beauty from mud

The Lotus Flower: Beauty from Mud

“There is the mud, and there is the lotus that grows out of the mud. We need the mud in order to make the lotus.”

Thich Nhat Hanh

“The lotus blooms most beautifully from the deepest and thickest mud.”

Buddhist Proverb

Hello! Welcome back! Here is another article. I hope you enjoy it!

“I feel like I’m stuck in the mud! “

How often have you said something like this to yourself when it feels almost impossible to continue with a project, promise, or proposal?

That experience of being stuck in some sludge makes it hard to move forward. You want to clear away something that’s holding you back. You could even start to blame yourself because you’re not getting anywhere.

Today let’s look at that experience from a different perspective. 

To do this, we will consider a beautiful flower that, in many cultures, signifies spiritual attainment. It’s the lotus.

The lotus plant thrives in muddy conditions. It’s found across India, east Africa, Southeast Asia, and Australia. It roots itself in the mud, and its lengthy stems reach upward to find the top of the water. That’s where the lotus blooms and the blossoms unfold. This day-blooming plant then submerges back into the murky water at night, reappearing every morning.

The lotus appears in sacred texts and spiritual imagery from ancient Egypt to early Buddhist and Hindu texts, where it symbolizes the Divine. 

While traveling in Egypt last month, I saw numerous paintings along the walls of 7000-year-old tombs of people holding a lotus flower. It was everywhere.

The lotus generally symbolizes purity, rebirth, transcendence, and strength. Purity comes from the pristine nature of the blossoms, while rebirth, transcendence, and strength are represented by the flower’s return from the dark, muddy underworld into the light each day.

Let’s look back on the phrase about being stuck in the mud. It’s not a stretch of the imagination at this point to consider that maybe what we believe to be the “mud” of life is something that is there to nourish us.

Taking this a bit further, what have you considered to be like “mud” for you? In other words, look at the situations or circumstances that have “bogged” you down over the past few months. You may see them as obstacles, keeping you from pursuing an idea, dream, or goal.

Carol: I opened a coaching and consultant business four weeks ago. I told this to friends and also some colleagues with whom I’ve worked.  As a result, I received two solid leads. The first one, a new software development group, was eager to hire me to work with their leadership team. I thought it was a sure deal.  I even shared a sample contract with them. They were excited! So was I. Yesterday I got a call from their CEO. The startup money they thought was a sure thing has been cut in half. As a result, they don’t have the funds right now to hire me. I feel terrible! It was a minor contract but a definite beginning! 

I’m afraid to call that second lead. I don’t trust myself to give an excellent presentation to the second group. Maybe I did something wrong, and this first group is trying to let me down easily by giving me an insincere reason not to hire me.

Consider the following questions:

  1. Did Carol do something wrong? A healthy examination of the process could help her see that all is well. She can trust what happened. They’re not trying to fool her.
  2. If she were to consider the lotus’ journey, in which the “mud” is nurturing, helping it blossom, how might she apply that story to the “sludge” she’s currently experiencing? 
  3. What can she learn from this situation that might make her interview with the second group even more successful?

Taking this into your life, what would it be like to discover that whatever conditions have seemed to slow your progress, making you feel that you’ve been walking through mud, are the circumstances that could empower you?

In past articles, I’ve talked about the magnificent power of our brain to give us evidence to support what we’re focusing on. For example, if we’re dedicated to finding something for which to be grateful every day, our brain is designed to give us evidence to validate that focus. It was part of the brain’s operating system when we lived in prehistoric times. If we could look for evidence of danger before leaving the cave to search for food, we would have a better chance of surviving than those whose brains looked for evidence of food before a threat.

That function is still with us: your brain will give you evidence of whatever you focus upon.  Therefore, considering something to be the “mud” in your life might give you worries similar to what Carol experienced. 

However, what if you looked at a problematic situation and looked for the empowering lesson it reflects? For Carol, it could be:

a. I saw that it’s best practice to go for more than one opportunity at a time. That way, if one doesn’t pan out (like panning for gold), I immediately have more options.

b. Instead of looking for what went wrong, what if I considered what went right with that first possible client and then built on what I would like to see more of in my future strategies?

In closing, take any situation, and ask what the empowering lesson is. Try it with something relatively small at the beginning. Our brains often need more practice looking for what went wrong. Psychologists call it the Negativity Bias. 

Consider this as the truth about you: you are a lotus! You can see how to thrive from just about anything. No matter how  “muddy” or murky it is. That’s just what is true about you! In your heart lies the wisdom to flourish.

Lotus Poem

Be well,

Dr. Maria Nemeth signature

“Be like the lotus: trust in the light, grow through the mud, believe in new beginnings.”

Anonymous quote

  • Robert (Bob) L. Litchfield, Jr.
    Posted at 00:17h, 01 April Reply

    Beautiful thought. Thank you. Today was a muddy day for me. But there were also significant lotus blossoms. For as long as you can still create the blossoms in other people’s lives, life is good.

  • Amy Gorbey
    Posted at 12:39h, 04 April Reply

    Reading this was a gift that I needed today. Thank you, Maria. 🪷

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