Last year my son bought me an orchid for Christmas. It was a fairly tall orchid, with a long slender stem and 5 magnificent flowers. When he gave it to me the flowers were in full bloom and they lasted for absolutely ages before gradually fading one by one and eventually dropping gracefully off. Having never owned an orchid before, I dutifully looked up what to do with my orchid and followed the instructions that I found, which said to cut the stem half way down after the last flower has fallen.
It was around this time, that whilst out watching my son play football, I spotted another orchid that someone had left next to a rubbish bin. There were no flowers on this abandoned orchid and although it was simply a small stick, stuck in a disposable plastic cup of dried dirt, I had a sense of rescuing something that was very much alive. I carefully picked it up and put it in my car. When I got home I put my newly acquired orchid next to my other orchid on the kitchen table. My partner said, “It’s a shame that orchids are so ugly when they don’t have flowers” and he was right. When there are no flowers on an orchid they are pretty much just a plain old stick: sure, the leaves can be seen as beautiful, but nothing stands out at all about an orchid that is not in bloom, and what’s more, there is no indication whatsoever of the beauty that lies within.
The kitchen table is where I have most of my meals and for as long as I can remember, when I ate by myself, I would eat in front of the computer. To be honest I never really gave it a second thought, I simply saw it as an opportunity to get stuff done. Recently however, I had been noticing more and more the mild palpitations that I felt in connection with getting what I perceived to be ‘my work’ done. There is not one single moment that our bodies are not reflecting how we are feeling back to us – even in sleep the narrative continues. There have been times, for example, that I have peered at my computer screen through smeary glasses or perched uncomfortably on the edge of a cushion, the anxiety that pricked away at my chest combined with an insistent drive to keep ‘moving forward’ seemed to prevent me from pausing for a moment to either clean my glasses or adjust my cushion, however the fact of the matter is, I could have chosen to care for myself at any moment, it’s just that I didn’t.
As a result of my increased awareness around my anxiousness, I made what for me was a radical decision: I chose to stop having my meals in front of the computer and chose instead to start having them with my orchids. Now initially it was me and a couple of twigs, one whose splendour was known and the other that was, at this stage, still somewhat of a mystery. With each meal that I had, I would sit and observe the development of my orchids. It was my rescued orchid that showed the first embryonic signs of life and I was fascinated to see that my original orchid responded within days with its own tiny stirrings.
With the first glimpses of the flowers came another realisation about the level of anxiety that I felt on a daily basis. I noticed that although I was now choosing to sit and eat without distraction, I barely managed to swallow my last mouthful of food before I was scraping my chair back and launching myself into whatever I perceived needed to be done next. On realising this, I chose to shut my eyes soon after swallowing my last piece of food and to then physically surrender my whole body as deeply as I could. I did not sit for long, but it was long enough for me to feel the skin on my head sinking back towards my muscles and my muscles sinking back towards my bones, as opposed to the usual panicky petrification that I felt as my muscles sprang away from my bones and my skin leapt away from my muscles.
Over the next few weeks my orchids and I continued our slow unfoldment. Each bloom seemed to have its own independent sense of timing and yet the synchronicity between the blooms was evident. I could sense that each flower was involved in its own development and that although it had its own unique relationship with itself, it still remained very much part of the whole plant; this included the other flowers, the stem, the leaves, the roots and the soil, as well as the water that it received from me. I also got to feel how I was part of the process too, whether I chose to use filtered water or water from the tap, how often I watered my orchids and the energetic quality with which I actually poured the water.
Each bloom was radiantly beautiful in its own right and once opened seemed to stand in almost regal stillness. Eventually, over many weeks, all of the blooms on both orchids were fully open and the effect was nothing short of spectacular. My rescued orchid turned out to be a glorious purple and it had a holding quality that reached deep within my body.
The glorious detail with which orchids reflect the most intimate parts of a woman’s body is for me symbolic of the fact that orchids serve as a gentle reminder to both men and women of the femaleness that lies equally within us all. Every orchid silently conveys the vast stillness that makes up the very fabric of our being, yet despite the great beauty that each and every orchid reflects, it is but a mere fraction of the unfathomable and unwavering beauty that is inherent in us all.
By Alexis Stewart, Care worker with the Intellectually Disabled, Yoga Teacher, Mother of a Stunning Boy, Partner to a very Tender Man, A Woman who is finally remembering who she is, Sydney, Australia