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.