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 Geeks Turning to Bonsai to Combat Stress

 By Erik A. Olsen

Years ago, the term “geek” was a somewhat derogatory name given to students who simply enjoyed doing what they were supposed to do in school – study. While a negative term previously, we now see the name of “geek” almost honorary for all the positive dynamics of this person.

Today, the term is used much more freely, focusing more on an individual who has specific interest in one, possibly two things, particularly electronics. Keep in mind that these so-called “geeks”, those working on computers, are now laughing all the way to the bank. With the explosion of computers and the need for people who love and understand them, geeks have done quite well professionally.

For this article, a geek is merely someone who is fascinated or even obsessed with something such as bonsai. Because many “geeks” work in jobs that require intense concentration, long hours, and detail, stress is relatively common. Now, geeks generally are not big sports enthusiasts. While they may enjoy watching some sports, most individuals use their mind more than the body. Therefore, using sports to relieve stress is not really an option.

In fact, when not working in a stressful job, geeks generally enjoy other activities that use the mind to include playing chess, playing a musical instrument, working puzzles, and so on. While to most people these activities would not necessarily be considered as relaxing, to the geek they are. For this reason, the art of bonsai, which takes extreme detail to attention and tremendous patience, is the ideal stress reliever for the “geek”.

The art of bonsai growing is something that requires more than just a green thumb. Growing and training these miniature trees is something motivated by passion, exactly what the geek can provide. With bonsai, there is a definite calculation involved to be successful. To grow beautiful and healthy bonsai, imagination, concentration, passion, and devotion are required – all positive traits associated with today’s “geek”.

Now that we have discussed geeks, we want to talk a little bit about bonsai, followed by stress – linking all three. As stated, bonsai is the art of growing trees but in miniature form. This type of tree first appeared in China more than 1,000 years ago. However, at that time, the name was “punsai”, not bonsai. These miniature trees were grown in trays or pots, at that time being trained with twisted and gnarled trunks, along with sparse foliage.

Sometime in the late 12th century, the art of bonsai made its way to Japan via Zen Buddhists. With this, the art of growing and training bonsai was changed to be more refined. It was common to see bonsai in monasteries, which was the symbol of honor and prestige. Keep in mind that bonsai has different meanings for different parts of the country. For instance, in Japan, bonsai represents the perfect balance of ancient Asian beliefs, coupled with Eastern philosophies of harmony between man, soul, and nature. For people in westernized countries, bonsai has become a great way to reduce stress, being more a representative of harmony and peace.

When originally grown, the bonsai was grown outdoors. Keep in mind that punsai were usually full-size trees grown outdoors. However, it was discovered trees could be grown in miniature style so by the time they made their way to Japan, the bonsai in small form was popular for indoor use, often being displayed on shelving, tables, and other furniture items. The Japanese had become so incredibly skilled at growing and training bonsai that by the 17th and 18th centuries, they were considered masters of the art form.

To be successful in training bonsai, only the essential elements of the tree can remain. While you can still use many of the traditional styles, additional styles have been created over the years. In fact, for geeks wanting to reduce stress, coming up with a new form of bonsai style would be a great goal. It was not until the 19th century when the bonsai was introduced to the rest of the world. People who visited Japan were mesmerized with this miniature tree and the time and dedication to create it. Once the introduction was made, exhibits popped up around the globe to include Paris, London, and western states.

Keep in mind that while a geek may grow and train bonsai as a hobby or stress reliever, this art form has also become a very lucrative career choice. Today, we see a number of commercial artists modifying styles and creating new ones. In addition, bonsai enthusiasts are starting to use different types of plants. Keep in mind that the fully developed tree can be grown from cuttings or seeds, which is then grafted and styled. The changes of the bonsai over the past 200 years are truly a remarkable journey.

Geeks who work long hours over a computer, in engineering fields, teaching, or whatever career they have, often look for a way to reduce stress. Because the mind of a geek is so focused and artistic in a way, that the process involved of growing and training bonsai is actually a perfect fit. The time and meticulous dedication makes this an amazing way to reduce stress.

With bonsai, you can grow wonderful apricot or plum trees that actually bloom in miniature. Other trees used for bonsai include azalea, maple, and pine. However, with a creative mind and little bit of ingenuity, two characteristics generally seen in a “geek”. Look, today we live in a crazy society. Businesses are short staffed, which means people work long, hard days, coming home feeling tired and stressed.

You couple work stresses with daily life and family stresses, and it all becomes too much. The interesting thing about stress is that not only does it affect the mind but it also affects the body and emotion. The result includes fatigue, illness, confusion, and more. Finding a way to eliminate this type of stress is something millions of people are doing. For some people, the outlet is in the gym, for others, shopping, but for the geek, growing and training bonsai is a good as it gets, which is an honorable pastime that can again, become a lucrative outlet as well.

People dealing with stress find themselves faced with al types of symptoms. For instance, an increase of adrenaline, higher production of cortisol, muscle tension, headache, higher levels of cholesterol, and increased blood pressure are just a few. Unfortunately, stress affects not only the person in the stressful environment but often those around that person. In other words, a person might come home from work after a specifically difficult day, only to take it out on the wife/husband and kids. While no harm is intended, it happens.

One of the things doctors recommend to reduce stress is changing lifestyle. This means managing time better, possibly looking at a new career, becoming better organized, and communicating more openly. However, doctors will also tell you that lifestyle change can include taking up a hobby, something that replaces negative thoughts and experiences with something positive, such as bonsai.

For the geek who is stressing, a special area of the basement or a room of the home could be designated to this art form. With serious commitment and dedication, you would be amazed at what you can accomplish. The most important thing is to learn all you can about not just the history of bonsai but also the types of trees used, special care, growing tips, soil, water, plant food, pruning, training, and so on. With this information, you can get started, finding that your stressful days are much easier to manage while you enjoy the fruits of your labor with a magnificently trained bonsai.

For more about the art of bonsai, to include care guides and instructional videos, see 

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