Monday, November 24, 2008

Of Lotuses And Muddy Water

Each year at this time, we are urged to be thankful for all the good things in our lives. What a delightful idea, this setting aside an entire day to cultivate gratitude.

But what about the not so good things that fill our days? Could we find a way to be grateful even for those? We all have struggles, some quite grave. Yet, if we approach these difficulties with an eye to the pearls they just might contain, wouldn't our experience of them change significantly?

If I have learned anything in 25 years as a psychotherapist, it is that beauty can rise out of deep pain. I have been schooled in this lesson by soul after brave soul who extracted jewels from the rubble of personal suffering. Rough times, when handled skillfully and with an openness born of a courageous spirit, can bring us great gifts. We needn't deny our distress, just discover the potential that lies within it.

The most difficult times in my own life have stretched my edges and deepened my heart. I have learned compassion from being wounded, humility from making mistakes, and kindness in both forgiving and being forgiven. Adversity has taught me fortitude, integrity, and the value of commitment. I have been nudged toward new and rewarding paths by situations whose heaviness grew day by day. And the gifts of being present at the deaths and near~deaths of loved ones? Oh, my! Difficult experiences, but ones I would not trade for anything.

Goldie Hawn, that kooky philosopher, puts it this way: “The beautiful lotus flower cannot grow any other way (than) in muddy water.” The muddy water of which she speaks lies within our hurt places and amid the trying moments of our lives. Those waters offer valuable lessons from which, ultimately, we can derive wisdom.

Christ urged us to love our enemies. Could not this entreaty be expanded to suggest a loving receptivity toward those slices of life that are not as we wish them to be? Our earth eyes divide experience into good and bad, pleasurable and painful, wanted and unwanted. Were we to see with wide open spirit eyes, perhaps we'd find that Grace is, indeed, everywhere, even in those moments that challenge us.

Since our spirit eyes tend not to function very consistently, we could simply choose~~right here, right now~~to honor the whole dance, not just its enjoyable or easy steps. And then we practice, growing in our ability to dance this dance of ours.

Many of us have a Thanksgiving tradition of pausing before that scrumptious meal to express gratitude for the good things in our lives. Perhaps this year we could also share a gem that came our way disguised as something else.

Difficulties will forever be part of the human experience. Our approach to them, though, just might determine the human we come to be. As Goldie says, “The flower that you become is not always easy.” Indeed.

Phoenixes rise from ashes, and clouds have silver linings. And to grow a lotus, you need a little mud.

Namaste, beautiful lotuses!

Loanne Marie

For another take on Thanksgiving, see Flow of Thanks.

2 comments:

Souls said...

I have to say I find it much easier to find good things in my day to day life than be angry with those who deserve my anger and rage. Even the ones who hurt me I can 'forgive' and see the good in them. But what about the rage? The anger? What about being able to express and put anger there where it belongs? I believe in gratitude but also in putting blame where it belongs. Or anger.

Loanne Marie said...

Thanks for your comment, Souls.

Yes, this is a tricky one, isn't it? We do need to find a way to discharge our anger so we don't keep carrying it around and have it continually hurt us. If we hold on to it, we're just giving the ones who hurt us more power, allowing the hurt to go on.

Yet, folks sometimes feel that to let it go is to somehow condone what was done and say it was okay. But we know that some things are just NOT okay, and one can release the hurt/anger/rage without pretending it was.

Someone once said to me, "Sometimes you have to rage before you forgive." I agree. We often try to put the cart before the horse, but I think the anger needs to come out before we can let the whole thing go.

This is all so complex. I was not meaning to minimize the pain that can come from difficult experiences. I wanted only to give voice to the amazing strength and depth that folks are able to gain from them. This does NOT excuse the actions of the one who hurts; it just is recognition that they do not get to define us, that WE get to say what we do with what happened to us.

I don't know your situation, Souls, but I wish you all the best as you try figure out it all out. My wish for you is that, in spite of the wrong done, you can find some--make some-- gems from it.

Take care and thanks for reading and writing!

Loanne Marie

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