Jul 25, 2007

Arrange the flowers as they are in the field

Ikebana, the art of formal flower arranging, is familiar to most of us. But chabana, or tea flowers is a different art altogether. It is the art of arranging flowers naturally. Rikyu taught his students to place one or two flowers in simple bamboo containers. He encouraged them to put the flowers in with one breath and not touch or adjust them once they were put in the container.

When I first tried my hand at chabana, I was quite frustrated. My arrangements drooped or the flowers looked the wrong way. It was much more difficult to than I thought to arrange them naturally. The problem was, I was trying to make the flowers do something that they wouldn’t have done in the field. To do this requires that we pay attention to how they are growing in the field before we cut them. Which ones are hanging down? Which ones are standing up? Which are tall and which are short? What way are the flowers facing? If we observe them before cutting them, then when we bring them into the tea room to place them in a container it becomes much simpler.

The same is true in daily life. Things become simpler by observing and working with the way things are rather than wishing that things fit some notion in my head of how it should be. By not judging or trying to make the situation fit some fanatasy, or trying to change the people around me, I am able to appreciate so much more about my life.


  1. Wonderful post. I don't practice chado yet but my boyfriend does and I always feel a bit strange about to cut flowers and put them on a place to die/dry. I wonder if there's a way to have not a flower, but a plant, a living plant.
    In zendo that I used to go, they always have a vase, not just flowers, but they didn't watered them and they always dies.
    What is a garnishment for the tea when indoors that represents the truth of being indoors?

  2. Hello Anderson,
    Thank you for reading and taking the time to post. I hope you will have the opportunity to study chado, too.

    The living flowers of the tea room, I think serve to remind us of nature. All of nature is symbolized in the one or two flowers arranged naturally. As in nature, everything has it's lifetime, it is the cycle of life. The shortened life of these cut flowers remind us that life is short and some are shorter than others. When we cut flowers, we thank them for their sacrifice, just as we thank the food we are about to eat.

    I wrote a poem about cutting the flowers:


    Over the concrete driveway, heavy blossoms
    wobble and sway like babies heads
    stems too weak to hold them upright,
    petals soft against the skin,
    the fragrance of infants after a bath.
    She lifts those heads one
    by one, and cuts the stalks,
    gathers them in her arms to protect
    them from the wind and rain and early summer heat.
    She brings them inside to care for them knowing
    they will never grow older.

    Take care,