Sunflower and Love-Lies-Bleeding


Sunflower and Love-Lies-Bleeding:
A Study in Spiritual Surrender

by Richard Katz

As the full summer sun began its descent to fall, I prepared two flower essences in the Terra Flora biodynamic gardens. Towering Sunflowers gloried in the late August heat, soon to bow their swollen heads to the Earth. Meanwhile, closer to the ground, stood the red and robust Love-Lies-Bleeding, with cascades of tiny red-magenta blossoms falling toward the Earth.

Both of these plants have been well known in the repertory of FES flower essences for several decades. Yet each time we make an essence or sit with a plant, we try to approach it with "beginner's mind." We want to see and experience anew just how the form, color, growth pattern, and other characteristics of the plant express its essential qualities, what we call the "gesture" of the plant (in the tradition of the natural science of Johann v. Goethe).

Sunflower Helianthus annuus
Asteraceae (aka Compositae) Family

What appears to us as a single large blossom is truly a field of flowers. The "composite" flower consists of a central mass of disk florets, surrounded by ray florets, which appear as petals. Within this intricate multiplicity there emerges a lawful singularity, totally symmetrical and geometrical. In its patterns, the rhythms of time are captured in space.

The spring-green center, compact at its origin, grows outward in dual Fibonacci spirals, interweaving as they expand into light. They become yellow buds, then circles of disk florets with points of light, while outer rings of arching stamens send their yellow essence into the world. Surrounding all is the crowning aura of the ray florets, linear and leaf-like, yet brilliant in solar yellow. They encircle the central disk, then curve out with three distinct veins, forming a magnificent circumference. This flowering head of the Sunflower is borne on a sturdy, fibrous stalk in an upright, stately manner, the plants in our garden growing up to 12 feet tall.

Yet, with all its majestic grandeur, the Sunflower is not exempt from the law of gravity. As the disk florets ripen, Sunflower heads bulge with hundreds of seeds, and the top-heavy weight becomes too much for the stalk to bear. In a gesture of surrender, the Sunflower bends with its weight into the bosom of the Earth, bearing its prodigious gift of seeds for the future (and for our bird friends!).

Beholding the signature of the Sunflower helps us understand how it speaks as a flower essence to the human soul. The Sunflower essence is a catalyst for developing one's personal identity in relation to a larger spiritual Self. It is helpful for those whose sense of self is weakly developed and cannot shine. As well, the Sunflower balances the insecure ego that tries to be too grand or, literally, "aggrandizing." Sunflower is the picture of the healthy, integrated individuality, with a vertical alignment of soul that is inwardly radiant and self-assured. Yet the realized Sunflower archetype also knows that there is a higher light, a higher collectivity to whom one "bends" in service and sacrifice.

This is a teaching of all great spiritual traditions: One's strength of self would become only inflated personality unless aligned with a higher spiritual Self. The personal "I" must meet a greater "I am." While making the Sunflower essence, I was reminded of the poem by Juan Ramón Jiménez, Yo no soy yo (I am not I).

Amaranthus caudatus

Amaranthaceae Family

This impressive species of Amaranthus shares the hardiness of its aggressive cousin, the Pigweed Amaranthus retroflexus. Its sturdy, succulent stems and prolific seeds make this plant a dynamic addition to the garden. The mature plant is characterized by long, pendulous catkins with thousands of tiny red-magenta blossoms. The flowers are tightly packed, each with just a fringe at the top and a few stamens that protrude from their enclosures. Individually the flower seems insignificant, but en masse they form a torrent of red, like waterfalls tumbling in spirals down to the Earth.

The entire gesture of Love-Lies-Bleeding is downward, each plant forming sweeping arches that embrace the Earth. The color of the plant is also effusive, with magenta red impregnating the stems, the seeds, and nearly all of the plant. In fact, a related species, Hopi Dye Amaranth (Amaranthus cruentas), was used by native peoples for its strong penetrating color.

The "bleeding out" of the Amaranthus caudatus relates to its quality as a flower essence. Love-Lies-Bleeding essence has proven to be a powerful balm for those undergoing great physical and psychic pain. When the soul has been stretched to the breaking point, it can enter another dimension of spiritual awareness.

The Love-Lies-Bleeding plant, in its gesture of letting go, reminds us of the healing power of spiritual surrender. Describing Sweet Chestnut essence, Dr. Bach emphasized the surrender of one meeting the "dark night of the soul." Love-Lies-Bleeding addresses suffering and pain that has penetrated even more deeply into the psyche and body, often approaching the threshold of death. This is a theme in many spiritual traditions, epitomized in the prayer Christ offered in the garden of Gethsemane: "Not my will, but Thy will be done." By allowing a process of surrender, the soul can experience the reality of a Higher Will working within it.

As I contemplated both of these plants, reaching their peak blossom at the same time in late summer, I was impressed by their perfect companionship in the garden. One could sense that each plant had a message that supported the other in a complimentary manner. The Sunflower and Loves-Lies-Bleeding give us images of the masculine and feminine aspects of surrender. Like the Sunflower, it is necessary to develop a radiant, upright ego structure, but we must then learn to bend, to give the fruit of that spiritual strength to others in a gesture of humility and selflessness. On the other hand, the Love-Lies-Bleeding, with its curving and graceful form, is the picture of feminine surrender. When we surrender the self by allowing suffering to find its way to spiritual transcendence, a greater awareness and strength of the true spiritual Self is anchored in the soul.

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