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No Mud, No Lotus

Updated: Mar 9




A few years ago, I was going for a walk in Booth Bay Harbor, Maine and I stumbled upon a big pond covered with beautiful lotus flowers.  I could not believe the beauty in front of me, I was in awe for several minutes and feeling deep gratitude for this experience.  The pond itself was dark, muddy, and murky, how could it produce such beauty?


The truth is that out of dark and murky waters beauty can emerge in nature and the same is true in our emotional lives.  For many people out of darkness and suffering, light and healing emerges to help them create something beautiful.  I was able to experience this in my own life.  My suffering and misery led me to create a life of purpose that has brought me exquisite rewards.


In Thich Nhat Hanh’s book, No Mud, No Lotus he has a quote that says: “Most people are afraid of suffering.  But Suffering is a kind of mud to help the lotus flower of happiness grow.  There can be no lotus flower without mud.”  Throughout the years Thich Nhat Hanh’s work has touched me deeply.  It has helped me embrace joy and suffering.  I am learning not to grasp to the reality of the moment and to deeply understand that everything is impermanent.


Thich Nhat Hanh teaches us that when we are suffering, hurting, afraid or sad, we don’t have to wait for it to go away so we can be happy.  Happiness is available to us right here and now by noticing the present moment through our senses and through our breath.  In the midst of our suffering, we may choose to notice a beautiful sunset, flowers in the summer garden, the smell of the ocean, the sound a child’s laughter, the beauty of a summer night sky, or the taste of a delicious watermelon.  Even if that is not in front us when we are suffering, most of us have had those experiences and we can recall the memories of it. To our mind it’s all the same, current experience or memories from the past, and that can bring us inner calm and peace.


It’s important to remember that everything is impermanent, nothing stays; just like the day changes into the night, and learning not to grasp to our suffering, or to our joy, can be liberating.  Do not hold on to suffering by believing that it will last forever, because it doesn’t.  As important, do not cling to joy and happiness because it doesn’t last.  However, enjoy happiness while it is in your life without worrying when it will end.

Embracing this concept can be liberating emotionally and psychologically.  Please remember that joy and happiness is always inside you, and you have easy access to it 24/7.  I would like to share with you one of my favorite mantras by Thich Nhat Hahn to anchor you to the present moment and to awaken joy in your heart: “Breathing in, I know I am breathing in.  Breathing out I smile.”

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