Minding the dandelion clocks

by Alice Dommert

I was looking for images for the post last week about mindfulness and a beautiful dandelion photo popped up. It was the puffball kind of dandelion and it piqued my curiosity. It’s no secret that over the past few years nature and plants, in particular, have caught my attention. I’ve looked closer at the intricate beauty, and the cycles and seasons and I continue to be fascinated with the way nature illustrates ease with the flow of life.

In my neighborhood in the suburbs of Philadelphia, dandelions are everywhere this time of year. I wondered, perhaps this being the first time I had thought of a dandelion beyond it being a weed, if that yellow flower is the dandelion, or if the dandelion is the puffball that I will still stop to pick and blow to the wind? Are they two forms of the very same thing?  Are they really a weed?

I know dandelions are resilient and tenacious and with a quick search I learned they, in fact, have much to offer. The flowers, leaves and roots have been used worldwide for thousands of years in medicine and herbalism and they are full of vitamins, A, C and K and a good source of calcium, potassium, iron and manganese. They have been used to treat infections and blood, liver and digestive disorders. But this is not about encouraging you to make use of the dandelions in your yard.

My fascination was about the yellow flower and the puffball and this feeling that somehow there was a mindfulness metaphor in there somewhere. Clearly, I’d forgotten much of high school science. In nature, flowers bloom then turn to seed. I remember that. The big transformations of nature, however, were most often about caterpillars turning into butterflies.

After watching more time lapse videos than I care to admit, I was in awe. The yellow flower explodes open with total abandon and provides its pollen and nectar for bees and butterflies. Then the lower petals reach up like gentle arms wrapping it back up into a tiny twisted tassel. Over a few days the inside work happens as the delicate white wisps grow and the yellow petals dry and get pushed up like a fairy tassel hat. As the white seed parachutes grow they press the outer petals down and once again explode into the puffball or dandelion “clock.” Here they wait to be blown by the wind or a playful human to spread their seeds.

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So what’s this have to do with mindfulness?

The breath is where mindfulness begins, and it is always there for us. It is the life force we need to move and think and love, and yet we so seldom appreciate its value until we have breathing issues or are close to our last breath. When we see this tiny yellow flower, in its determination to pop up in the cracks of the sidewalk, it’s similar to that first awakening about the breath, like a gasp of delight and awe when we see something beautiful. It’s that first glimpse of the rising sun in the morning. It’s a spark that awakens and connects us to this time and place, a sliver of yellow sun shining to focus our attention on the ripe possibility of this moment.

Then we stop and sit. For the bright yellow dandelion flower, the bees and butterflies pause to visit and collect what they need and then pass on by. In the sitting in meditation and focused attention, feeling and stories flow through the mind as visitors. The practice is about cultivating an openness to value their offerings, honor their whispered messages and let them pass on by. As the dandelion fully surrenders to its openness, its petals then wrap it back up as if they were gentle, loving arms. It waits.

Again little bugs visit and pass on by. We wonder, and sit in mindfulness meditation, sometimes with patience and grace, though often with frustration with what is, resisting the journey when it seems nothing is happening, and it feels too hard. We wait. Then the surrender. We too are creatures of nature and there is truly little to do but trust the cycles and seasons of life. Sometimes we are to sit, and wait, and let life unfold with ease. With time, the dandelion clock appears.

I’d never heard the term dandelion clock before yesterday, and yet it fits perfectly. As we surrender we discover we’ve become the white starry ball, the dandelion “clock” with its delicate parachute seeds. Then we sit again with the breath. Inhale and exhale, seeing the beauty and quiver of every precious moment, trusting that the breeze, and life, will know perfectly when our tiny parachutes seeds are ready to fly.

Alice Dommert

Alice Dommert

Founder, Wholebeing Architect

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