In Buddhism there exists a beautiful parable of alchemy. The lotus and the mud. The story is a symbol of how our wounds, our shadows – the things that we are certain rob us of our authenticity — are the very catalysts for the remembrance of our really real self. The power is in the mud.
The Lotus Meditation
If you’ve spent even a little time on the meditation cushion you’ve most likely heard the story or performed the lotus meditation. The lotus plant roots into the mud at the water’s bottom, that murky, furtive, fecund place. And fed from that connection, the lotus thrusts a stem upward, a flower bud at the tip, reaching toward the sun. From the muddiness a beautiful pink or white flower grows. The mud gives the gift of life to the plant.
The power is in the mud.
To Buddhists, the lotus is a sacred symbol. This story represents the overcoming of difficulties, suffering and defilements (translation: those things that obscure our really real, like anger, jealousy, etc.). Like the lotus, you, too, can transform the gifts of the mud into a gorgeous flower of a life.
The power is in the mud.
Wriggling in the dark
A wound is where you have suffered some challenge, ordeal or hardship in your life. The shadow is the unowned pieces of our self, the parts that we relegate to the basement of our consciousness, hiding them from others, and often from ourselves.
Our wounds and shadows are like mud for the lotus. We can transform these “gifts” into a really real life.
For many of us, instead of seeing these as the rich substance from which something beautiful can grow, we tend to run away, close our eyes, tell ourselves stories or numb out, so that the alchemy that can come with the awareness and understanding of our wounds and shadows becomes nearly impossible.
Many of us wriggle in the mud for an entire lifetime, wanting so badly the flowering of an authentic life, but unable to transform through the power of the mud.
The gifts of transformation
Anne Lamott refers to the mind as a kind of scary neighborhood, a place to avoid going into alone. The darkness of our wounds and shadows – the mud – can feel like a bad neighborhood. And so we stay out. But that’s how we can miss the gifts.
You must look. You have to go in.
When you use the mud for transformative healing, you can see the gifts in the mud of your life. Through the awareness, understanding and healing that occurs around a wound or a shadow, wisdom is gained, gifts are developed, and purpose is revealed.
An aspect of your authentic self can spring forth. Like a lotus flower.
Your authentic self is your really real, laying in potentiality for you to remember the truth of who you are. Your true voice, your power, your really real aren’t things to be acquired – they are your birthright, to be remembered.
Thrust a stem down into the fecund darkness and upward toward your really real. The power is in the mud.