I Am A Lotus

About six months before I decide to start formally practicing Buddhism, I went to a tattoo shop and got a lotus tattooed on my left forearm. While it may seem cliché to many, the lotus flower is rich with symbolism and personal meaning for me; meaning that I wanted to be reminded of every single day.
The lotus symbolizes several different things in Buddhism. The muddy water in which it grows symbolizes our ability to rise above the mud of the world and achieve enlightenment. It resembles purifying our spirits, which are born into murkiness. It symbolizes faithfulness. Those of us who are seeking to rise above the murkiness of our own suffering will need to follow the Buddha and the practices as faithfully as we can.
This beautiful flower holds so much meaning for me because, in so many ways, I am a lotus. I have spent most of my Life stuck in the mud, trapped in the murkiness of suffering. As a child I was constantly bombarded with guilt, shame, and fear, all from the people who were supposed to love me the most. I suffered from depression. I lived my young Life feeling fraudulent. I tried to find love outside of my family and home, only to discover more pain. I became bitter. As I grew older and my depression deepened, I turned to alcohol briefly, hoping to escape the pain. But you can’t hide in a bottle for long. And you can’t run from your problems forever. You can run and run, but when you get where you’re going, the first person you meet is you. I sank deep into the mud. I became the mud. I told myself that this was my story, that suffering and pain were simply my birthright. I was a lotus blossom tightly closed, not yet aware of the Buddha or dharma, not yet aware that there was goodness in this world. Not yet aware that there was goodness in me.
But the mud in my Life has helped me to grow. I can see that now. The Buddha taught that Life is suffering, but that we can transform that suffering for the good of ourselves and the world. Lotus flowers don’t just grow in the mud, they thrive in the mud. Without the mud there would be no lotus. The same is true for me. The mud in my story has caused so much suffering, but it has also helped me to see the path I need to take. I have a past, but I am not my past. I am not the pain or anger or resentment that has held me back for so long. I can bloom into something bigger, something beautiful.
It’s not easy for me. My roots in the mud are deep. Many days I find myself still angry or bitter, triggered by a reminder of the ghosts of the past. But then I go to my cushion and sit. I sit in front of the Buddha, and Padmasambava, and my teachers, and their smiling faces help me. I surround myself with beautiful people who help me practice, who encourage me when I make progress, and who call me out on my shit when I stumble. This isn’t easy. The transformation doesn’t happen overnight. I have to keep at this day after day; that’s why it’s called a practice. But I know I can do it. One day I will bloom into the person I was meant to be all along. And when that day comes, just like every day along the way, I will bow to the mud of my past and smile, and softly whisper,


6 thoughts on “I Am A Lotus

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