Finding Balance for the Body and the Mind: A Beginner’s Perspective

Kim Verlin, Sogetsu School of Ikebana (Melbourne, Australia)

Published in Internationala Journal of Ikebana Studies, Vol.5 (2017)

This is my first year of ikebana and so far I have had five classes, so I am truly a novice student with very little experience. I was diagnosed with cancer in December last year, and it has been an incredibly difficult time for me, both physically and mentally. Adjusting to my new limitations has been very challenging. Before my diagnosis, I was an avid yogi. 

However, once I started treatment, my body was too exhausted to manage even the most basic of poses, and I desperately missed the peace and calm yoga brought to my life. It was actually my yoga teacher who suggested that I try ikebana classes as a way to find that inner peace in a low pace setting.

My first experience with ikebana was quite confusing to me. So many rules, everything needs to be positioned just so. Everything was about getting it to replicate Sensei’s example ikebana exactly. As a perfectionist, I was frustrated by trying to arrange my materials in a logical and neat fashion, only for Sensei to come along and say “Too precise, too perfect! It must be organised, but organised chaos”. I found this quite confusing and difficult to understand. What is organised chaos? I was perplexed. 

I spent some time studying photos of ikebana arrangements to see if I could work out the difference, and came to the conclusion that it is the connection to nature. A perfect arrangement looks unnatural – you would never find this growing by itself. A good ikebana arrangement on the other hand, looks as though it is a remarkable occurrence that just happened organically, not necessarily crafted. 

I no longer feel pressured to create the “perfect” arrangement, as this objective does not provide the organised chaos required of a good ikebana. 

For me, the focus has become about the meditative journey of constructing my ikebana rather than the end result. There is no rush – consider and reflect on the beauty of every angle, the interest in the flawed angles. Perfection is not required for beauty. This concentration clears all other thoughts, creating the meditative space to clear the mind and relax the body. I come away from my classes feeling calmed, relaxed and at peace, body and soul renewed.