A lotus flower thrives in a dirty, muddy pond. It grows from the dirt and the muck, rises to the surface and blossoms into a bright, beautiful flower. In ancient hinduism, this was a metaphor for how to live a spiritual life. The lotus flower represented the pureness and beauty of devoting one's life to spirituality, while the dirt and muck represented the material world. The material world was something to rise above, in order to blossom into the heavens, to attain oneness with the divine.
For many years people linked the lotus flower with this metaphor, and thought, "I must rise above the material world in order to attain enlightenment and oneness with the divine."
Many sadhus and seekers left the material world entirely to meditate in caves in the Himalayas to find God.
Tantric Buddhism however, takes a perspective more similar to a botanist: The lotus flower thrives on the dirt and the muck in the pond. In fact, without the dirt and the muck, the lotus flower would not even exist.
This was an entirely new way to look at the world for me. I began to see the material world - the world I was born into - as completely necessary for my spiritual progress. The material world provided me with all the nutrients I needed to grow as a spiritual being.
I see it now, every time a situation arises where I have resistance or fear. It's like the universe is gently pointing out the places where I need to grow.
Before realizing how similar the Tantric Buddhist perspective on the lotus flower was similar to my own life, I went through a period where I thought I needed to live in India and devote my life to meditation in order to progress as a spiritual being. But being born where I was, and after living for six months in India, I couldn't imagine a life only focused on that. I also realized that path was comfortable for me, it wouldn't invite me to grow in the areas I needed to, and it would not be fully sharing my gifts with the world.
When I pondered the idea of becoming a yoga instructor however, I felt a huge amount of fear and resistance arise. When I sat with this feeling, I also noticed a little bit of curiosity and even some excitement. Since then I began to take small steps toward the things that scared me.
When something new comes up = whether it be a hard conversation I don't want to have, or a setting I want to avoid - I notice my resistance to it. I see this now as the universe asking me to go there, and when I do, I gain back my spiritual power.
Photographs by me, from the pond on the property I live on in Petaluma, CA