The lotus flower is a powerful symbol of unconditional love and enlightenment, which is why I chose it as beautiful inspiration to lead my first yoga workshop.
Held in the heatwave, two days before Valentines Day, I urged my students to start with self-love and let love blossom outwards from there.
While the rose, that ridiculously expensive symbol of Valentines Day, has thorns to protect its precious petals, the lotus flower has deep roots to anchor it in the mud it rises above – the roots become the stalk that grows up out of the water, and large leaves protect the flower by repelling dirt and water so that it can bloom – clean, dry and beautiful.
The lotus flower buds and each petal unfurls, slowly, all the way to the symbolic 1000 petal lotus, the yogic representation of enlightenment.
Enlightenment starts down in the mud and muck though – the lotus represents what it means to rise above circumstances – pain, heartache, loss – and be able to bloom beautifully anyway.
In fact, as I told my students, it’s because the lotus is anchored in mud that it can grow – it grows out of the pain, not despite it.
Lotus roots are tuberous and full of holes that allow the mud and water to flow through, while the leaves are self-cleaning – they are ultrahydrophobic, which means they have a molecular surface that resists penetration by water and dirt. Smart nanochemists have copied this so-called ‘Lotus effect’ – creating fabrics, paints and coatings with this self-cleaning property.
The lesson of the lotus is that once you have grown from and through past pain and and risen above it, no hurt can really touch you – you are able to be openly vulnerable, resist hurt and disappointment and bloom with love.
In the lead-up to the workshop I was disappointed, hurt even, that some friends couldn’t make it and a little disappointed that some students I thought would come hadn’t registered. My scared and wounded self, the part of me that feels stuck in the mud, even worried that no-one would turn up, although a number of people had already paid to attend.
Even from a heartfelt space of just wanting to serve students with a wonderful workshop, my fragile ego worried it wouldn’t be a success. I found myself feeling let down because some people couldn’t come, rather than uplifted by those who were coming.
In the end I had sixteen students, which was a good number given how hot it was – with more students we all would have wilted in the heatwave. Importantly there was a beautiful energy in the room – I could certainly feel the love and I know the students did too.
(Funnily enough, scientists have found that the amazing lotus flower actually generates its own heat – in cold weather it produces heat in order to attract pollinating insects. In fact one study found 40 lotus blossoms churned out the same amount of heat as a living room light bulb. Seventy flowers produced the heat of a human at rest.)
The sacred lotus, revered in Buddhism and Hinduism, is amazing on many counts. The roots, seeds, leaves and even the flowers are edible. The roots make great tasting chips when fried (I gave my students a sample and we also enjoyed Lotus tea). Roots can also be used in soups and stir-fries while seeds are ground and eaten for their nutritional and medicinal qualities. Dried Leaves are used to wrap rice dishes. Lotus root (called renkon) improves digestion, reduces cholesterol, improves blood circulation and regulates blood pressure with significant levels of potassium and a host of other vitamins and minerals.They have no fat and are high in fibre, while also containing protein.
As a aquatic perennial, lotus seeds can actually germinate long after falling dormant. A seed more than 1,300 years old was once brought “back from the dead” and flowered in a laboratory!
The lesson of the lotus is that we bloom through resilience, by lifting ourselves up out of the mud, and at the heart of resilience is self-love. When we question our own worth, worry about what other people think too much and get too sensitive about other people’s motivations and actions which usually have nothing to do with us, we aren’t loving ourselves (guilty)! Holding onto guilt isn’t loving yourself either.
Take three breaths. The first is for self-love – give yourself compassion, forgive your faults and cut yourself some slack. The second breath is for those close to you – extend loving care and compassion to family and friends and receive love from them – you deserve it. The third breath, from a heart full of love, radiates out towards all humankind.
Feel your heart, open like a blossoming lotus flower, and bloom into bliss.
(Linking up with the Lovin Life linky)