No Mud, No Lotus

One of my recent daily Calm meditations offered the theme of ‘no mud, no lotus’. I knew the beautiful lotus was a water plant, but on further exploration, learned that they must start their life underwater rooted in the mud. The root system consists of rhizomes that fan out horizontally through the mud allowing the plant to survive to regerminate for hundreds, and possibly thousands, of years. When the lotus flower emerges from the water there is no trace of mud on it. And yet, the lotus cannot grow without that mud.

Using this lesson from Nature as a spiritual metaphor invites us to see ourselves rising above the adversity of life and even growing because of dark, murky conditions. The lotus is seen in many different cultures as a symbol of self-regeneration and rebirth. In his book No Mud, No Lotus: the Art of Transforming Suffering, spiritual teacher Thich Nhat Hanh acknowledges that most of us try to run away from pain or cover it up by distracting ourselves with busyness, consuming, zoning out. But he cautions that, by not facing our feelings, we can’t be present and available to life, and to joy. I don’t know anyone who has made it through life without some pain, loss, illness, confusion. The mud of our lives can be external circumstances and/or internal physical, mental or emotional dis-ease. What if that mud– the challenges and obstacles we are faced with- is there to help us flower into a more beautiful version of ourselves?

My understanding has changed

For many years I assumed if I did enough spiritual practices, I would arrive at a more evolved place where my life would be smooth sailing. Ha! I now understand that life is not meant to be a cruise through our comfort zone (though that can be enjoyable at times). Life will most likely keep sending us challenges so that we can learn and evolve. We can’t know what we are made of until we encounter and deal with adversity. And each time we move beyond adversity, we are stronger to deal with the next one.

The lotus petals unfold one at a time- so no instant enlightenment. Our flowering will most likely come one step at a time, not in one showy bloom. So we can offer ourselves patience and compassion for those times when we feel like we are slogging through mud. As we emerge from the muck of the pandemic the lotus can remind us to appreciate this unsettling experience as the substrate of a re-generated life. Look for the beauty in what is blooming!


No Mud, No Lotus
card by Jane Norton

Remember your own resilient nature. No matter how muddy your surroundings, you’re budding with potential.

Jennifer Williamson

  • have you had past experiences where something beautiful emerged out of what seemed like a dark place?
  • what mud might you be experiencing at this time in your life that you can see as the ground for growth?
  • what beauty is blooming in your life and the world as we emerge from the pandemic?

The Lotus Medtation by Kathy Kruger is a six and a half minute guided meditation with beautiful visuals of lotus flowers. She reminds us that nothing grows in dry soil. While the lotus appears to rise above its’ circumstances, those conditions are what allow it to develop and blossom – the ground that allows it to flourish. 


Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh is a global spiritual leader, poet, and peace activist.  An exiled Vietnamese monk, he has been a pioneer in bringing engaged Buddhism and mindfulness to the West.  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize. His book No Mud, No Lotus: The Art of Transforming Suffering introduces ways to be in touch with suffering without being overwhelmed by it, and ways to transform it.