Meet my dog Lily. I adopted her in Fall 2016 from a shelter. She is the most spectacular thing I have ever owned. I adopted her because I was desperately in need of a friend and while other relationships in my life seemed rocky and unpredictable, she kept me grounded. And she gave me purpose. The first night I brought her home after a few whimpering cries, I couldn't bring myself to leave her in her crate, so instead she fell asleep in my arms. I know; bad pet-parenting. But I couldn't help myself. It was clear that she was shaken up from the shelter and all the poking, prodding, and isolation of her suffocating metal crate. Her and her sister were found near a highway. She was the only dog that made direct eye contact with me and when I tired to put her down to look at the other dogs, she cried hysterically. "Please don't leave me here," said her sad little eyes. As we fell asleep I remember whispering, "I'm not sure who needs who more right now."
I named her Lily, after day lilies, which are my favorite flower. I have found that many of life's most valuable lessons can be reflected in the tendencies of nature, many of which we often pay little attention to or fail to appreciate the magnitude of its wonder. Day lilies are always in full bloom around my birthday and on special occasions a family member or friend would present me with wild ones if they knew of my admiration for them. Orange lilies are my favorite. One could often find them growing in the most unruly of places. I was fascinated with their tenacious spirit and unexpected presence. "Like a wildflowers; you must allow yourself to grow in all the places people never thought you would." -E.V
After being gifted them over the years, I finally caught on to one fascinating quality; each bloom is only open for a single day. Although each plant has numerous stalks or scapes that can produce hundreds of blooms throughout a season, if you had no previous knowledge of day lilies, it would provide the illusion that the blossoms remained open throughout the entire season. But after examining the few stems I would have in a vase over the course of a week, I realized that new buds open just before dawn and close at dust, only to shrivel up and fall to the ground. One flower. One day. Can you imagine all of the life-force it takes to push that tiny bud open, to then only be admired for a single day?
What if we had only one spectacular day to shine our brilliant light onto others?
This is the metaphorical question that humbled me before the lilies. They were singing softly to me, "Appreciate today as a gift. It is the only day you will ever be given". With time, I have learned that you can neither change the past nor predict or anticipate the future, but today is the only moment we can influence or change. It is called the present because it is a precious present indeed. Oh how wise nature is.
Animals are of no exception to this profound knowledge. I began to see congruncy between the lilies and my dog. She had this profound love for everything and everyone around her, and time could not be measured. She lives her life moment-to-moment, in which every second is an opportunity to express her affections and love for me. Can you imagine living moment-moment, abandoning all of our fears, regrets, and all the wrong doings people have left us with and just embrace one another with love? Do you think my dog carries the trauma of being dumped on the side of the highway with her everywhere she goes, or she just lives in the now and embraces me with a wagging tail and happy heart?
If you have owned a dog or grew up with one, think about the way they lived their life. Was your dog ever concerned about playing fetch too hard for the fear of achy joints? Did they seem worried about growing old, trying to start a family, or where their next meal was going to come from? Do you think your dog repeatedly replayed the moment that Rottweiler growled at them at the park, and begrudgingly refused to go back the following Saturday? Trust me, I sincerely doubt your dog regrets that poop they left on your brand new carpet three months ago or has any recollection of doing it in the first place. Sure they may have appeared remorseful, but only because you were upset about it. If our dog (literally) doesn't give a crap about these moments they have no control over, why do we carry around this kind of mental baggage that is constantly interfering with our sense of presence? To live in the present is to surrender yourself over to the moment; to engage fully in the here-and-now.
I have included an excerpt below from Eckhart Tolle's book, A New Earth, which highlights how the beauty of flowers can initiate the flowering of our human consciousness.
"Earth, 114 million years ago, one morning just after sunrise: The first flower ever to appear on the planet opens up to receive the rays of the sun.
Prior to this momentous event that heralds an evolutionary transformation in the life of plants, the planet had already been covered in vegetation for millions of years. The first flower probably did not survive for long, and flowers must have remained rare and isolated phenomena, since conditions were most likely not yet favorable for a widespread flowering to occur. One day, however, a critical threshold was reached, and suddenly there would have been an explosion of color and scent all over the planet – if a perceiving consciousness had been there to witness it.
An awakening power.
Much later, those delicate and fragrant beings we call flowers would come to play an essential part in the evolution of consciousness of another species. Humans would increasingly be drawn to and fascinated by them. As the consciousness of human beings developed, flowers were most likely the first thing they came to value which had no utilitarian purpose for them, that is to say, was not linked in some way to survival. They provided inspiration to countless artists, poets, and mystics. Jesus tells us to contemplate the flowers and learn from them how to live. The Buddha is said to have given a ‘silent sermon’ once during which he held up a flower and gazed at it. After a while, one of those present, a monk called Mahakasyapa, began to smile. He is said to have been the only one who had understood the sermon. According to legend, that smile (that is to say, realization) was handed down by twenty-eight successive masters and much later became the origin of Zen.
Seeing beauty in a flower could awaken humans, however briefly, to the beauty that is an essential part of their own innermost being, their true nature. The first recognition of beauty was one of the most significant events in the evolution of human consciousness. The feelings of joy and love are intrinsically connected to that recognition. Without fully realizing it, flowers would become for us an expression in form of that which is most high, most sacred, and ultimately formless within ourselves. Flowers, more fleeting, more ethereal, and more delicate than the plants out of which they emerged, would become like messengers from another realm, like a bridge between the world of physical forms and the formless. They not only had a scent that was delicate and pleasing to humans, but also brought a fragrance from the realm of spirit. Using the word ‘enlightenment’ in a wider sense than the conventionally accepted one, we could look upon flowers as the enlightenment of plants."
I believe nature alone has the power to spark the kind of conscious awakening Eckhart mentions above. The kind of awakening I experienced when I became aware of the symbolism day lilies hold. The kind of awakening that opens up our minds and humbles us so eloquently before God. Are we so consumed by the busyness of life, we forget to slow down and show genuine appreciation for the ones we love? Should we allow the heartache of yesterday or the anxiety of tomorrow to impact the kind of life we are going to live today? Let us learn from the lilies of the world, and take refuge in the knowledge that right now is all we will ever have.