No Mud, No Lotus

"Sacred lotus Nelumbo nucifera" by T.Voekler - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

I had an experience a few years ago that psychologists call a “peak experience,” where my perspective radically shifted.  I was doing the thing where you feel sorry for yourself for having to get up and be at work every day, and I was fantasizing about having all the money I needed, so I didn’t have to do anything I didn’t want to.  It occurred to me that this wouldn’t be a good thing at all.  I suddenly realized how much of the good in my life came not in spite of the hard stuff, but because of it.  And how much of that hard stuff was the good stuff – that was the real epiphany.

Working a difficult job that I was barely qualified for, for instance, required me to learn new skills.  The huge mistakes I’ve made have taught me new lessons, and made me more compassionate to others in similar circumstances.  Raising children has been among the most challenging and rewarding things I’ve done.

Thich Nhat Hanh, a Zen Buddhist teacher, has a favorite saying: “No mud, no lotus.”  He goes into detail here:

“It’s like growing lotus flowers. You cannot grow lotus flowers on marble. You have to grow them in mud. Without mud, you cannot have a lotus flower. Without suffering, you have no ways in order to learn how to be understanding and compassionate. That’s why my definition of the kingdom of God is not a place where suffering is not, where there is no suffering .. I would not like to go to a place where there is no suffering. I would not like to send my children to a place where there is no suffering, because, in such a place, they have no way to learn how to be understanding and compassionate.”

(From Brother Thay, A Radio Pilgrimage, June 4, 2009.)

Instead of fearing and retreating from the hard parts of life, now I try to embrace and appreciate them.


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