Beloved Flower Lover,
To those who are new to us, we want to let you know that, what we are going to talk about today is a different way of relating to the world and ourselves with flowers. We use research to provide a view about flowers which emerges when you look at them through another set of eyes. Research gives us a context, hidden behind the ‘giving and receiving of flowers’.
Ok, we look at what we all consider that makes a good and fulfilling life. We look at life knowing that there is a whole other dimension of life going on, which in some ways the beauty of flowers expresses for us all.
We look at the news and recognize that we all feel disgust when we see people behaving badly either in Parliament or on the streets. It’s interesting that the work of evolutionary psychologists tell us that our human aspiration for spiritual uplift actually began as an adaptation against bestiality. This is in line with spiritual teachings from all over the world. Aware of how disgusting our lives would be without morality, humans adapted a survival tool for self-improvement and transcending our animal nature to our higher nature. (We have two animal brains, the reptilian and mammalian brain and the higher brain cortex). It is the moral emotion known as elevation that activates the higher cortex.
Just as we feel disgust when witnessing others (or ourselves) moving down the moral purity scale, so do we feel a corresponding, uplifting emotion when we witness others behaving in virtuous, pure, or “divine” ways. Psychologist Jonathan Haidt, who began his career researching disgust, calls this elevation.
Emotions like awe and admiration elevate us. What we experience is an elevation within us, which is among the more divinely delicious gifts of the mirror neuron system in the brain, whose function is to “bring the outside inside.” We have looked at research which states that just witnessing, character, virtue, beauty, and truth soothes our vagus nerve, which stimulates oxytocin production and triggers in us, the desire to be better people living better lives. This includes to ourselves and others.
Mmmm kind of delicious we feel, that this is the by product of applying beauty, and virtue to ourselves and others. It’s even sweeter to know that we can actually dissolve pain and suffering and create forgiveness and bring self back to the loving inside ourselves through exposing ourselves to things we admire and hold in awe, like beauty. Yes, flowers are the beauty, and the body’s own science then does the rest.
As long as we do not know about the science we do not know what we are doing. We are changing that, by looking at the neuroscience of the brain. And love talking about how this research and its links to beauty and flowers present a way to heal and rewire our brains for peace and happiness.
Imagine honestly looking at ourselves and genuinely seeing ourselves with compassion through the beauty for say a wonderful flower arrangement. Imagine seeing ourselves like the way, the “vagal superstar” like Barack Obama (as he is known in neuroscientific circles) is seen to others because he has inspired multitudes to believe in a greater vision, not of him but of themselves.
Imagine just noticing in your own life, where you have done just the same thing. In your family, at work, with your lover, within yourself. Imagine that looking at yourself so differently and envisioning yourself differently just by viewing yourself differently.
Elevation is not the same as happiness. Elevation is linked to moral beauty. Individuals with high vagus nerve activity (and thus more oxytocin) appear to be better at handling stress, building community, coping with bereavement, and breaking up conflict, according to psychologist Dacher Keltner. Ra Un Nefer Amen’s work talks about how you too can develop that talent in yourself because it is present in us all.
Elevation also differs from admiration for nonmoral excellence. When test subjects see awesome performances of death-defying feats — think of Phillipe Petit, the Frenchman, who tightrope-walked between the towers of the World Trade Center — they report feeling chills and tingles, whereas elevation is a calmer feeling. We feel lifted by displays of goodness, though public displays of mass elevation can annoy and irritate those resistant to it (as we saw among Obama detractors driven foolish by so much uplift). Heroism and aspiration make us aspire; witnessing courage can help make you brave; feeling hope in a world with obstacles, despair, recession, helps to make human life not only bearable but packed with potential. We say to ourselves, if they can do it, why can’t we?
Radical! Transformation! Awesome!
There is a connection between the contagion of elevation and our positive good feelings towards selfless people in our family, work, friendship, and worldly circles. Take Oprah Winfrey, who big hearted, generous and open handed who encourages others to be the same way. To test the theory of elevation, Haidt and an assistant gathered forty-two lactating women together in his lab at the University of Virginia. Half of the nursing mothers watched an episode of Oprah involving a rehabilitated gang member. The remaining group of nursing women spent their time watching an ordinary episode of Seinfeld. The elevation difference between these two groups was dramatic. The Oprah-watching mothers overpoweringly leaked milk into their pads (the sign of oxytocin lifting them up) and nursed their babies afterward. Hardly any of the Seinfeld watchers so much as wetted a pad. Elevation had made the Oprah mothers more generous and loving.
Wow, consider that!
If there is something generous, loving, caring, inside you that wants to be expressed do it. If you feel like buying him or her or the team flowers do it. It is by being generous with them and ourselves that we encourage others to be more of who they are. Loving. Give yourself the permission to do that. Honour it and respond to that calling. If you want to send flowers to people you admire, your teacher your child, you minister, your friend, your husband, your wife, your mother, your dad, your cleaner do it. Why? It affects others around you who are watching. They benefit in ways you do not know. It ripples out and affects them positively.
Giving flowers can remind you that elevation is not a big deal. It’s simple reflecting something that wants expression. If for no other reason, the vagal activity shifts our attention to connection. When we behave reassuringly toward others in an I’ve-been-there-too-you’re-not-alone kind of way, it’s the vagus nerve doing the work. Yet it is opened up by your attitude first. By inducing feelings of similarity between people, the vagus nerve calms down our fight-or-flight impulses. Soothes it, softens it, quieting it, when you have been having conflicts, you could explore what your heart wants you to give voice to.
We all have feelings of intimate connection spurred by the sight of other people’s moral goodness. This is the uplift — and the outpouring of love — that believers seek in churches and temples (and secularists seek in nature and art). Just by giving flowers, sends messages out to so many. They get us to “turn off the I switch and turn on the We,” as Haidt puts it. “Powerful moments of elevation seem to push a mental reset button, erasing negative feelings and replacing them with feelings of hope, love, and optimism, and a sense of moral elevation,” he writes. The collective supersedes the self, at least while we’re feeling uplifted.
Give flowers when you consider how much in wonder and awe you feel in life. It’s a wide open invitation to express. Wonder and awe appear to serve a similar evolutionary function to elevation. The Greeks, who were taught by the Ancient Kamitian people in Egypt, applied a principle that stated that Zeus (Ausar) gave human beings two qualities necessary for survival: a sense of justice and a taste for reverence (or awe). Goosebumps (piloerection) are the body’s response to awe, apparently, a response to the sense of self-expanding beyond our physical limits to merge with the larger collective.
Awe is always prompted by contact with something greater than oneself. Two conditions must be met for awe to occur: first, we must perceive something vast (physically, conceptually, or spiritually vast, or oversized by fame); and, second, the vast thing cannot be accommodated to a person’s existing mental structures. Religion have been our traditional method for promoting such peak experiences, and for maximizing their ennobling powers. Atheist or believer, we all share the biological need for self-transcending emotions to counteract disgust.
There’s a story that we were drawn to about elevation. During World War II, the poet Anna Akhmatova read poetry over the radio waves of Leningrad — where food was so scarce that human flesh was being flogged in the streets – to make it ok to elevate her people using the power of language and beauty. She stepped back one step and reminded herself and the starving masses that sacredness still existed in the world. In other traditions, they also use the beauty of art. It’s like the nurturing the feminine aspect of beauty is in fact the source of our care. That nourishing of the beauty inside present us all with a golden opportunity for spiritual advancement. As we encountered this story knowing that she read those poems about valor and love, and about the light they had nearly forgotten, extinguished in them through suffering that things fundamentally changed. Those who survived to remember this moment of courage, determination, and poetry spoke of it later in awestruck tones. This work with beauty, love and peace, during disturbing times, soothes us all. If she had approached it from a victim position, through fear, that she would have had to wait for things to change would have left her ravaged to. Instead, she shifted and allowed both herself and others to tap back into the truth to perfection. This had profound changes from the inside –out. She did not judge the situation by complaining, she simply focused on beauty, joy and happiness. This simple good deed of reading poetry became an awesome deed by providing a guide back to who we really are. Peace, happiness, joy and unity.
Thank you for allowing us to share with you the healing opportunity that giving beautiful flowers provides us and others. Thank you for following us as we continue with this work.
The London Flower lover
p.s. take advantage of the power of beautiful flowers