I recently attended a leadership retreat in Kyoto and was fortunate to have been there during the peak cherry blossom season. Witnessing the transient beauty of these magnificent trees whilst they were in full bloom was spectacular.
Lessons on leadership were intermingled with cultural excursions, meditations and fun experiences, including a sake lecture and tasting. Our teacher clearly knew the importance of balance.
One of the key lessons I took away from my time in Japan was about balance. In an ikebana class (the traditional Japanese art of flower arrangement), I listened intently as the teacher described the importance of ensuring we created some empty space between the stems and branches.
Creating the space was important because it resembled how plants appear in nature, but it was also significant for allowing each flower to stand out, breathe, and be contrasted against the other flowers and branches.
For me, this was a reminder that in this incredibly noisy world, where we are bombarded with information and action, we must ensure that we also create the space for silence and stillness. If we do not create the space for ourselves for silence and stillness, we simply cannot offset the noise, we have no room to ‘breathe’, and we are therefore at risk of becoming unbalanced.
Even a small pause for just a minute or so of some deep breathing, interspersed throughout our day, or between clients and tasks, can make a world of difference to invoke calmness.
What steps can you take today to create space for yourself?
I loved watching the Japanese, dressed up in their bright kimonos, sharing a picnic and company under the cherry blossoms (“sakura”). The sakura in bloom only last one to two weeks, and, as I came to learn, the Japanese were delighting in the transience of such beauty.
The Japanese have a strong awareness of the transience of all things, including life. The sakura is a symbol that reminds us of the beauty in life, but also of its fleeting nature, and accordingly it reminds us to be grateful for what we have, and to focus on what is truly important.
For me, the sakura is also a reminder that just as the beauty in life is transient, so too is any darkness or stress. Everything passes, good and bad. We must therefore be grateful for, and delight in the beauty when it exists, and we must keep in mind that any unpleasantness is transient, and sure to pass.
What’s something that you can delight in, or be grateful for today?