No Mud, No Lotus

As I sit watching the rain fall, the ground get nourished, and the dirt start to soup into mud, I can’t help but think back to our February chalk art board. It read “no mud, no lotus.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

The lotus flower is an aquatic plant that grows in shallow and murky waters. It’s roots ground down into the mud, and only with this connection can it’s flower bloom. For many, the lotus flower represents purity, grace, beauty, and expansion of the soul.

Let me tell you why…

Over the course of my yoga journey, I’ve beknown suffering. We most often think of suffering in relation to some given tragedy, such as death, disease, loss of job, or some unforeseen circumstance. And yes, suffering does often accompany these things because of the pain, grief, and loss that’s experienced. But I’m not actually referring to the suffering that is easily assumed. Instead, I’m referring to suffering that is endured on a day-to-day basis. The definition of endure is “to suffer without yielding”. Yes, you may endure suffering connected with tragedy, but many suffer daily without any tragedy at all. Many suffer without you ever knowing and often, they don’t know it either! They believe that is how life is supposed to be—hard, painful, and tiring. And you’d be lying if you said you have never experienced this. Because we all have.

The reason suffering becomes, well, suffering, is because we’ve resisted some emotion, pain, or hurt that preceded it. Life is unpredictable, no matter how hard we try to make it not. So on a daily basis we are wide open beings vulnerable to everything and anything that comes our way. We never actually know when someone will say something that hurts our feelings or our emotions will fly off the handle and we say words we don’t mean. We can’t predict when someone else unexpectedly precedes us in a promotion or when a loyal employee decides to pursue their own endeavors. These experiences often leave us feeling icky with no explanation WHY. So instead of exploring that question, our mind refuses the discomfort and begins to justify or resolve the situation through blame, excuse, and reasoning. So you ruminate about the situation until one day it feels okay enough to not think about it so much OR something else happens that fills your head space. So what you’re left with is an incomplete experience of former pain and now a new one to deal with. And guess what?… we can absolutely live like this. And no one will ever know. But that’s the definition of endure, isn’t it?

The phrase “no mud, no lotus” begins to shed new perspective on our old habits of how we handle suffering. You absolutely cannot have a beautiful pure lotus flower without it being rooted into the mud. So when I say I’ve “beknown” suffering, I’ve rooted into the mud. I was tired of feeling heavy and burdened, I was tired of external circumstances impacting my happiness, and I was tired of ruminating thoughts dimming my creativity. So I got muddy, messy, and began to change my relationship to pain. It’s only by diving into the darkness that we can begin to uncover the pure unsweetened truths about ourselves and become pure and light as the lotus flower. We will always have pain, hurt, or negative emotions. These are inevitable. BUT, when we allow ourselves to actually experience our emotions and take a deep curious look, the suffering that accompanies them is optional.

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