Wednesday, March 25, 2015

No Mud, No Lotus

Lakshmi is still with us at Shree, this week visiting as Kamala which means “lotus dweller”, and she is closely associated with this resplendent flower which she is often depicted sitting in.  The image of the lotus is one of the most powerful in Tantric and Buddhist philosophy.  The lotus flower is unique in that it blossoms in murky swamps and ponds.  It rises from the muck at the bottom which it roots itself into, then emerges into the muddy water as a bud, reaching upwards through the sludge towards the light at the surface.   When it surfaces and hits air, the bud opens and reveals a beautiful, pure blossom, untouched by all the muddiness it had to travel through to get there.

I shared in my classes this week that my 2 older children are in the “no fair!” phase of life.  It seems to be their response to just about everything I say.  My response is always, “Well, you’re right.  But I’m not sure who told you it was going to be fair.”  Life is not fair.  It’s often challenging and mucky and muddy.  But the story of the lotus tells us that we don’t have to stay there. 

I had a conversation this week with a friend who brought to light some issues I have been avoiding dealing with for a while, and it forced me to have to look at them.   It definitely brought me down into the muck.  And yet, after the initial hurting wore off, I realized that facing my shadow side is what will move me forward.  I’ve been avoiding the muck and ironically that’s what got me stuck deeper in it.  Now that I can acknowledge that I am there I can make a plan to get out of it.  That’s when transformation happens.

Tantra is non-dual system of yoga and life practice.  Meaning that what we are made of, the very essence of who we are, is the same “stuff” that everything in the entire universe is made of, and that “stuff” is nothing other than God*.  There is just one endless cycle and it runs through the entire universe, that which we can see and that which we cannot.  So what does that mean in practical terms?  That whatever the form, the substance is divine.  As the song says, God is in the roses and the thorns, the mud and the lotus.  At the sub-molecular level it all looks the same.  From the perspective of the Absolute this is obvious.  From the human perspective, not always so easy.

It’s been a challenging week for me.   As I sit and write I am making plans to attend the funeral tomorrow for the 24-year old stepson of a mentor, friend and colleague who finally lost his years long, epic battle with cancer.  So incredibly not fair.  It is often so hard to see the good and the beauty.  And yet I know that it’s always my choice. Whether it’s a challenging phone call or a funeral we can always seek the light, in whatever teeny, tiny crack it might be coming through.   It may be that it’s not coming through at all, and we just have to remember it is there and we will find it again.

All this is not to say we seek out negative, challenging experiences, quite the opposite.  What it means is that we accept all aspects of our lives, including those which are muddy, inconvenient, uncomfortable, and unhappy as part of the whole, and yet always seek the light and the ways we can blossom anyway.  As Sally Kempton says: “(May we) root ourselves in life’s muddy soil and use its fertility as compost to blossom the soul.” 

*(Yes, the G word has appeared again!  I try to avoid this word, but it’s really just a word.  The creative force behind all of creation has other names too – energy, source, absolute consciousness, love, the universe – but it’s just semantics.  I am sticking with the G word for now; I hope it doesn’t offend anyone.  If it does, please email or call me so we can chat more about it!).  
Off the Mat:
Make this poem by Erica Leibrandt your mantra this week:

No Mud, No Lotus
No mud, no lotus.
No noise, no silence.
No silence, no song.
No bitter, no sweet.
No low, no high.
No old, no young.
No weak, no strong.
No ugly, no beautiful.
No broken, no whole.
No black, no white.
No white, no color.
No missing, no found.
No fall, no rise.
No work, no play.
No death, no birth.
No mud, no lotus.

On the Mat:
In my classes this week we worked with hip openers, towards variations of what else but padmasana, lotus pose.  We worked to externally rotate (or outer spiral in Anusara-speak) the bent knee leg (or legs), which causes the sitting bone of that leg to lengthen downwards (rooting into the muck) and “scoop” forwards towards the top of the thigh bone, allowing the knee to widen out and move towards the back plane of the body, and the front of the hip to blossom open. 

For the Anusara junkies:
Open To Grace:
Take a breath and fill up with wholehearted acceptance of your whole life, every blessing and every challenge, and know that it is all the same continuum.

Muscular Energy:
Firm your muscles and affirm with radical acceptance the muck and the blossom, the thorn and the rose.

Inner Spiral:
Widen the inner thighs back and apart to widen your perspective.
Open up a space in the hips by widening the inner thighs to let some light into the dark, muddy places.

Outer Spiral:
Scoop your (front leg or bent knee) sit-bone down and anchor yourself in the muck of life with radical acceptance.
Scoop your (front leg or bent knee) sit-bone down, rooting yourself into the swampy mire knowing that seed will blossom someday.

Organic Energy:
Rise from the mud and flourish