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Being the Lotus

Blooming in muddy waters

Over the past several years, I’ve taken up the practice of meditation. As someone who has been wired to be more anxious, it has served as a great means for becoming still and quieting my mind. I began following the meditation series Deepak Chopra and Oprah Winfrey collaborate on. Their 21 day meditation challenges, which have focused on everything from Miraculous Relationships, Perfect Health, and Getting Unstuck, have all helped me to hone this practice gradually over time and to develop some really great tools: becoming more mindful, compassionate, kind, and intentional. I love these challenges and look forward to them every time.

The nature-inspired photos, the mantras, and the serene background music all come together to create a really beautiful and transformational experience. One of their recent images was that of a lotus. The mantra was: May I live like the lotus- at ease in the muddy water. The lotus, as it was explained, grows from a small seed in still and stagnant waters. It grows through the muck to blossom into the lotus. I love studying nature in general when it comes to living more mindfully; nature has a lot to teach us when it comes to living. The example of the lotus is a perfect metaphor, and it has often been referenced when imparting wisdom on how to deal with life’s struggles.

There is a wonderful quote on the lotus from Goldie Hawn’s book entitled, “A Lotus Grows in the Mud”. It goes as follows: The Lotus is the most beautiful flower, whose petals open one by one. But it will only grow in the mud. In order to grow and gain wisdom, first you must have the mud- the obstacles of life and its suffering. The mud speaks of the common ground that humans share, no matter what our stations in life. Whether we have it all or we have nothing, we are all faced with the same obstacles: sadness, loss, illness, dying, and death. If we are to strive as human beings to gain more wisdom, more kindness, and more compassion, we must have the intention to grow as a lotus and open each petal one by one.

We can not blossom into our highest, most actualized selves without the trials and tribulations that life brings. These experiences are a part of our growth process, and to deny these experiences would be to deny our growth and the beauty that comes with that. We often tend to focus our attention on the negative aspects of this growth process- on the mud- while neglecting to see the beauty that grows as a result of these difficulties. Our obstacles help to give life to some of our most valued qualities: compassion, empathy, kindness, and wisdom. 

Instead of judging these stages of our growth process, let us attempt to see them from a place of mindfulness. What might our life experiences be trying to teach us? How can we find the meaning underneath the suffering? How can we see these experiences differently? If we can find our place of stillness and calm and become less reactive, the answers will come to us in time. If we ask the right questions, the answers are sure to follow. As Lao Tzu says, “To the mind that is still, the whole universe surrenders”. Let us be still like the Lotus amidst the muddy waters of our lives. 

And, when looking at the lotus flower, may we be mindful that although growth may be difficult and anything but pretty, it leads us to a new, magnificent version of ourselves. May we rise from the muddy, dark waters of our lives like the lotus to reach the surface where the light is and where spiritual enlightenment and wisdom will meet us. 

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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.

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