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Climbing through the murk and mud to bloom

March 25, 2014

The lotus flower is a beautiful symbol of rising above the surface despite adversity. In Buddhism this flower holds multiple meanings. It grows in muddy water, and it is this setting that gives the flower’s first and most literal meaning: “rising and blooming above the murk to achieve enlightenment.”

The second meaning is purification. It resembles the purifying of the spirit, which is born from murkiness. The third meaning refers to faithfulness. Those who are working to rise above the muddy waters will need to be faithful followers.

At nightfall the lotus closes and goes beneath the water and at dawn it climbs up above the water and reopens. It emerges in pure white, bright pink or beautiful purple splendor, from the depths of the muddy swamp and vibrantly glows and powerfully grows above the water. The force of this is possible because the lotus attaches itself to rhizome (horizontal thick plant stems that grow below the muddy floor). It may only reach 49” in height however reaches out more than 10 feet horizontally. This, oh so symbolic, flower can revive after a long period of dormancy.

 

My dear friend, have you reached the surface and opened to feel the sun and fresh air, or are you still struggling your way through the mud and murk?

 

The first three months of this year have been the most physically and emotionally challenging of the past decade of my life. Nine years ago, when I cleared my way through the challenges of a divorce, tending to my dying father and seeing him off to where I hope to someday meet him, I naively thought that dedicating myself to helping others would excuse me from challenges that would near to match those most difficult chapters. And than God, the potter, says: “I’m not finished yet.”

 

I have too much to do to be laid up so I planned on 2 weeks being down. After 4 weeks passed I battled more than physical pain, I allowed myself to become entwined with the negative and depressive thoughts and attitude that causes one to curl up in the fetal position and avoid any and all contact with those who could bring me out. With the patience and compassion of my husband (who took 5 unpaid weeks off to walk me through this chapter, put up with me, and help me arrive where I am now; for which I will never be able to express adequate words of thanks and love), and the kindness of so many of my beautiful friends and family I was not allowed to lock into that fetal self-pity position for longer than a page at a time of this chapter of my life. As those weeks passed I see-sawed from welcoming the challenge of the current trial, knowing only by walking a similar path would I understand the struggles of the ill and homebound I visit (calmed only with the comfort, and guilt, of knowing it was temporary), to treading into the darkness of depression that so very many realize as an every day austere reality.

“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” ~ James 1:2-4

Now just a few days from being freed of the cumbersome and uncomfortable torso shell that I had to wear for 3 months, and being released to therapy as of today I proceed forward toward the “next chapter and rest of my story”. Even though today it was affirmed that the pain I am experiencing in the area of my new bionic “hardware” might remain due to my physique (ie. lack of cushion), though frustrated, I didn’t wallow on that setback because in the past week as I have been working my way back to the 15+ hour days of past, I have been blessed to cross paths, counsel, hug and assist (because of your offerings) friends who have it much worse. Often we need a dose of perspective to be persevering.

Only because of the generosity of the friends who continue to support Hope and Friendship by sending financial donations, and the many who offer gift cards, I was able to lift the downward gazing eyes of two single mothers who desperately needed your support to pay an un-payable bill during this very slow work month; provide gift cards to local food stores to help provide food for those who have hungry mouths that eat more than the given need based assistance allocates; and you put gas in the tank of three cars for friends who were riding on fumes, including one friend who had been evicted and needed to skipper her vehicle to the frightening unknown.

This friend is a 57-year-old single woman who has simply struggled for the past year and a half to find employment and fell behind in rent for the “last time”. She has been rolling around in the muck of hard times for awhile now, yet I witnessed her continually help others though she had nothing but compassion and concern to offer, with that she helped. Now in her need she called a few and no one could help her. The doors were all closed. I called Daybreak Center in Joliet, whom we delivered 150 sack lunches with “spirit” again this February (yes they remembered) and spoke to the manager asking if she could make room for my friend. She took the information and assured me she’d have a bed for her. I gave our friend a gas card to fuel up for her drive to this most unfortunate but welcome (as opposed to sleeping outdoors) “new temporary home”. We sat and talked, she cried, we hugged. She was so disheartened. I asked her if there were other times in her life that she had felt at the time that she wouldn’t get through. She went in to detail of some of the most utterly challenging and a few horrific real life examples. Then I put my hands on her shoulders and looked in her eyes and said “if I asked you at those times, if you thought you’d make it through, would you have answered yes?” She answered “No”.   I told her this was not the end and it was my prayer and hope that this was just the holding pattern before one of the greatest chapters of her life. I have not been able to get her out of my mind. To me it was no success to put her in the shelter, because I saw the fear in her eyes, and I know I would’ve been so distraught and depressed as well, but I also saw gratitude and a sliver of hope. How could she be grateful for being sent to a place of such unknown and drastic extremes from what she had 24 hours ago? How could she be so brave as she walked into the unknown? Because prior to this moment she could only see darkness, mud, muck and she had been drowning in that. It is only in the darkest moment that we can gratefully hold tight to the tiniest sliver of light of where we once walked, as hope of where we will emerge.

Why is it that so many have challenge after challenge and failure after failure, knocked to the mat over and over again? At each dead end and face plant into trial these friends have a choice and so very many of them choose to pull themselves up, reach toward the surface, and they succeed in opening up to the potential that they absolutely must, for survival, believe they have. If we didn’t trust things would get better, if I didn’t know that this pain and frustration was temporary, if we didn’t all have the faith in the belief that this chapter of the story of our lives was simply that, just a chapter, than who among us would rise in the morning? The lotus recedes below the water at nightfall (darkness) and rises above the surface and reopens at dawn. Do you sometimes feel you are short on that tenacity and strength to keep pulling yourself up to show your true inner beauty and gifts day after day after day?

Like the lotus, those that are struggling have to keep reaching toward what they cannot see. The mud and the ugly of life cloud the vision of what awaits for us above the surface. Even the colors that are within the bud, the person, are not truly revealed until they have maneuvered through what tries to hold them back. Remember that the lotus’ roots are affixed to a firm system that lies below the surface. Are yours? Are your roots entwined with a strong support system that will allow you the endurance, encouragement, and nourishment to reach your full potential? And then if you have surfaced and you feel like you have passed through the foundation making, spirit building trials and challenges and celebrate that you are better for it, are you reaching out 10 feet or more? Are you helping those around you who are simply trying to not be turned away from the same opportunity to rise above the surface and feel the sun on their face and air in their lungs? If, perhaps during one of your chapters, you get knocked back down again, if you are forced to become dormant for a period of time, will you have it within you to flower again? “Fall down 7 times, stand up 8.” ~ Japanese Proverb.

We are moving through one of the most difficult winters in history. What if this past winter was your life? What if each day was another snowstorm that incapacitated you to get to where you were destined to be. Often it takes seeing one that was where you once where, or even one that is where you hope to never be to move you to action.

My friend let me thank you for your actions, donations of funds, items, or having assisted with time, hands and feet to make an event happen, you have aided so many. Let me tell you that there are those within your arm’s reach that you may never meet but are flirting with breaking through the dark abyss because you cared to be one that propelled that vertical growth with your horizontal reach. May you be blessed to flourish and may you be impassioned to nourish any and all potential growth, and may your horizon be filled with gorgeous hearty lotus’ providing a vibrant foliage that is interwoven all with one another spreading support for each other and beauty across the surface of our wonderful corner of the world.Image

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One Comment
  1. Gede Prama permalink

    I am happy to read it. Have a beautiful day 🙂

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