Updated: Feb 19, 2022
You know that feeling when you're playing Candy Land and you're just about to make it to the Candy Castle? Riding high, nothing can stop you now with that Queen Frostine energy.
But suddenly, BOOM, you draw a red card and get stuck in Gloppy's Molasses Swamp!! Oh the suffering!
That was me in 2017. I was in Gloppy's Molasses Swamp, and the worst part was, I didn't even draw a red card. I had NO IDEA where my sadness was coming from. Up until then, I was Princess Lolly, then Queen Frostine, and in my mind, I'd live out that energy until it was time to be the happy old Gramma Nut.
This was around the time that I began practicing yoga in a serious way. As I've mentioned in other blog posts (linked below), yoga was an incredible outlet and way for me to figure out my Molasses Swamp.
It is at this time that I learned the story of the lotus flower.
The lotus flower is native to Asia and Australia. Since ancient times, cultures have honored this flower as sacred. In Egypt, the lotus flower represents the universe. In Hinduism, gods & goddesses are depicted on lotus thrones. In yoga & in Buddhism, it is a symbol of enlightenment (one with yourself and the world).
What makes this flower so special? The lotus flower grows in muddy water (ponds or water gardens). You might look at a murky pond and say “no way anything beautiful can happen here” - but out of the murk comes this gorgeous, colorful, symmetrical flower. It is able to become something beautiful despite the conditions. To me, stuck in a Molasses Swamp back in 2017, this flower was everything.
One day while poking around the Personal Development aisle in the bookstore, something caught my eye. It was a book titled “No Mud, No Lotus”, written by the Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh (prouncounced Tik- Nat- Haang).
Swoon!! I picked it up. I breezed through it a bit. I put it back.
I wasn’t ready for it yet.
But I did snap a picture of the cover. I made it the background of my phone. It brought me comfort. It told me - beautiful things can still come from mud. YOU DON'T EVEN NEED TO LEAVE THE MUD TO CREATE BEAUTIFUL THINGS.
4 years later…I am ready for this book.
Within a few minutes of starting it, I could feel a total weight lifted from me. The lift felt like this: “I am in the right place. I am doing the right things. I can go easier on myself. I can go easier on others.”
I will share some key takeaways below, and will be working so much of this book into our yoga and wellness classes!
Key Takeaways from No Mud, No Lotus:
Suffering is necessary.
Suffering is undergoing pain, distress, or hardship. The word suffering comes from a Latin word that directly translates as “to bear from below.” How fitting is that? When we feel pain, we feel it deep in our bodies.
I know suffering feels like an intense word. But I want you to think of it like this:
Suffering is a sliding scale of hurting. It can be anywhere from 2 - 10 on the scale above. Because we are human with a body and mind, we feel pain; we suffer. Suffering is necessary, because without suffering, we would not know happiness. Without mud, there can be no lotus.
We don’t know how to suffer.
Here’s our big 21st century problem - we don’t know how to suffer! We're all running around like crazy trying to avoid suffering. We're running to screens, substances, gadgets, etc. to ignore and avoid our suffering (like me right now - fighting the urge to turn the TV on as a slight distraction from writing and editing).
These things we're doing to avoid suffering will work for a period of time. But what we really need to do is address the suffering “from below.” In traditional American households and schools, however, we're not taught how to suffer. This makes it difficult to slug through the hard work.
This is how to suffer:
1. Recognize it
Don't run from your suffering; admit that it exists -"These pains you feel are messengers, listen to them." -Rumi
2. Don't sweat the "small" stuff
There is real suffering, and there is suffering that we create for ourselves. Identify your suffering wisely. "Choose" your suffering wisely.
3. Embrace it
Love 'yoself through it!
4. Understand it's deeper than just you
Much of our suffering is passed down from our ancestors. Much of our suffering is passed on from society.
This is how to find happiness:
We find happiness within mindfulness. Mindfulness has become a huge buzz word in recent years, so what is it really? According to Thich Nhat Hanh, "Mindfulness is recognizing what is there in the present moment. Suffering is there, yes; but what is also there is that you are still alive." He continues on to give his readers some specific recipes for happiness:
1. Let go
Release your desire to have, or keep things
Let things come; let them go
2. Nurture positive seeds
Focus on the good; don't feed your suffering
3. Find mindfulness-based joy
Focus on the wonders of life, like simply breathing in and out
Stay in the present moment, as I say in class - "that is where your power is"
5. Use your Insight
Follow your gut to make the right decisions
Being together helps.
Community is an essential support in our suffering. Ding, ding, ding!!! Journey Forward Yoga!! That's what we've been doing together for over a year!!
I know it's not just me. I have heard it from so many of you - this is a mindful and supportive community. It is that way because we are focused on moving forward and being better. The students are the teachers, and the teachers are the students, and the pets are also involved in this beautiful circle. Together, our collective energy fights the negative seeds in our minds, and the toxic environments that may surround us elsewhere.
Mic drop 🎤
We can draw inspiration from the lotus flower as we tackle our suffering. Beautiful things come from mud. Mr. Gloppy's Molasses Swamp even has its perks.
If you want more, the book is a quick read with a wealth of knowledge within!! You can also come to class and experience all of this for yourself. Anyone is welcome, anytime (& it's virtual so, literally)
Namaste, in light love & respect -
p.s. if you enjoyed this blog, here are some similar ones:
Steps I took to move out of the Molasses Swamp:
Yoga's role in my recovery/development of JFY: