No Muck, No Lotus
The Lotus Mudra: what it is, where it comes from and how to use it
The Lotus is one of my absolute favorite images. Imagine a pond of pure scum, muck and literal shit. Right in the middle of that pond sits a flower — its petals unfurled to the sky, perfectly confident in its beauty. That's the lotus. This flower has to push its way through literal shit to bloom. Even once it’s bloomed, its roots still go deep into the mud and shit to keep it stable, strong and alive.
“The art of happiness is also the art of suffering well. When we learn to acknowledge, embrace, and understand our suffering, we suffer much less. Not only that, but we’re also able to go further and transform our suffering into understanding, compassion, and joy for ourselves and for others.” — Thich Nhat Hanh
What the Lotus Represents
We like to think that happiness is a state to reach. In reality, happiness doesn’t exist without suffering, without struggle. Especially in our current culture we have this desire to avoid discomfort as much as possible. It has almost become the main driving force of why we go to work, why we eat what we do, why we live the way we do. We don’t want to be inconvenienced or living in a state of comfort that is sub-par. Yet, discomfort, struggle, suffering are what teach us. They are what transform us, challenge us, push us to be better versions of ourselves and have a better understanding of ourselves.
It’s not fun to be in the middle of the muck, and lord knows we’ve all been in the middle of some serious muck lately, but I love that Thich Nhat Hanh uses the word “art” to describe happiness. It is an art to change the way we look at and perceive our suffering. It is not our natural instinct to embrace it. Happiness isn’t a state we reach when all in life falls perfectly before us. Happiness is a skill, a trait, to be learned. It is an art to be practiced.
So the lotus is a symbol we can turn to as a reminder of the light and beauty that can emerge from the darkness. It's a symbol of perseverance, beauty and strength in grace.
Where the Lotus Mudra Comes From
The lotus Mudra is a direct gesture and visualization of the lotus flower itself. It's an inspiration toward compassion — toward ourselves as much as toward the people around us — and perseverance — to push through the challenge that life hands us to reach the other side. It’s also a reminder of the beauty we each have in our souls.
“Out of the murky mud of life grows the purely beautiful lotus flower, trusting in its own unfolding.”
What the Lotus Mudra Is
The Lotus Mudra can be used as a visualization of blooming out of the stress, fear, anxiety of life and the visualization of opening ourselves up to the manifestation of beauty and abundance. This Mudra is a gesture that blooms out of the Anjali Mudra — the symbol of heart center, prayer. You start in a place of grounded centering and then symbolically open your fingers to create a lotus that blooms from your own heart, your own soul.
How to Use the Lotus Mudra
You can use the Lotus Mudra whenever you need personal encouragement, a sense of opening, a sense of openness, or when you need some self compassion. You can use it with a meditation or mantra. The meditation below plugs in to the power of the Lotus Mudra to help manifest those feelings of compassion, perseverance and happiness.
— Begin by finding a comfortable seat on the floor, a chair, or even laying down. If you’re sitting on the floor I’d encourage you to grab a blanket or pillow to sit up on so just your hips are elevated. Wherever you are, the main thing is that your spine is long and neutral.
— With your eyes still open, begin to deepen you breath. Inhale fully through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Let your gaze rest far into the distance — not necessarily focusing on any one thing but just taking in everything around you. If it’s comfortable for you, let your eyes start to grow heavy and close.
— Bring your palms together to meet at the space in front of your heart. Again, take a deep breath in through your nose and out through your mouth. Press your thumbs into each other, your pinky fingers into each other. Maintain a connection along the base of your palms.
— Exhale through your mouth and with your next inhale gently begin to spread your index finger, middle finger and ring finger open and away from each other is if they are the petals of a lotus flower blooming for the first time.
— With each exhale, feel your seat, your roots, growing heavier and sinking deeper into the ground that supports you.
— With each inhale feel your fingers open up more to the energies of compassion, love and perseverance that are radiating out of your open hands, out of your open heart.
— Feel your heart beat and imagine the petals of your lotus flower opening up to the sun. Invoke the feelings of a great, depth of gratitude as you feel yourself connect to all the elements of earth, water, fire and air.
— Seal this gesture with a prayer, a mantra, to manifest all of your heart’s desires. Use a mantra that resonates with you or feel free to use this one — “Be like a lotus. Let the beauty of your heart speak. Be grateful to the mud, water, air and light.”
— Gently bring all your fingers back together. Bow your head into your heart.