But back to the roses. They adorn the ivy bed with an air of royalty, a majesty of sorts that reminds me of something from long ago, maybe even timeless. Did you now that the rose is 35 million years old, has some 150 species, and probably began cultivation in China 5,000 years ago? Also, talking about longevity, the oldest living rose dates its birthday 1,000 years ago and claims permanent residence adorning the wall of the Cathedral of Hildesheim in Germany.
In fact, roses pop up everywhere—not only in gardens but in the bouquets we give our sweethearts, altars of churches, ornaments that may be hung in places we revere, in panels and mandalas, and the stained glass windows of our homes, shops, and places of worship. It is no wonder then that the great twentieth century poet, T.S.Eliot, featured the rose to accentuate his invitation to enter Burnt Norton, a manor in Gloucestershire that for Eliot evoked the experience of timelessness:
Footfalls echoing the memory
Down the passage we did not take
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose-garden. My words echo
Thus in your mind.
But to what purpose
Disturbing the dust on a bowl of rose-leaves
I do not know.
And all is stillness. Or so it seems to me as I follow Eliot's lead into the sphere of timelessness that you and I might understand as the "center" of our psyches, the soul itself. This is what I understand the "center" means. It is, of course, an archetypal experience. By this I am referring to an understanding of the psyche as Carl Jung described it decades ago.
Present-day psychologists approach this idea as the well-regulated capacity of our body and mind when we have experienced some disturbance or trauma. First we feel "scattered" in our body and mind. We may call it bewildered; or we may even say the situation is "crazy," "insane." We may be lost in our thinking, taken over by our emotions. All these experiences are not necessarily bad. In the good times, we may get lost in the fun and excitement, as young children show us so well.
My granddaughter taught me how she learned to center when she was four-years old and was taught to sing what she called her "centering song." It goes like this:
Find your center,
Find your center,
Before you enter,
Find your center.
She learned to sing her centering song at the little "Schoolhouse" of a playgroup she shared with a cute, rambunctious, energetic, curious, and eager-to-learn group of children whose parents wanted their kids to be exposed to learning and growing in a place, time, and guidance of teachers who valued the wholistic experience of enabling children to discover their best selves. These teachers understood the psychology of pre-school children, their limits and potential mentally, socially, emotionally, spiritually, and physically. What the teachers taught the children was indeed self-regulation, and they called it centering. The kids would spend time inside painting, drawing, building, reading or being read-to, talking about things that excited or troubled them, what they dreamed last night, what they enjoyed eating and drinking, and what they looked forward to doing when their moms or dads picked them up.
Then they would have play-time outside before coming back inside. But, and this was important our granddaughter emphasized, before they would enter the "classroom," they stood silently in a circle, placed their hands on their tummies, and sang, "Before you enter, find your center." "What do you like about that?," I asked her. "It works," she said.
It works. The granddaughter did not know or even think to know how this "works." She did know, though, that it is possible to go from high level of excitement to a level of calm. Where is this? It's in your "center."
As I said earlier, of course this is an archetypal experience, the consciousness of which is hard-won over centuries of barbarism, cruelty, war, catastrophe, disease, accidents, and death. Carl Jung would describe this archetypal experience as an outcome when we become conscious of what he called "the tension of the opposites."
How do we modulate this "tension of the opposites?" How indeed. We know that it's realization is a process of ebb and flow. The process depends upon families who provide safety, where young minds are educated with truth and not ideology or self-serving misinformation. This conscious process for centering by "holding the tensions of the opposites" arises not only out of caring families but also societies of democratic freedom in which respect for each individual makes possible a better life for everyone.
This process does indeed ebb and flow. When we consider the delusional uncenteredness of our present time, we may feel discouraged that the beauty and power of our democracy is ebbing. But we can be assured we will find our center again. After all, the rose has been at this for 35 million years, reminding us of what can be if we tend the garden.