"The lotus flower blooms most beautifully from the deepest and thickest mud."
- Buddhist Proverb
We have all experienced being stuck in the mud.
Perhaps your experience was in a swamp-like place filled with sticks and stones, disappointment after disappointment, grief, or boredom that clung to your very soul and pulled you deeper still.
Maybe you wanted to sling mud in a fit of rage at someone or some thing. Maybe you wished you would just drown already in the thickness of sludge.
I too have had plenty of these swampy moments. I've lost a dear friend who threw himself from the Golden Gate bridge and disappeared into the Pacific Ocean. I've been attacked by "mean girls." I've experienced abuse and betrayals. I've lost and I am losing too many loved ones before their time to cancer, ALS, heart failure. I dread the voice of the alt-right.
All of these experiences are exchanges of an epidemic suffering of our souls.
In his book, No Mud, No Lotus, Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh explores the art of transforming suffering by embracing it rather than fighting it or suppressing it. “Breathing in, I know suffering is there,” is the Zen mantra, “breathing out, I say hello to my suffering.”
Learning to LOVE the mud, and to see the swamp experience as an opportunity, is how many spiritually based cultures view the metaphor of the lotus flower.
The lotus flower roots in the mud. It can regulate its temperature to 90 degrees, so is warm to the touch. The lotus flower submerges itself each night into the murky waters and reawakens each morning unsoiled. The lotus flower is made of both grit and grace, its petals are unaffected beauty.
Rebirth, reawakening, enlightenment all come from a knowledge rooted in the mud. It is the contrast needed to truly appreciate the goodness, the sweetness, the beauty of life.
For those of us who were gifted with these experiences of deep suffering, we are the sacred elegant flowers called on to inspire others out of their suffering. We are the lucky ones.
Our culture right now is suffering with hate and fear. It is spreading too fast and touching too many. This moment might be the moment when we really need to root down in the mud, feel into it, smear it all over ourselves, welcome it.
With compassion and love for all, let's find the strength to recreate and rebirth the sacredness of humanity.
Will you join me in owning the exquisite gift of the muddy swamp, and rise from it to the heights of our Divine Beauty?
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