The new moon in June is known in some cultures as “The Lotus Moon,” a powerful metaphor for nurturing beauty and positivity in our lives and ourselves. The lotus roots in mud and, out of the murky water, produces a most beautiful flower. The symbol of the lotus assures us that a person can rise above being rooted in the messiness, suffering, and “imperfection” of the world.
Indeed, in our culture, it is common to strive for an elusive ideal of perfection. As long as we perceive our lives as less than “perfect,” we are unable to be truly content. The problem is that nothing is really “perfect,” and as long as we hold onto the illusion of perfection, we remain in a vicious cycle of frustration and despair. As Nathaniel Hawthorne alluded in his short story, “The Birthmark,” the irony is that this perceived imperfection is actually what makes the world perfect. Sometimes we need that very messiness, so as to flower and reach our fullest potential.
Instead of focusing our energies on trying to achieve the impossible state of “perfection,” we might be better off realizing that beauty can be found in unexpected places. Rather than focusing on what makes something and someone less than perfect, let us search for what makes them beautiful. In other words, don’t just look at the muddy water; instead, appreciate the exquisite lotus that grows out of it.
Sometimes the bad habit of looking at the negative or ugly things in life becomes so ingrained that we forget to look at the beauty. As a result, we complain that things are just not good enough. Frequently, this complaining is an expression of frustration with life’s obstacles. When we complain about our bosses, friends, income, or the status quo, we may feel exasperated. I frequently hear people say, “Life is not fair.”
Complaints are often the result of failing to recognize that we have more choices than we are willing to consider. Perhaps the biggest obstacle on our path is our tendency to feel victimized or deficient in some way, when hit by difficult circumstances. We put so much energy into maintaining the victimized/deficient mindset that we lose sight of the alternatives, often staring us right in the face. It’s like looking only at the mud and failing to see the beautiful lotus growing out of it.
Every day, we see examples of people who are impoverished in some manner but who seem content and who manage to live a life filled with beauty. We also see examples of people who wallow in their condition and succumb to negative circumstances, despite other options available to them. While we may not be able to control all of what life throws our way, we do have the choice of where to focus our attention, in order to filter and shape our reality. Of course, there are exceptions, such as in the case of certain mental illnesses that compromise the power of the mind. For the most part, however, we can avoid, transcend, or transform life’s impediments. Sadly, we do not always do so.
To make a shift and begin to change our habits, we need to understand the power we have and to face our reality with this power in mind. Despite what others have told us or what we even have told ourselves in the past, there is reason for optimism here. Acting on our power does, of course, require courage – in particular, honest and deep self-reflection: We need to look in the “mirror” of our lives, accept our realities, and search for opportunities to express the deeper truths of who we are. We then need to make the effort to find a new path toward greater alignment. As daunting as this effort may sound, however, it does not have to get too complicated at first. In fact, that is thrust of my message here: Begin simply. The key is to create some additional space, the potential for a new reality. In this space, you can build yourself up, one step at a time.
For example, start by getting outside into nature, in whatever tiny ways are accessible to you. If you are able-bodied, and if nature is within your reach, go for a run on the beach or a hike in the forest. If you have difficulty walking, ask someone to push you through a park in a wheelchair, or use a walker to access and sit in your backyard. If you are bedridden, ask for help positioning your bed near a window and opening it a crack, then make a habit of looking outside it regularly. If you are in a dense urban area, bring nature into your home, through potted flowers, herbs, and green foliage.
However you access nature, be sure to soak in the fragrance of flowers, songs of birds, peaceful sound of wind rustling through the trees, or whatever calls to you. Do not assume you are handcuffed because there are numerous barriers in your way. Follow the example of others who have also been in challenging situations, yet who have managed to find balance, happiness, and peace nonetheless.
Crises offer us golden moments for growth and development. Sometimes they are the mud that brings sustenance to a beautiful flower.