Ikebana workshop will help cancer survivors find peace of mind | ParkRecord.com

Ikebana workshop will help cancer survivors find peace of mind

Park City resident Lara Chho was drawn to the art of ikebana — a Japanese form of flower arrangement — because of its accessibility.

"All you need is a pair of shears; you can go anywhere and do it," Chho said. "It's not like ceramics where you need a kiln, a throwing wheel and a studio space."

There is also a meditative quality to the art, she said.

"The idea is that the Japanese arts are a pathway to self discovery," Chho said. "(They are) very much a spiritual practice as well."

Those are the main reasons why Chho will lead an ikebana workshop for breast cancer survivors on Tuesday, July 31, at Park City Nursery, 4459 N. S.R. 224.

The event is free and open to breast cancer survivors, their mothers and their daughters. No previous experience is needed and all tools and materials will be provided.

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"The workshop can be seen as a mindfulness practice — one more way of connecting the hands, the mind and heart into one experience," said Chho, a certified ikebana instructor at the Sogetsu School in Tokyo.

The workshop will give Chho, who lived in Japan from 1998 to 2014, an opportunity to teach core concepts of Japanese philosophy.

"I often talk about the Buddhist-inspired ideas of impermanence and how nature is perceived as something that is infused with the sacred," she said. "All of the Japanese arts originate in a state of silence and there is a meditative quality to them. So creating that mind space is invaluable because we can step out of our plugged-in world."

Ikebana, according to Chho, originated in Japan as a highly disciplined art based around the idea of developing a dialogue between the human heart and nature.

"I went over to Japan as an English teacher," she said. "I had already studied art in college and was already interested in Japanese aesthetics."

Chho worked in ceramics and was setting traditional tea ceremonies when a friend introduced her to ikebana.

Chho said learning the artform was a breath of fresh air for a nature lover living in the world's single most populous urban area.

"I had never been in a city that large," she said of Tokyo, which contains about 38 million people. "I always lived in places where the outdoors and nature were always close by. So this was a time in my life where I felt a need to bring nature back into my life, and ikebana was the way to do that."

Although Chho was attracted to ikebana's simplicity, she soon learned it would be impossible for her to master the art.

"That became more clear to me after moving to the U.S., because there is such a difference in perspective between the Eastern and Western cultures toward the creative process," she said.

In the East, because of a tradition to focus on the creative process. Ikebana, like the other Japanese arts, is valued for the sake of the practice, and people engage in it on a disciplined level, Chho explained.

"Humility is a big part of the learning process in Japan, and art is a tool that will help you recognize that there is no sense of arrival, only a journey of discovery," she said. "Here in the West, we've become focused on how to capitalize and market our creative endeavors."

When Chho heard that her friend, local photographer and cancer survivor Deb DeKoff, was hosting monthly support sessions for other survivors, Chho volunteered to lead the ikebana workshop.

"I've been also very interested in the therapeutic aspects of this art," she said. "My last workshop was in collaboration with a friend who does what's called 'forest bathing' (shinrin yoku), which also started in Japan."

Shinrin yoku is based on the concept of experiencing forests and the outdoors through all senses, Chho said.

"The workshop was done entirely outdoors, which is something that I've never done before," she said. "What was beautiful for me was (that) the whole aspect of forest bathing set the tone for ikebana practice."

Chho hopes her Tuesday workshop gives cancer survivors and their loved ones a new avenue to connect with nature, and said it's a privilege to do it in a place like Park City.

"We are fortunate to live in a place where we have access to the outdoors," she said. "But you cannot take ikebana out of the unique culture of Japan, and I don't think there is any other culture in the world that (has an artform) similar to ikebana."

Lara Chho will lead a free ikebana flower arrangement workshop for breast cancer survivors from 6-7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, July 31, at Park City Nursery, 4459 N. S.R. 224. RSVPs are required. For information and to RSVP, contact Lara Chho at petalandclayparkcity@gmail.com. For information about Lara Chho, visit http://www.petalclay.com.