Within the realm of mindfulness, the flowering, aquatic lotus is widely understood as a symbol of strength and enlightenment, and as a metaphor for growth and transcendence.
I wasn’t really aware of the associated meanings until I became interested in Buddhism about four years ago.
It wasn't only my desire to explore meditative practices that prompted my interest, but also my goal to cultivate my emotional strength, which a severe family circumstance had weakened.
During my explorations, I came across a variety of writing in the form of prayers, prose, journals and distinguished texts, each source evoking a similar understanding of the symbolism associated with this flower.
To this day, the story of the lotus is one of most significant manifestations of written work I have ever read.
The following poem is an accurate and somewhat condensed form of the story:
"The lotus has its roots in the mud, Grows up through the deep water, And rises to the surface. It blooms into perfect beauty and purity in the sunlight. It is like the mind unfolding to perfect joy and wisdom."
According to Buddhist studies and with respect to the lotus, the mud represents human suffering in the figurative and literal sense; the mud is dark and places sediment defilement on the plant life beneath it.
The power in this story relates to the flower’s ability to combat the developmental restraints of its murky surroundings and ultimately flourish beyond its surface.
The transformation of the lotus flower has really inspired me to strive for the same type of lifted movement in my personal life.
The word “lift” is a verbal representation of a rising movement, and this type of movement exemplifies the physicality of the plant as it develops in an upward fashion toward the sun.
I have related this understanding to life itself and the notion that humans are constantly learning and evolving — especially when faced with hardship. It's a concept I’m all too familiar with.
In April of 2008, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, and after four years of mixed diagnoses, treatments, scans and procedures, she lost her tenacious battle.
In the final months of her life, I was my mother’s primary caretaker, and endured significant emotional torment throughout her rapid deterioration.
During this period of time, I became acutely aware of my physical exhaustion and mental fatigue, and sought after tools to help strengthen my condition.
When I first read this story, I instantaneously recognized its content as an undeniable analogy of the human circumstance.
Just as the flower grows toward the surface, we also grow toward the fulfillment of individual potential while learning from experiences and overcoming affliction.
Without fail, this type of evolution metaphorically related to my personal desire to rise above the muddied, adverse familial environment that I felt submerged in.
The lotus flower is imbued with overwhelming meaning, so much so that I have had it inked on my skin.
Its permanent placement serves as a constant reminder to not only embrace the multitude of hardships I may face throughout my lifetime, but to rise above them as well.
I truly believe that every type of social, psychological and emotional encounter offers a unique growth opportunity, and I strive to challenge myself to learn something new every day.
Through mediation and inner reflection, I have been able to realize peace, strength and guidance.
Although a small portion of my heart may always feel somewhat vacant, the consistent pursuit of personal empowerment and progression gives me the best sense of feeling full.