Just A Tiny Flower
Ukuli'i ka pua, onaona i ka mau'u
The quotation above is a proverb from Hawaiian tradition. In English we would call it the "ripple effect." In French it would be tache d'huile , or "drop of oil." The concept is one that has been recognized all over the world, but somehow the Hawaiian is more poetic and three-dimensional. It says that small things can have large effects. A modern equivalent is chaos theory. As used by meteorologists it says that a butterfly flapping its wings in Japan can cause tornadoes in Texas.
Another concept from Hawaii, the most powerful idea in its tradition and one which has spread its influence around the world, meeting and merging with its counterparts in other cultures, is the simple idea of what we call "the aloha spirit." Usually translated as "love," it includes the ideas of friendship, acceptance, compassion, mercy, gratitude, assistance and cooperation. So we say a person shows aloha when they greet you warmly, when they give you a smile, when they help you out if you are in need, when they remember to thank you for a favor, when they act like a friend, when they forgive wrongs done to them. There is a sexual side to aloha, too, but it always implies a loving sexuality. The association between flowers and love is more than coincidental, since flowers are actually the sexual organs of plants.
It is obvious that the ideas and actions behind aloha are not exclusive to Hawaii, and that is the point. Flowers grow in other places besides the Hawaiian islands. The flowers of love grow wild, and it is wonderful to encounter them by surprise. However, they can also be cultivated and shared more abundantly. Just as we raise flowers with the conscious intent to distribute them as widely as we can, so can we cultivate the practice of love for wider distribution.
Every week on Kauai we hold "talk story" sessions sponsored by Aloha International where we discuss the philosophy, culture and traditions of the islands. Before the group got too big I used to start each session by having each person present share their name, where they were from, and some one good thing that had happened to them recently. First time attendees often found it difficult to think of something good because our society subtly encourages us instead to share things that are going wrong. So part of the purpose of this was to get people to think more positively for their own benefit. But the most important purpose was the effect it had on everyone else present. It was amazing and, in a way, awesome, to watch everyone's face light up when one person mentioned a simple event such as seeing a rainbow or a whale, or their pleasure at hosting a visiting friend from the mainland. When the event is shared each person replicates it in their own mind and responds to it with their own degree of good feeling. One person's rainbow suddenly becomes a rainbow experienced by twenty-five or more. One solitary, ordinary event increased the pleasure and energy of the whole group. At the end of such a sharing, everyone is high.
The idea behind the tiny flower is that it doesn't really matter how small you are, whether in size or numbers. It doesn't matter how much you know, or how skilled you are. It doesn't matter how much education or how many credentials you have. What really matters is how you affect the world around you.
You are like a tiny flower, and everything you do affects your world. When you smile others feel better even when they don't acknowledge it or you aren't aware of them. Haven't you ever smiled in response to seeing two other people smile at each other? Or laughed quietly along with a laughing child? When you help one person, many others feel uplifted. Those others might be some who have benefitted from the help, some who have seen the help, some who have heard about the help, or some who have responded in a positive way to the good feelings of those who were helped. Each time you act with loving intent you are sowing seeds for the growth of others in ways you may never see and among those you may never know. Like the perfume of a tiny flower, the effects of your actions spread far beyond the area of your immediate perceptions.
In relation to governments, big business and organized religions, an individual person is just a tiny flower. Yet individuals doing simple things that they believe in can change the behavior of multitudes.
The official sanctioning of Mothers Day, now celebrated by millions every year, was due to the persistent efforts of one woman who simply believed that mothers ought to be honored. The civil rights movement began with ordinary individuals who just changed their own behavior because they believed that they had a right to be treated equally. The vast ecological movement, now influencing the policies of virtually every government in the world, began with individuals on their own starting to show more respect for the environment.
George Washington Carver, a black man who spoke to flowers and asked them to give up their secrets, was instrumental in transforming the economy of the southern United States. A few people who loved to tinker with electronics succeeded in revolutionizing the computer industry. One man, a maverick known as Ted Turner, revolutionized the television industry.
An Indian guru, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who only wanted to share a simple technique from his Hindu tradition, initiated a worldwide movement that brought the benefits of his ideas into governments, schools, businesses, and even other religions. Mother Theresa, who only wanted to help the dying, has also had a worldwide influence on how the dying are treated today.
I could name a lot of other individuals that we now consider outstanding who have had a great deal of influence in various fields, but the point is that they all started out as tiny flowers without much apparent influence at all. Still, everything they said, everything they did, and everything they thought, was felt and reacted to by others.
"Everything they thought" is what I just said. It is easy to acknowledge the influence of words and things we can see. It is even easy to acknowledge the influence of charisma or emotions on people nearby. If you have a spiritual background you can probably acknowledge the influence of prayer, as well. In my tradition of Huna, though, we consider that every thought is a prayer. In other words, we are telepathic beings, constantly telepathizing in active and passive modes. We respond to the thoughts of others and they respond to ours. Contrary to popular fears, no one can control the thoughts of another. But, like the perfume of a tiny flower, we can influence. If the perfume smells good, the response will be good. If the smell is bad, the response will be bad. Our thoughts will be reflected, perhaps amplified, in the events of the world around us.
It's almost a bit scary to think that every thought you think is reaching out to touch and modify the world to some degree. And when I say "the world" I don't just mean the people in it, but all the plants, animals, elements and objects as well. It can be more scary when you remember all the mean things you've thought, all the angry, fearful, vengeful, frightening thoughts you've had from time to time. Have they been having an effect on the world? According to my tradition, yes. They might do nothing more than nudge a molecule or an electron, or they might add their impetus to ongoing events. But they certainly do have an effect.
However, my tradition also says that the nature of the universe is love. And love is the urge toward growth, a desire to increase awareness, skills, and happiness. The whole universe, and every individual entity within it, is moving toward greater and greater love. This means that anything contrary to love has to go against that movement, like a rock rolling uphill. Under certain natural circumstances rocks can move for a ways against gravity, but it takes a tremendous amount of energy to do that. Human beings, joining their individual energies and ideas, have devised machines to move rocks and other objects against gravity in small amounts for relatively short distances, but again the output of energy and effort is considerable. In a similar way, any influences contrary to love require tremendous energy to have any effect.
"Hold on, now!" someone may say. "What about all the evil effects in the world? What about wars, disease, cruelty, pollution and so on? It seems so easy for these things to happen." I would say that the only reason it seems easy for such things to occur is that there already exists a tremendous amount of energy moving in those directions. That energy comes from all the thoughts of fear and anger thought by all kinds of people all around the planet. Love and the effects of love continue in spite of it on a far grander scale than any unloving. In fact, the bad stuff seems so terrible because it occurs on a background of love so immense that we barely acknowledge it. But individually, when you think angrily or fearfully you connect to the existing energy of anger and fear, and it amplifies the effects of your thoughts while you add your bit to its existence.
Before you cringe and crumble in guilt, it will be helpful to know that there is something simple you can do about it. Because the momentum of love is so much greater than any contrary force, loving thoughts connect you to that positive power, which also amplifies the effects of your thoughts while you add your bit to it. In addition, your loving thoughts will neutralize the effects of previous fearful or angry thoughts, the same way that gravity pulling down a wall will neutralize all the energy it took to put it up. On the other hand, thoughts of fear and anger do not neutralize loving thoughts any more than putting up a wall neutralizes the effects of gravity.
Let's talk about loving thoughts. What exactly are they? Any thought which encourages a growth in awareness, skills or happiness is a loving thought. A positive affirmation can be called a loving thought. A prayer to any form of God for the good of yourself or another is a loving thought. A loving thought can be a mental compliment to a friend or stranger, appreciation for the beauty of a sunrise or sunset, gratitude for a gift or forgiveness for a hurt. The desire for peace, or hope for a better future, or creative visualizations for success and prosperity can be loving thoughts. Any thought in the direction of goodness is a loving one.
What we really need now are more consciously loving thoughts. To return to our flower, most people think that flowers just happen to smell good. In reality, flowers emit their perfume on purpose specifically for influencing animals to come and help them pollinate each other. In return for this favor the flowers provide nectar as a reward, the only purpose that that liquid serves. Not only do flowers emit their perfume on purpose, they also time their emissions to coincide with the natural activities of the animals they wish to influence. Next time you stop to smell the flowers, pay attention to the time of day. Some flowers give off most of their perfume in the morning, some in the afternoon, and some at night. If you smell them at other times the perfume is weak or non-existent. It's as if the flowers have more influence when their intention is more conscious.
As a tiny metaphorical flower yourself, I'm suggesting that your consciously intended thoughts are more powerful than the ones that just happen by, so to speak. More than that, I'm suggesting that the thoughts you think with the specific intent to influence are even more powerful. Beyond that, your most powerful thoughts are those that consciously seek to amplify any inclinations toward goodness that are already out there.
For instance, a thought like this: "May those greedy developers in South America be prevented from burning down any more of the rainforests" is far less effective than one like this: "May all those who want to maintain and protect the rainforests have more courage, confidence and success." In the first case you are pitting your mental energy against something, while in the second you are adding it to a growing trend. Likewise, for your own personal health it is more powerful to think "My health is increasing" than "I'm getting rid of my illness," because the natural tendency of your body is toward health and not away from illness. Your body doesn't get rid of illness. When it is free enough to do so it absorbs, transforms or expels those things that interfere with health. That's quite a different process.
If one tiny flower can scent the grasses around it, then the scent of a million tiny flowers may be carried by the wind to the far corners of the world. Those of us who are praying, blessing, thinking and acting with the spirit of love in our daily lives are already beginning to have an influence, subtle but growing, in a number of countries because of the very nature of our focus and because we are a tiny flower made up of thousands of tiny flowers all emitting the same perfume - the essence of loving power and powerful love.
With almost no resources and very few numbers we are affecting a whole lot of people for the better. We have barely begun, but we have begun. The world is changing rapidly all around us, and it is changing as a result of inner forces, not outer ones. People in far distant corners of the world are inhaling the fragrance of our tiny flowers and doing things once thought impossible.
Whenever the senseless violence, epidemics, tragedies, and pollution of the world seem overwhelming, open your eyes a little wider and see the increasing good that many tiny flowers are creating. Reflect for awhile on those who are helping children in other countries to live better and healthier lives; whose inventiveness is increasing the ability to communicate among all peoples; who are devising more ways to heal minds and bodies; who are negotiating for peace and understand between enemies; who are not only keeping an eye on businesses and governments to protect the environment, but who are also developing new ways to cooperate with Nature rather than exploit her. Give some appreciation, too, to the tremendous increase in the number of comedians making us laugh and to the very existence of a comedy channel on television, however imperfect the content might be. All over the world, in every country, there are people working hard to make things better. And every positive thought we can have about them helps them.
It is good to participate in grand causes and carry out great projects, but it is not the only way to get things done. Practicing the aloha spirit in your daily life is another valid way. One of the most encouraging and exciting things I've seen recently is the growth of interest in a radical concept exemplified by the phrase: "Practice random acts of kindness and senseless beauty." We are so used to thinking in terms of fulfilling needs that the idea of just doing good things randomly for the fun of it is really radical. It jolts us out of old thinking patterns to leave quarters in pay phones or on top of newspaper boxes, to include a thank you note with your bill to the electric company, to give a gift to someone who doesn't expect one, to pull weeds or pick up litter when no one has asked you to. It's fun to do these things for strangers, but more daring to do it within your own family. Some people promoting this are using the term "spiritual guerrillas" and it is catchy. But I don't think we need the warrior connection. I prefer "friendly gremlins."
If you wish to practice more telepathic love, an easy exercise you can do is to find a comfortable place outside, or where you can look outside. This is an exercise to do with your eyes open and in contact with your environment, and it really doesn't matter whether you are lying down, sitting, standing or walking around. Next, imagine that you are a flower, getting ready to send out your perfume. Pick a favorite flower and/or your favorite aroma. If you have the actual aroma at hand it can aid your imagination. Take a moment to decide who or what you want to send your perfume to and for what purpose. You could send it to a member of your family or a friend, to a group or organization carrying out a task you believe in, or even to groups or plants or animals. The idea to hold is that your perfume will give them the strength or the energy to do something of benefit to themselves or to someone or something else. Finally, send your perfume out into the air and imagine that it is going where you want it to go and doing what you want it to do. You can end by affirming that as a fact in your own way.
The ancient Hawaiians often used flowers as poetic symbols for people. As another Hawaiian proverb states:
Mohala i ka wai ka maka o ka pua
The meaning is that people thrive when conditions are good. As more and more tiny flowers gather together to spread their loving influence, we will be helping to create those conditons.
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Copyright by Serge King 1993