Meditation is about getting deep into your mind, about reflection, about taking time to think – such practices aim at self-improvement and are used mostly in yoga and in Eastern religions. And although Ukraine, from the Polish point of view, lies in the East, the dominant religion there is Orthodox Church – a denomination which is not included in the religions of the East. However, one can also notice some elements of meditation– the so-called hesichasm - in Christianity. Nevertheless, most people associate meditation with Hinduism, which uses the rudraksha prayer rope for mediation with mantra. And what do the Ukrainians, or any other Poland’s Eastern neighbours, use instead of prayer rope, in order to get deep into their minds, to reflect and to take time to think?

In Ukraine, in the streets, in a subway, near a tram stop, a bus station, a shop, etc. very often you can meet an old Lady sitting on a stool and selling a wide range of nuts, sunflower seeds, or pumpkin seeds – all of which are, of course packed in a newspaper cone. Another scene is the sight of the consumers of those “semochoki” (seeds), waiting for a train, a tram, a “marshrutka” (a small bus for transporting people), or simply waiting for someone and contemplating, meditating, reflecting while husking the “semochoki.” This, of course, is the sunflower meditation, quite common not only in Ukraine but also in other countries near the eastern Polish border. One time, when I was waiting for the tram No. 26 to go from “Wileniak” to the other side of the Vistula river, I noticed three young people who, as I found out, were also Ukrainian. While they were waiting for the tram, they obviously “meditated.” When the awaited vehicle arrived, they carried on with their sunflower meditation inside the tram, because, when you travel, you have to do something, kill the time, and wait patiently for the journey to end. I wondered where they had got the sunflower seeds from. In order to check the situation of sunflowers on the Polish grocery market, as I visited some small shops and some big hyper-super-markets, I asked the shop assistants about the product in question. They said that they only had husked seeds. But it is not about having everything given to you straightaway, because the idea of the sunflower meditation is to husk the seeds yourself, as it teaches you patience. Unfortunately, I did not ask those three young people where they had got the seeds and I can only speculate that those were the reserves they brought from home. However, sometimes the sunflower aficionados spit everywhere without looking, so, e.g. in Turkmenistan, in some trains, especially the new ones, there are signs which, instead of banning throwing litter around, ban eating sunflower seeds. But the first thing that should be said about the seeds is that they are healthy. Sometimes you can read somewhere that they cure acne and the dieticians recommend them for rheumatics, as they help with the rheumatic ailments. Moreover, in Ukraine, they can provide quite an alternative for chips or candies. And maybe they became so popular in Ukraine, because they started to be used before the chips era... and apparently they are here to stay, because all people, young or old, keep eating them. Apart from that, one should mention the popularity and accessibility of halvah, a treat containing sunflower seeds. However, people coming from Dnieper to Vistula have to change their preferences, because it is unlikely that someone will do them a favour and start selling some sunflower seeds, so that they could feel at home for a while. The fact is, on the other hand, that pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and linseeds are becoming more and more popular and that, in general, ecological food is becoming fashionable. So maybe we should wait patiently until eating sunflower seeds becomes popular. After all, the “sunflower meditation” has taught us some patience...

Paweł Łoza

Tłumaczenie: Mateusz Pazdur