My therapist once told me that if I had a vision of who I wanted to be, then I would surely grow into that person. When looking at the chrysanthemum blooming on my windowsill, bright and yellow against the overcast sky, I know that in an alternate universe, it is dead. But in this universe, it blooms because I had envisioned it to be so.
In early February, I had brought home a chrysanthemum from the local Vietnamese grocery store. The Lunar New Year would arrive in a couple days, and though I had no gatherings in mind, I felt nostalgic for the news year celebrations with my family growing up, when our house would be bombarded with gifts from aunties, uncles, and distant relatives who would come knocking unannounced at our door with armfuls of dried coconut candies, cakes, sesame candy, and chrysanthemums. I decided to get the smallest one available—a plant with a single bloom—which wouldn’t overcrowd our apartment but would still be enough for me and my partner to enjoy.
The bloom lasted for over a month, accompanying us with every meal on the dining table. When I woke up one morning to find it browned and wilted, I let out an inner sigh and felt it was time to throw it out. It seemed like the only logical thing to do. After all, I had been taught that keeping dying things in the house brings bad feng shui. Walking across the kitchen, I briefly thought about putting it in our compost bin, but having to unwrap the plastic red decorative paper felt like too much of a hassle. So, I opened the trashcan and was ready to chuck it when a visceral image came to my mind:
I saw the flower lying on its side on top the pile of trash, as if it had just been pushed off a building and splashed on the ground below. Instead of blood, dirt had squirted around it. The bloom was positioned at a strange angle from the stem, as if its neck had been snapped. Only nobody would clean this body. It would only just keep decaying, covered by more trash, and then turn brown and flattened.
I looked at the flower in my hand. It seemed to be whimpering. I saw its green leaves, so many of them, and the strong stem holding up the wilting flower. It occurred to me that this plant was still so full of life. Then, another vision came to mind about what might happen if I kept the flower. I had propagated enough plants by that time that I had a sense for where to clip to activate the plant’s magical growth abilities. I saw myself clipping the stem, and another blossom soon growing in its place, as bright as this one, smiling just as happily, if not more.
I hesitated for a brief moment between the two visions, knowing full well that whatever I did would impact the fate of this flower. Ultimately, I chose the latter because I could not bring myself to destroy a life, and because I was curious what would actually happen. I took out the pair of kitchen scissors, clipped the bud off, and placed it in the compost bin. In the back of my head, I could hear my inner critic jabbing, “Why are you wasting your time fretting over such a little thing? You can get another mum for a few dollars.” I told my inner critic then, that this was about more than just flowers.
Then, I waited. A couple weeks went by, and nothing much happened. The plant just looked decapitated where it now sat on the bookshelf. I then thought, maybe this isn’t enough. Maybe, to support this vision, the plant needs a little encouragement. I took the plant out of its container and saw that the bottom was thick with roots—what happens when a plant becomes root-bound. I plucked away half of the roots, as if to remind the plant of its potential to also grow in the other direction, and then re-potted it in a bigger pot with fresh soil. When everything was finished, I gave it a new home outside.
Around this time, I had also been going through a stressful period and had not been taking care of my body as well as I could have. When I put the plant outside, however, I became motivated to go outside every morning to water it. And since I was already out in the morning, I would also go for a quick walk around the block. Some mornings I even went for a light jog or did qi-gong in the backyard. The plant was helping me as much as I was helping it. We were growing together.
This is not to say that the rest of the events unfolded smoothly and quickly. It took almost four months for the new blossom to grow. At first, a little bud had started to form where the old one was. However, it was weak and stunted, and I had a feeling that it wouldn’t make it. I almost gave up on the plant until I noticed, a week later, an entirely new stem sprouting up from the roots. At its tip grew a single round bud, clasped tight like a baby’s fist, which I had no doubt would become the next full blossom. Over the next month, I watched as this bud grew larger and larger, until I could see the bright yellow core of it. I left to go out of town for a few weeks, and when I came back, it had finally blossomed, as if it had finished outstretching its thousand tiny fingers into a warm “hello.”
Sometimes I chuckle to myself, thinking that in these four months I could have gotten so many other flowers. But a deeper part of me knows that I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. Not only had the plant grown with me, its blossom had also coincided with a milestone in my life—finishing the first year of this PhD program (something that had also begun with a simple vision).
It is easy, in moments of uncertainty and doubt to focus only on what is readily available, to listen only to chaos and succumb to the violence of fear. But it doesn’t take much to open to other possibilities, to what potential is also present. Everything in the material world manifests from the mind. This is not a new lesson to me by any means. From elementary school onward, I had been taught how our thoughts become our actions, our habits, our lives. This flower retaught me that lesson in such a simple way that the connection between mind and reality became so much clearer.
Now, I notice the rhythm of cause and effect more in my daily life—how this sentence I am writing exists because the words first existed in my head, how the lemon-baked tilapia that I have been eating a lot lately only exists because I imagined the meal first. That doesn’t mean I have the answers to everything, or that I will go forth without any hesitation. It’s more that I remember more often to consider whether my actions would manifest a reality that is driven by destruction or growth, set to repeat worn habits or poised to produce something new.
And when I do choose what is possible, I must remember that it will not unfold the way I expect. I must let it happen and not interfere with it. If at any point in the four months of re-blooming, I had gotten exasperated with the slowness of the process and given up on my vision, none of this miracle, as Thich Nhat Hanh, could have happened. Instead, a dead flower became alive again!
While this example is small, I believe that it can be translated to many aspects of life. When there is enough faith in a vision, then the bloom becomes more than just possible, it is in fact already there because it is inside of you.
Can you think of a time when you thought about doing something different, but chose instead to go with what you knew? What happened? How did you feel afterward?
Can you think of a time when you chose to try something new or do something in a different way? What resulted from that? How did you feel afterward?
If you were to choose to envision something new now in your life, be it big or small (trying out a new recipe, traveling somewhere new, starting a new relationship), what would it be? What can you do to support that vision in coming true?