels.
Foods rich in complex carbohydrates such as whole gluten free grains, including wild rice, buckwheat, amaranth, teff and quinoa and root vegetables, squash and fresh fruits boost serotonin levels, creating a sense of calm, peace and confidence.
Herbs that help boost serotonin levels include burdock, dandelion and ginseng. Read more.
Exercising is so much fun when you can combine it with sightseeing. Not too far from where I live is the Filbert steps in Telegraph Hill, one of the most famous stairways in San Francisco. Along the stairs are beautiful scenery of the San Francisco Bay, gardens, and very old, classic San Franciscan buildings. All these were a labour of love when a former resident, Grace Merchant, cleared the trash which used to fill the hills along the stairways and re-planted a public garden during a span of 30 years. The Filbert steps and all its surrounding beauty is truly one of the free gems of San Francisco.