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A Lotus Can’t Grow Without Mud

We always wish for our lives to be perfectly free of all suffering, but without adversity we would have no personal evolution. If we meet our suffering head on and see it as a wise teacher, our adversity can enrich us.

In Buddhism there is often mention of taking refuge in the Buddha. But what does this mean?

In our every day, usual way of living, we typically go for refuge, that is, seek comfort and solace from the stresses of life, in things that don’t ultimately serve us. Things like internet addiction, alcohol, television, Facebook, Twitter, things that turn us away from our problems but numbing us. Of course, using these things in moderation is fine, but that is not how the typical person is using them and they are not usually solving our problems. Instead, Buddhism asks us to seek refuge in Buddha.

This is not to say that we are asked to put our faith in Buddha in the sense that he or any other celestial being outside of us will solve all our problems. Buddhism teaches us that ultimately there is nothing outside of ourselves that is going to dissolve the difficulties of being. Taking refuge in the Buddha is to take refuge in his teachings. Knowing that suffering is unavoidable in this world a lotus can not grow without mud. The only way through our tribulations is to face them with consciousness and equanimity.

Furthermore, our inclination is to run from our suffering, constantly avoiding it, in favor of what we think will bring us happiness and peace. However, as I said previously, a lotus can not grow without mud, that is, suffering cultivates within us understanding and compassion. Without understanding and compassion, there can be no ultimate happiness. Superficial and fleeting happiness, yes, but it can not bring us true, lasting happiness.

We can use our sufferings as indicators to seek the Buddha within us for comfort. One way to access this Buddha within us, anytime and anywhere, is through our breathing. Breathing is a way to be present, mindful, and focused. It reconnects us to our bodies, which we all too often are unconscious of and take for granted. It centers us in the present moment. It is a doorway to awakening. It helps us to maintain full attention and to see the true nature of reality. When breathing it can be helpful to remind yourself, “I know that I am breathing in. Breathing out, I know that I am breathing out.” This is about uniting the body and the mind in order to create harmony within our entire field of being. The breath is used to evoke feelings of joy and happiness and the awareness of the mind formations calms our inner turbulence. 

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

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