“No mud, no lotus.”
Growing the lotus is the art of knowing how to suffer well. “Mud” is the necessary suffering that life brings us in our human experience.
Thich Nhat Hanh, (in book of this title) tells us how important it is to meet each difficulty even though they look dark and muddy, not clear and beautiful as we might like life to be.
Yes, it is this very “mud” that grows the beauty of our authentic nature.
By working with this mud—the hard challenges—our pure radiant mind, our true Essence, begins to shine forth.
It takes seemingly unending patience to sit with the difficulties, rather than trying to fix them as soon as possible, or running from them, or pretending they aren’t there.
As Thich Nhat Hanh tells us, “Suffering is a kind of mud to help the lotus flower of happiness grow.”
I remind myself often that the derivation of the word suffer comes from the root “allow.” (Webster)
To learn the art of suffering we learn the art of allowing.
We allow ourselves to engage with the difficulties in our lives, to welcome the present moment regardless of whether we find it pleasant or unpleasant, because staying present leads to wisdom.
We embrace the difficulties so that we can understand their underlying beliefs, and see them for what they are—just beliefs, the conditioning we have received through our evolutionary process.
Fear, anger, prejudice, jealousy, and hurt are visitors to our mind. They are not meant to stay, just guests, as Rumi has so aptly described in his poem, The Guest House.
By consciously inviting them in, getting to know them, we allow ourselves to see the tangled roots of these beliefs.
Our awareness gradually untangles them and we experience joy, for we see that these beliefs have been based on false premises.
Take fear. As we breathe and look closely at fear, we ask, “What is it we think might happen?” “What are we afraid of?”
Fear is a habitual belief that something awful is going to take place and that we have no control over it.
So we ask, “If this “awful” thing we don’t want to happen did take place, what would be the result?”
And following this thread we ask “What would happen next?” And breathe, and watch closely.
The art of allowing requires that we don’t jump into the story within this belief, but stay with the emotion. Breathing consciously.
Habits don’t like to be watched for the light destroys them. They can’t act where there is consciousness—light.
So habits deflect us by directing us right into the story instead of inquiring where this belief came from and what it actually consists of.
Fear will try its best to throw us off the scent that sustains this habit—its root system. What is this fear rooted in?
“I don’t have to know the future. I just need to stop making up stories about it,” was a comment I heard that really struck a chord.
How many stories do we make up daily? Hourly?
We discover we have been scaring ourselves.
Instead of resisting or running away and trying to hide, we sit with the fear, looking deeply into the tangled formations of beliefs.
As we courageously look fear in the face we find it morphs into something quite different. It eventually takes on a non-threatening nature and we breathe easier and feel lighter.
And we didn’t have to fix anything. Our awareness, sitting with the torment, questioning and deeply looking into the underlying belief developed the wisdom that did the work.
“It’s better to sweat in peace than bleed in war.”
Deeply questioning and patiently sitting with these questions is learning the art of suffering well.
“If we take care of the suffering inside us, we have more clarity, energy and strength to help address the suffering violence, poverty and inequity of our loved ones as well as the suffering in our community and the world.
If, however, we are preoccupied with the fear and despair in us, we can’t help remove the suffering of others.”
Thich Nhat Hanh
These old patterns untangle under the light of awareness and dissolve on their own. Darkness cannot stand the light. It disappears as soon as the light is turned on.
For the truth of our Being is pure radiance that can never be lost or destroyed.
We are this beautiful lotus.