One of my teachers is Thich Nhat Hanh. I know I have to move through the challenges in life, yet those challenges bring me the gift of inner strength. I find that strength when I meditate on words such has Thich Nhat Hanh’s. I would like to share with you some wisdom from his book, No Mud, No Lotus.
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 the mud.
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. The compost can help grow a flower again. Happiness is also organic and impermanent by nature. It can become suffering and suffering can become happiness again.
If you look deeply into a flower, you see that a flower is made only of nonflower elements. In that flower there is a cloud. Of course we know a cloud isn’t a flower, but without a cloud, a flower can’t be. If there’s no cloud, there’s no rain, and no flower can grow. You don’t have to be a dreamer to see a cloud floating in a flower. It’s really there. Sunlight is also there. Sunlight isn’t flower, but without sunlight no flower is possible.
If we continue to look deeply into the flower, we see many other things, like the earth and the minerals. Without them a flower cannot be. So it’s a fact that a flower is made only of nonflower elements. A flower can’t be by herself alone. A flower can only inter-be with everything else. You can’t remove the sunlight, the soil, or the cloud from the flower.
In each of our Plum Village practice centers around the world, we have a lotus pond. Everyone knows we need to have mud for lotuses to grow. The mud doesn’t smell so good, but the lotus flower smells very good. If you don’t have mud, the lotus won’t manifest. You can’t grow lotus flowers on marble. Without mud, there can be no lotus.
It is possible of course to get stuck in the “mud” of life. It’s easy enough to notice mud all over you at times. The hardest thing to practice is not allowing yourself to be overwhelmed by despair. When you’re overwhelmed by despair, all you can see is suffering everywhere you look. You feel as if the worst thing is happening to you. But we must remember that suffering is a kind of mud that we need in order to generate joy and happiness. Without suffering, there’s no happiness. So we shouldn’t discriminate against the mud. We have to learn how to embrace and cradle our own suffering and the suffering of the world, with a lot of tenderness.
This 1000 Petal Lotus Meditation is more of a contemplation and can be an active mental activity. It is unique, yet an insightful practice. Let the words and images be as they may.