Ikebana: The Contemplative Art of Flowers

By Alexandra Shenpen, Sensei and Travis Newbill

Shenpen, Sensei will be guiding Ikebana/Kado: The Contemplative Art and Way of Flowers, April 18-20, 2014

Alexandra Shenpen

Alexandra Shenpen

Ikebana is more than just flower arranging. Rather, it is a practice through which we explore nature & life,  the relationship between heaven, earth, humanity and personal artistic process — whether we feel we are artistic or not!  We begin by learning traditional, harmonic forms. Engaging with Ikebana as a contemplative practice awakens the unconditional beauty of  our world,  inspiring a way of living.

Below are some words from our wonderful teacher, Alexandra Shenpen, Sensei and some images of arrangements created by introductory students.

On structure and improvisation:
“Forms tame us, helping us to wear-out our artistic ego, so that what comes through is fresh and awake, an expression of  what’s already there — both in ourselves and in nature.  This is a wonderful ground for later improvisation.   In other words, structure provides a language of flowers — and from that language, not only can the poetry of botanical materials communicate more vividly, but one can begin to play.  Ultimately, the plants speak for themselves, if we understand their presence in space.”


“Ikebana, as a non-verbal art form, allows us to let go of  thoughts and judgments that can cloud the way we see the world.  By  really looking at a branch, a twig, a flower, we can discover how to look , that we  might truly see, and fully appreciate what’s there.  The flowers and branches find their own place harmoniously.  When we begin to taste that  experience, isness–things as they are–renews our real heart.  Ultimately, when we are experiencing the vivid inseparability of form and emptiness, we feel very alive,  in touch with ourselves and phenomena.  It quite goes beyond words.  Art  embodying that is very helpful to have in the world.”


Flower as guest:
“Human beings have a universal soft spot for plant life, for the beauty of nature. Just holding or looking at a flower touches that soft spot. Once flower or branch has been cut, it is no longer being sustained by its own way of growing. It is in our care. Being considerate of the flower’s needs comes naturally when our soft spot is open.”


“Every Choice is an Artistic Choice” — Ernie Porps/Chogyam Trungpa, Rinpoche
“Ikebana can be a positively dangerous contemplative art ——     it can change your life! It becomes harder to not notice. Our natural instinct is to be awake and care for our world  —  noticing,  appreciating, and engaging aesthetically. How we get dressed, or how the dishes go in the dish rack — becomes more of an ongoing creative  process, rather than just something to put up with.”

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“Ikebana/Kado honours the sense of above, below, and in between- – –  below is not lesser than above and above is not greater than below, and in between is not “not as good as” or “better than” something else. Those are human neuroses which are rampant in the world and in ourselves. Some liberation from that takes place when we create a living piece.   We come to recognize that each element has its own place, creating a harmonious whole.    This really interrupts our conventional way of thinking about things.”


Finally, a testimonial from David, a student of Shenpen, Sensei:

“Whether to choose this blossom, or that branch has been an absolutely safe place to be daring. The most dreadful consequence has been total collapse (of my flower arrangement) – something I have found I can live with! After a year I am beginning to bring this development of felt-sense into my larger world. I find it easier to move with confidence and trust myself. Who would have ever thought that arranging flowers could have such potential for informing my life? The fresh perky blooms are rubbing off!”

Alexandra Shenpen, Sensei will be leading Ikebana/Kado: The Contemplative Art & Way of Flowers, April 18-20, 2014. To learn more, CLICK HERE

5 thoughts on “Ikebana: The Contemplative Art of Flowers

  1. Truly INSPIRED!
    Fresh Flowers.. I USED to Make This My “Daily Quest!” The Beauty, The FRESH SMELL & FEELING the Texture!
    This IS LIFE ♥ “I WILL Try Hard to MAKE THIS HAPPEN! I have several Traumatic Brain Injuries..
    Can SOMEONE HELP ME? Remind Me Daily?
    I’m Trying So Hard to “Re-Learn How to LOVE LIFE AGAIN! & I STRUGGLE EVERYDAY!

  2. Just a few of the comments made by enmneit scientists who dissent from the pro man-made global warming view. There are hundreds more like this. I may not be a scientist but these people are tops in their scientific disciplines:“I am appalled at the state of discord in the field of climate science…There is no observational evidence that the addition of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions have caused any temperature perturbations in the atmosphere.”- Award-winning atmospheric scientist Dr. George T. Wolff, former member of the EPA’s Science Advisory Board, served on a committee of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and authored more than 90 peer-reviewed studies. “The sky is not burning, and to claim that it is amounts to journalistic malpractice…the press only promotes the global warming alarmists and ignores or minimizes those of us who are skeptical.”- Chemist Dr. Mark L. Campbell, a professor of chemistry at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD, who has published numerous studies in the Journal of the American Chemical Society on topics such as methane. “Once again we have misleading climate change pronouncements being based on data errors, data errors detected by non-UN, non-IPCC, non-peer-reviewed external observers…This is exactly what happens when you base your arguments on ‘consensus science’ and not scientific fact.”- Professor Dr. Doug L. Hoffman, a mathematician, computer programmer, and engineer, who worked on environmental models and conducted research in molecular dynamics simulations. Hoffman co-authored the 2009 book, The Resilient Earth, described as “bringing a dose of skeptical reality to climate science and the global warming debate.” “The questions are scientific, but the UN answers are political. The global warming debate is hardly about science.”- Computer Modeler and Engineer Allen Simmons, who worked 12 years with NASA’s top climate scientists and wrote computer systems software for the world’s first weather satellites and aided in the development of computer systems for polar orbiting satellites. Simmons co-authored the new skeptical book The Resilient Earth. Belief in climate models compared to “ancient astrology”… I believe the anthropogenic (man-made) effect for climate change is still only one of the hypotheses to explain the variability of climate.”- Award-winning Japanese Physicist Dr. Kanya Kusano, program director of the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology who’s research “focuses on the immaturity of simulation work cited in support of the theory of anthropogenic climate change.” compared climate models to “ancient astrology.” “The recent ‘panic’ to control GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions and billions of dollars being dedicated for the task has me deeply concerned that US, and other countries are spending precious global funds to stop global warming, when it is primarily being driven by natural forcing mechanisms.”- Climatologist and Paloeclimate researcher Dr. Diane Douglas, who has authored or edited over 200 technical reports, specialized in the reconstruction of a variety of proxy data and has worked for the Department of Energy and conducted research for the Arizona State Office of Climatology to investigate the Little Ice Age. “Temperature measurements show that the [climate model-predicted mid-troposphere] hot zone is non-existent. This is more than sufficient to invalidate global climate models and projections made with them!”- UN IPCC Scientist Dr. Steven M. Japar, a PhD atmospheric chemist who was part of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Second (1995) and Third (2001) Assessment Reports, and has authored 83 peer-reviewed publications and in the areas of climate change, atmospheric chemistry, air pollutions and vehicle emissions. “The cause of these global changes is fundamentally due to the Sun and its effect on the Earth as it moves about in its orbit. Not from man-made activities.”- Retired Award Winning NASA Atmospheric Scientist Dr. William W. Vaughan, recipient of the NASA Exceptional Service Medal, a former Division Chief of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center and author more than 100 refereed journal articles, monographs, and papers. “Unfortunately, Climate Science has become Political Science…It is tragic that some perhaps well-meaning but politically motivated scientists who should know better have whipped up a global frenzy about a phenomena which is statistically questionable at best.”- Award-Winning Princeton University Physicist Dr. Robert H. Austin, who has published 170 scientific papers, was elected a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and is the current Chair of the U.S. Liaison Committee of the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics. Austin, who won the 2005 Edgar Lilienfeld Prize of the American Physical Society “Observe which side resorts to the most vociferous name-calling and you are likely to have identified the side with the weaker argument and they know it.”- Materials and Research Physicist Dr. Charles R. Anderson, a former Department of Navy research physicist who has published more than 25 scientific papers specializes in spectroscopy, microscopy, thermal analysis, mass spectroscopy, and surface chemistry. “The data which is used to date for making the conclusions and predictions on global warming are so rough and primitive, compared to what’s needed, and so unreliable that they are not even worth mentioning by respectful scientists.”- Award-winning Aerospace and Mechanical Engineer Dr. Gregory W. Moore, who has authored or co-authored more than 75 publications, book chapters, and reports, and authored the 2001 Version of the NASA Space Science Technology Plan which included a comprehensive approach to studying the Sun-Earth connection aspect of space-based research. “I appreciate the opportunity to add my name to those who disagree that global warming is man-made…Hansen embarrassed NASA by coming out with his claims of global warming.”- Retired senior NASA atmospheric scientist Dr. John S. Theon, a former supervisor of NASA’s James Hansen, and the former Chief of the Climate Processes Research Program at NASA Headquarters and former Chief of the Atmospheric Dynamics & Radiation Branch. “I am pleased to be considered a ‘denier’ in this cause if this puts me in the class with those who defied prevailing ‘scientific consensus’ that the earth was flat and that the earth was the not the center of the universe.”– Retired U.S. Air Force (USAF) Meteorologist William “Bill” Lyons, of the USAF’s Global Weather Central at Strategic Air Command. “It is amazing to me, as a professional geologist, how many otherwise intelligent people have, as some may say, ‘drunk the Al Gore Kool-Aid’ concerning global climate change.”- Professional Geologist Earl F. Titcomb Jr. has co-authored analyses of geological and seismological hazards. “Let’s be clear: the work of science has nothing whatever to do with consensus [which] is the business of politics. . . . What is relevant is reproducible results. The greatest scientists in history are great precisely because they broke with the consensus.’”- Atmospheric Scientist Timothy R. Minnich, who has more than 30 years experience in the design and management of a wide range of air quality investigations for industry and government, is a past member of the American Meteorological Society and specializes in issues like acid rain and ozone, and has authored or co-authored numerous technical publications and reports. “Based on the laws of physics, the effect on temperature of man’s contribution to atmospheric CO2 levels is minuscule and indiscernible from the natural variability caused in large part by changes in solar energy output.”- Atmospheric Scientist Robert L. Scotto, who has more than 30 years air quality consulting experience, served as a manager for an EPA Superfund contract and is co-founder of Minnich and Scotto, Inc., a full-service air quality consulting firm. He also is a past member of the American Meteorological Society (AMS). Scotto, a meteorologist who has authored or co-authored numerous technical publications and reports. “Whether the ice caps melt, or expand whatever happens the AGW (anthropogenic global warming) theorists claim it confirms their theory. A perfect example of a pseudo-science like astrology.”- Mathematical Physicist Dr. Frank Tipler, professor at Tulane University has authored 58 peer-reviewed publications and five books. “There is no credible evidence of the current exceptional global warming trumpeted by the IPCC…The IPCC is no longer behaving as an investigative scientific organization or pretending to be one…Their leaders betrayed the trust of the world community.” Chemist Dr. Grant Miles, author of numerous scientific publications who was elected to a Fellowship of the Royal Institute of Chemistry, was a member of UK Atomic Energy Authority Chemical Separation Plant Committee.

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