What are your thorns, exactly? Your flaws and imperfections. These work-in-progress parts of you are vital. They mark a space once tender, now ready to defend off untoward influence.
Like your soft-petaled hopes and dreams, your prickles are vital. Think of them as boundaries. Where your leafy, nourishing goals are concerned, prickles have their rightful place on you. The next time a thorn grows, don’t remove it. Let it remind you of growth.
Allow it to be part of the whole you, not a scar of a shameful reminder. We all have thorns; it’s how we use them that defines their purpose. Most importantly, don’t be a prick.
There’s more to this cliched adage than you know. Today’s post is a bramble about finding joy in the in-between spaces (e.g., uncertain crossroads). The rose encompasses this sentiment perfectly.
For years, I’ve loved the feel and smell of roses. They’re almost my favorite flower, coming in a close second to other blossoms. My love of roses probably began with my favorite Disney movie, Beauty and the Beast.
I loved the contrast between the monstrosity of the Beast’s rage and his delicate deadly curse. It makes sense he’d be so prickly about protecting such a fragile, powerful symbol of his fate.
These buds symbolize many things globally, beyond a fairy tale curse. Each of their colors represents something unique. I’m a sucker for symbolism.
Anyway, today’s post is about stopping to smell the roses. It’s not just about slowing down and living in the moment. It’s also about how roses can make your life a little easier.
I mentioned to my mom why I like these flowers so much. She’d remarked on my smelling nice. (I don’t typically wear perfume.) I explained to her about the new spray I’d purchased, which included rose essential oil.
Then I went on to tell her that I’d realized why I enjoyed rose so much. I’ve purchased facial mist, lotion, and body spray in the last several months, all including rose essential oils. I found some homeopathic articles explaining how a rose is a natural mood enhancer (i.e., mild antidepressant, anxiety reliever). As quick as I was to believe this, I also needed some science to make sure I wasn’t self-inducing a placebo effect.
Unearthing the Science
So, I did my research. One particular meta-study by Mohebitabar et al. (2017) compiled and surveyed various similar studies on the physiological and psychological effects of Rosa damascena, a more commonly used rose essential oil. Rose oil reduced depressive symptoms in male and female participants suffering major depressive disorders and taking SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) (Mohebitabar et al., 2017). Patients also saw an uptick in sexual arousal, reduced pain when the rose oil was in analgesic form, and reduced norepinephrine (Mohebitabar et al., 2017).
As helpful as meta-studies are, they’re usually introductory pieces when you have a more targeted goal. So I sought another source that examined alternatives to commonly prescribed treatments for major depressive disorder.
According to Sánchez-Vidaña et al.(2017), up to 30% of first-line antidepressants are ineffective, leading to more people exploring complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), neurolinguistic reprogramming, exercise, mindfulness, meditation, and so on.
Aromatherapy, which uses essential oils, is a form of CAM. This systematic review (Sánchez-Vidaña et al., 2017) targeted those CAM treatments specifically used for depressive disorder relief, unlike Mohebitabar et al. (2017), which compiled all data on rose oil aromatherapy. Sánchez-Vidaña et al. (2017) found participants ranged from age 21-73 and included cancer patients, pregnant women, menopausal women, patients diagnosed with depression and/or anxiety, children with ADD/ADHD, women volunteers, and others.
Sánchez-Vidaña et al. (2017) studied a variety of aromatherapy, not just R. damascena. Inhalation aromatherapy was variably effective where massage aromatherapy proved to be overall more effective (Sánchez-Vidaña et al., 2017; Nazıroğlu et al., 2013).
Water Your Thorns
Now that I’ve gone on about the science and symbolism of roses, let’s talk about their other parts. Everyone fixates on the pretty delicate details, forgetting the different aspects which protect these buds from disease and predators. I’m talking about the ugly parts people snip off to avoid pain. (I hope you see where I’m going with this…)
If you’re stopping to smell the roses, you might as well take in the whole picture. Assuming you understood the essence of smelling roses, there’s another part about flaws I think we can relate to.
This isn’t the first time I’ve addressed imperfection, and it certainly won’t be the last. Looking at just the beauty or utility of roses insults modern and past cultivars alike. The effort it takes to breed roses thorn-free is no small task.
I’m okay with a pricked finger. If a rose has thorns, it typically yields a sweeter scent or bigger blossom. Removing thorns isn’t actually necessary for anything but making the blooms’ beauty more attainable.
If inner beauty’s a rose, let’s make it mystical! Rosebuds don’t open overnight without expert care and lots of patience. They’re temperamental blooms and require lots of attention to grow big and healthy and beautiful.
Thinking about my own prickly nature has me think about pruning myself down for others. I think it’s vital for us to recognize when and how we can prick others. It’s about making the good and beautiful parts of ourselves more accessible, without opening out tender flesh to spiritual pestilence.
Thorns aside, consider the leaves of any rosebush. They sustain the entire plant by absorbing sunlight and converting it into nutrients. They’re not the prettiest part of the plant but are quite vital. The real catch is the prickles.
Most cultivars, gardeners, florists, and consumers remove these for fear of pricking a finger. They don’t consider the necessity of these least desirable parts. The sweeter the rose, the bigger the thorns. Those roses which bloom biggest often have prickles; it’s a natural defense mechanism.
The lovely bumble bee floats along, intoxicated by the floral aroma. It remains unharmed by the large thorns. Its welcome presence results in harmonious mutualism. More than friends are summoned by an open bud.
Predators come, lurking along the ground. They gnaw at pretty petals. Instead of a feast, they taste prickly, viny flesh. Injured by the mouthful of prickle or merely dissatisfied, they scurry into the shadows from whence they came.
Not all roses are equipped with self-protection. Some aren’t prickly at all. They’re feasted upon, their blooms consumed before they fully blossom. The same goes for pruned roses.
Stripped of their armor, they now lie open to predators and disease. The same is true for you and me. Prune your thorns, and you leave yourself open to the world (and not in a good way).
Once, I read some quote about watering your thorns. I dismissed it as some odd cliche then, but realized its significance with time. It’s about accepting the gestalt of ourselves.
We’re made incomplete by so many things. A lot of our brokenness comes from things we do to ourselves, including relying on our thorns too much or removing them for the unworthy.
So much of who I am comes from recognizing the need to blossom. Trust me, it’s so much easier to obscure our natural beauty (and I’m talking beyond skin deep). I’ve hurt myself, trusted those who betrayed me, etc.
Stopping to smell the roses is about taking some time to just be. You can’t appreciate growth from pain if you don’t make the damned time. You can’t rush knowledge or healing.
Taking life one page at a time allows us to see things in new light. So much of change and growth is cultivating a garden for our inner beauty to blossom. If we take the time to look for the thorns we might’ve otherwise missed, we save ourselves a little bit of pain.
Tending to these subtle details can bring us to fuller growth. We can bloom bigger and prettier than ever, given the time and right (spiritual) nutrients.
Neglecting these details withers the beauty of our souls (as much as overtending does, too). Before we know it, those things which seemed as insignificant pests become a gardenful of blight.
What Lies Beneath
We’ll tell ourselves the biggest lies to dismiss the blights growing in our souls. We’ll deny once, twice, three times. And we’ll do it until we hit rock bottom.
Some of us hit that bedrock and find our footing. Some people find sense in dead, thorny stalks. They’d rather take familiar pain over the hard work and risks of beautiful vulnerability.
They’ll come up with the most common reasons for why they just can’t do it. These little lies smell like manure, because that’s what they are. A big old pile of bullshit. Do you ever tell yourself any of this crap?
- Just five more minutes and then I’ll get up.
- Oh, it’s ok. I’ll do it tomorrow.
- Don’t worry about it. She’ll get over it.
- Hey, sorry to cancel on you last minute, but…
- I’m just a couple minutes late; I’m sure they’ll understand.
In the past, I’ve been willing to burn my time, my reputation, my good will with others, and more to cover up my flaws. I rely on the goodness of others not when I need to, but when I can. And that makes all the difference.
Since then, I’ve learned what my personal brand of BS smells like. Normally, I’d say manure’s a great thing for blooming flowers. But for personal, spiritual, overall growth, honesty is the best fertilizer around.
To hear the truth, accept, believe, and share it, I think you’ve got to rid yourself of your personal smokescreen first. If you’re closed to the actual truths about yourself, accepting external truth will be more difficult.
I don’t even mean the truths you’ve actively denied or buried with those best, personal lies. For example, I didn’t know my pride and ego were so big last year. So significant, in fact, that I couldn’t see how it affected my choices and kept me stuck.
Conversely, I’ve been well aware of my lack of discipline and my need to develop and maintain better habits. Yet, when opportunities arose, I denied and ignored the chance for growth, pruning and burying truths about myself (i.e., my fear, pride, obstinance).
Obscuring these obvious truths resulted in me holding myself back. My eyes watered and throat choked because of how much I’d burned and how I’d lied and how I’d denied myself into withered blooms. There’s a reason I lost sight of me for a little while.
The main point is, I wasn’t listening to the whisper of truth in my heart from God and that had me LOST. That’s why this whole self-growth and development thing is so important. It’s about sharing my gifts, my heart, my fire with the world. That’s the rosebud blooming in me (and it wasn’t easy to find).
Whether people need me there or not isn’t the question. The right people stop and smell the roses. The most important thing we can do is share our beauty, inspiring them to stop and try to grow, too.
Thanks again for stopping by and taking a whiff of my brain’s blooming ideas. Whatever you take away from today’s post, I help it brings you closer to cultivating your own peaceful garden (because you certainly deserve it). For updates, follow me on Facebook or sign up for email reminders.
Nazıroğlu M, Kozlu S, Yorgancıgil E, Uğuz AC, Karakuş K. Rose oil (from Rosa×damascena mill.) vapor attenuates depression‑induced oxidative toxicity in rat brain. J Nat Med. 2013;67:152.
Mohebitabar, S., Shirazi, M., Bioos, S., Rahimi, R., Malekshahi, F., & Nejatbakhsh, F. (2017). Therapeutic efficacy of rose oil: A comprehensive review of clinical evidence. Avicenna journal of phytomedicine, 7(3), 206-213.
Sánchez-Vidaña, D. I., Ngai, S. P., He, W., Chow, J. K., Lau, B. W., & Tsang, H. W. (2017). The effectiveness of aromatherapy for depressive symptoms: A systematic review. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM, 2017, 5869315.
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