The Practice of Patience: Where Mud Becomes Lotus

The Practice of Patience: Where Mud Becomes Lotus July 17, 2018

Vividly colored pink, yellow and red lotus floating on water with a green leaf in the background
Lotus Shine by P_Lham kun on Flickr

I have a problem. I mean, I have many, but let’s just focus on this one for now. In short:

I have no goddamn patience.

Who’s surprised? Anybody surprised? Anyone? …Bueller?

Yeah, didn’t think so. A lack of patience is not great for the concept of, well, anything short of saving somebody from a burning car or something similar. Patience is the hallmark and cornerstone of just about everything worth having and, rather counter-productively, the hardest for me to master. Or even remember. Or, like… want to.

None. No patience. No chill.

Y’all, I am in for a rough time…

The Answer Is Not No; The Answer is Not Not No

When I first started this thing, I was spending a lot of time wondering about witchcraft. (Okay, I still do…) What it is, what it means. How to embrace this… this feeling I have. I still struggle. Getting out of my own head has been near impossible. I did so much reading—as I am sure we all did, have and do—and asked so many questions and there is so much flailing and so much getting down on myself and so much wondering if it was me, was I wrong, am I just bland and empty and……….

Well. You get the idea.

a naked woman with streaming red hair riding a lion as slight streams behind them.
The Modern Spellcaster’s Tarot: Strength

As I’ve mentioned before. I’ve done tarot for a long, long time. When I began seriously looking deeper into witchcraft, I naturally began looking for a tarot deck that spoke to me of this process. I landed on the Modern Spellcaster’s Tarot; I really love the deck. It’s clear and, as I learned recently, a no-bullshit-but-you-need-to-reflect-on-what-it-is-actually-saying kind of deck. Which, honestly, I’d never had before. Not like this. I thought this deck hated me.

Turns out I need to figure out exactly what they mean to me, and not so much what I am used to from other decks.

Which is why I was getting more and more frustrated with the deck. Wait it kept on saying. I’d pursue opportunities and it would just repeat the same thing over and over in different ways: this isn’t right and this is going to be slow af and break up with this new plan it sucks and you will suck doing it and so on, and so forth. Only it did so with a merciless, mysterious hard-to-grok style that just fed into all my doubts and uncertainties about this path I’m treading.

It felt like one more message saying the same thing: You can’t do this.

Ugh. What an ego I have, huh?

Mud Wrestling: Not Just for Funsies

No Mud, No Lotus by Thich Nhat Hanh

Incredible human being Thich Nhat Nahn has passed along an excellent phrase, one that I find myself repeating: “no mud, no lotus.” He wrote a book on it, too; you should read it. In it, he explains that the lotus—a beautiful flower that grows atop ponds and the like—don’t spring fully formed from nothing. They must first take root in the mud; it is the filthy, squishy, messy, tumultuous depth of sticky, sinking mud that feeds this beautiful flower.

Without the mud at the bottom of the pool, there would be no lotus.

Deep, yo. So very deep. (Pun only kind of belatedly intended after the fact…)

Of course, the obvious metaphor is obvious: though we may feel as if we are stuck in mud, caught in hard and stressful times, it is a vital part of our growth. From these muddy trials grow the lotus of ourselves; beautiful, strong and singular.

The thing is, and perhaps the most important part, is that just because the lotus has grown doesn’t mean that the mud is no longer there. Impermanent the mud we struggle through may be, it is and will be replaced by more mud. More trouble, more struggle, more suffering.

And yet… there nestles another lotus seed. It will grow. It will flourish in its muddy roots and it will bloom, only to restart the same cycle over and over.

My friends and fine delicacies, hi. I am mud. And this is where I find my feet.

That Space In Between

Or: Dude, Where’s My Flowers?

For all my self-awareness about being a magpie, I sure forget a lot of shinies. Unless magpies are forgetful, too, in which case I’m doing great.

I have this tendency to burn bridges. Scorched earth, salt it behind me. It’s probably a mix of things, to be honest: trauma, being bipolar, low idiocy tolerance, and—at the risk of repeating myself—a decided lack of patience. If it’s too hard, I bail. If it stresses me out, I retreat. If it triggers any of the above issues, I run and I run like hell. YOLO, amirite? (I am not…)

Ironically, even when running, I try so hard to find home. Or at least the spiritual/internal/heart kind of home; p’much always going to be a wanderer in some form or another.

Over the past few years, this tendency to flee plus painfully worsening undiagnosed symptoms of mental illness allowed me (yes, allowed me) to forget everything I had learned about things like home and hearth and spirit and heart. Everything became easier to just let it all slide in an avalanche of mud; no air, no effort, no hope of digging out. I wasn’t a lotus, I wasn’t nurturing a lotus, I was a rock. You are welcome, Charlie Brown.

Close up of a buddha statue's hands with flower petal offerings in the clasped palms.
Photo by Chris Ensey on Unsplash


Black Thumbs Are Not Gangrenous (Except When They Are)

I suck at plants. Like, that whole green/thumb black thumb thing? It’s like my thumbs have the plague and it only likes to eat plants. So here I am with this metaphor about lotuses and I am already setting myself up to fail!

…is what I would have said just recently.

There’s a story behind this but I’ll give you the short version: I’ve spent 19 years trapped in a city I came to despise, mired up in the mud of mental illness and trauma and general unhappiness. It got harder and harder to breathe. Yet in 2015 or so, I started to do some reading. Some meditating. I went to the local zen center regularly for a while.

It helped. Or, helped for a while.

I fell off that wagon, as it were, and lost myself again. I denied everything I wanted to be because what the hell was the point?

Shit got bad. Real bad.

But slowly, over the last few months, things have been looking up. Slowly, as I re-learn how to cross bridges and not just burn them, I’ve really started to think. You may have noticed that I’d gotten real quiet here. No surprise for people who just start blogs, right? But I’m not giving up this journey. I’m not shying away from the hard path.

a white and brown pitbull and a smaller tan labradoodle cozy on the couch
#frankenpup and #pupmuppet; photo by me

I’ve spent almost a week in solitude, an hour away from the city I despise, with a gorgeous view. With only these two darling dogs to talk to, I’ve had a lot of time to think. And also, a lot of time to not think. Fertile ground for an epiphany, wouldn’t you say? Even if it slowly, excruciatingly slowly, bloomed up from the bleak mud sloshing around inside my head.

If I responded well to Buddhism… and I feel something about witchcraft… why can’t I merge the things I learned from Soto Zen/Buddhism with the aspects of witchcraft that draw me?

Certainly I’m not the only one who has considered this (in fact, I know I’m not! I have proof!), so why did it take me so long to really absorb it?

Well, I mean it’s pretty clear that I make a habit—a lifestyle, even—of getting locked into my own head. I see the way things are done and think I should be that way. I watch my friends who are just gorgeous and magical and wise and think they are doing it the right way. I bow to expectations without realizing it.

But when I was practicing zazen, primarily in that very moment, I felt something very real. Well, okay, “real”. We are talking Buddhism after all. But it wasn’t wholly something to do with Buddhism or Zen. …Okay, does this make sense? (I feel like Supernatural’s Crowley right now: [wild grimace] Feelings…)

So how does this fit into this increasing, uh, feeling that somewhere in the concept witchcraft, there’s a niche I’m missing? I know I am drawn to some of the precepts and teachings of Buddhism, but it’s not quite there. Not whole. There’s something in the middle, there. That liminal space of spiritualism—a venn diagram, if you will.

So how do I find it?

Okay, I know, I know. The words I’m looking for are practice and patience.

Perhaps, if I focus and dedicate like I know I can, I think I could be, have been and am a lotus after all. And even though I have a black thumb, I’m not dead yet.

I may even be… ahem… getting better.

Might just go for a walk.

Feeling happy.

…Annnnnnd I’ll see myself out before one of you clubs me over the head and carts me away.

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