Look into the heart of a flower…

What are we? When you look at yourself in a mirror what do you see? Who are any of us, really?! Too existential?

Okay, let’s try this: When you look at the below image, what do you see?

The colors of the orchid flowers? The green stems? The pot in which it’s growing? The hand holding (that’s my hand)? The sea of green grass in the background?

These would all be good places to start, but look closer; look deeper. Now can you see it?! The water, the soil, the air, the sunlight? What about time or the cosmos…can you see those, too? Can you see all of the non-orchid elements that constitute this amazing wonder of nature?

In his book Living Buddha, Living Christ, Thich Nhat Hanh shares this lesson in order to highlight what he calls the “inter-being” of everything. We as systemic and relational therapists might refer to this concept as the emergent property of all things or holism:

The orchid cannot exist independent of those elements that constitute it; and the orchid cannot be understood simply by adding up its parts; they are interdependent and mutually influence each other in order to create what I’ve been waiting five years to see (yes, I’ve been growing this thing for that long!): This amazing Rhyncattleanthe Big Kiss orchid.

When working with individuals, couples, families, or groups of people, remember to look deeper to see their non-them elements, and you’ll be much closer to understanding them. And understanding can lead to greater compassion, something that takes patience to grow, but is so worth the wait!

Dr. John

Originally posted on Facebook and Instagram 4/2020 for the Hawaiian Islands Association for Marriage and Family Therapy


Hanh, T.N. (1997). Living Buddha, Living Christ. Penguin Publishing Group.

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