My art journal this week has focused on the lotus as a metaphor for pain and suffering followed by regeneration and happiness. This is one of the many lessons we can learn by observing the natural world.
“NO MUD, NO LOTUS Both suffering and happiness are of an organic nature, which means they are both transitory; they are always changing. The flower, when it wilts, becomes the compost. … Happiness is also organic and impermanent by nature. It can become suffering and suffering can become happiness again.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
No Mud, No Lotus The Art of Transforming Suffering is a book authored by a Vietnamese Buddhist monk named Thich Nhat Hanh. I was attracted to this title because long ago I accepted the idea that growth only comes when we are on the edges of or well past our comfort zone. As a young student from a rural homogeneous hometown, I found the adapting to a diverse college in an urban setting to be difficult. I did consider going home, but luckily I stuck it out and as a result, my world grew. I gained an education and a perspective with lifelong benefits. Changing ourselves can be an uncomfortable process wether, it is adapting to a new place, learning an instrument, practicing math, or developing an athletic ability. If we persist through the discomfort and temporary failures we often find we are better off on the other side. By facing the temporary discomfort rather than avoiding it we strengthen ourselves.
No Mud, No Lotus‘ premise take this idea father by applying it to tragedy and hardship. All humans must face difficulty and loss in our lives. I am lucky in that my share has been mild and I live the comfortable lifestyle of a middle-class westerner. But, we can all learn from what we find difficult, stressful, even tragic. The analogy of the lotus can teach us how. The lotus rises from the muddy bottom of dark pools. Much of its existence is spent in darkness but it will eventually rise out of the mud to bloom. Eventually, the flower will wilt and return to the mud. Such is life a cycle of happiness and sorrow. But, if we face and embrace the pain we are better able to appreciate what is good in life. Additionally, we learn compassion from our pain. That we may have empathy and offer support to others in their moments of darkness. We can offer a path for those lost in the mud of life.
We can embrace pain via stopping to think (aka mindfulness), breathing exercises, and focusing on what is really happening in that moment. Mental pain and physical pain are very similar. Scientific research has even found that the pain of a breakup is chemically similar in our brains to the pain of a broken leg! But, the pain of a physical wound will dissipate as we heal and so do also wounds of the heart.
Happy Art Journey,