Sometimes you have to travel far away to understand oneself. We need the perspective, the less cluttered and noisy view of ourselves to see ourselves. Part of it is the true value of comparative evaluation. You know, sizing up what you have or want against others. There is one thing to see someone confined to a wheelchair, which is so different than imagining you are in that chair! Making that little switch triggers a different level of empathy and insight. In the end, how we view what we have, what has been given to us, the so-called hand we are dealt, and make the most out of it? Even the bad stuff. (Say more John I don't know what you mean) Trying to avoid the hackneyed lemonade bromide. Ooops there it is :)
I had the great fortune to visit the emerging third world democracy of Myanmar recently. (second most isolated country behind N Korea just a few years ago) One of the most beautiful and brutal places I have ever seen. Immersed in these stark contrasts from my life in Los Angeles, I was pulled into a different mindset. I think the overwhelming vistas of sacred edifices, wrapped in punishing poverty and surrounded by the grace of a welcoming people opened my mind. I know all of these elements exist everywhere, if I saw them, but parachuting into a new environment flips a perspective switch. At first I resisted these forces of self examination to stay on task with my trip. But I quickly surrendered to these flowing thoughts and tried to allow them to take me on a parallel journey.
I know that my first world guilt and privilege were drivers here. But I also know that the mind craves the space for thought and reflection. The incredible fusion of this mindset with the inputs from our trek through the Burmese landscape made this trip memorable and meaningful.
Way too much to say here but want to share several images and ideas that continue to energize me.
The Myanmar smile: Everyone in Myanmar. I mean every single person we encountered was friendly, warm, and open to us. There was a avalanche of authenticity. People saying "minglabar" (hello/welcome in Burmese) with true sincerity. I know this sounds naive, and I know that perhaps some of the people were disingenuous. But I felt I was in their presence. It was hard work to try and reciprocate. Part of my detox from the world of being on guard, of the hard bubble of personal space and the root of distrusting others until proven innocent. In my mind, I try to be open to others, but my struggles to receive and return the emotional and spiritual generosity from Myanmar revealed my true potential.
In a meditation session I attended in Myanmar, our leader asked us to sense everything about our bodies–but he cautioned "don't react to anything you sense, observe yourself from the outside–let the monkeys play!" Let the monkeys play. Let things happen and see them without judgment. Quiet the mind and let the monkeys play…..
How can I be more trusting, more welcoming, more open to others? How can I initiate this trust this warmth and this openness?
The Lotus Flower: I have always been drawn to the lotus flower. The beautiful bloom atop a glassy body of water. But like most things I knew nothing more about the lotus.
We spent many days on waterways, rivers and lakes and I was re-introduced to the lotus flower. Our guide Czarina made a comment that changed my view of this plant. She said, "The lotus draws its strength from the dirtiest water, transforming it into a beautiful flower." (these waters were some of the most polluted I have ever seen) What an amazing metaphor for life. How do we convert the pools of negativity that surround our lives into beautiful blossoms by tapping into our inner reservoir of spirit and talent? We all sit in our own pools of impurities–self-made, God-given, environmental–and how do we we convert our circumstances into a thing of beauty? How do we truly embrace "our dirt" own it but also appreciate it to move us forward? For without our dirt we would not understand what we want. Without the dirt we would not have to struggle and suffer. And without suffering we can not live a meaningful life.
I googled the lotus flower and learned that the lotus flower is associated with purity and beauty in Buddhism and Hinduism. The ancient Egyptians scholars observed that in the night-time the lotus closed its flowers and sank into the water, and was reborn the next day. In actual fact the lotus slowly emerges from a pond and then blooms in the morning until mid-afternoon. And the lotus does thrive in murky/dirty waters.
The lotus emerges from the pollution to be faithful to its beauty and purpose. To open to the sun gracing the world, like a humble brag, "Here's what I do!"
All that you touch you change. All that you change changes you. Octavia Butler
A smile, your smile. A lotus flower, your lotus flower. How do we take our great capacity to love one another and share it? How can we be more open to being changed? How do we let the monkeys play? How do we fully embrace our dirt to display our beauty?
Thanks for reading. John
6 thoughts on “Your Lotus Flower”
Beautiful John. Wonderful to see and feel Miyanmar through you. The people it’s always the people who touch us so deeply and “minglabar” in so many different languages. I don’t know if you knew, but the lotus was a symbol and strength to me and continues to be a reminder every day. Thank you John.
John, this is what you do with all the trips you take(local or distant). Keep traveling so we can all grow through your distillation of the world around and its’ impact on us. Thanks, I will never look at a lotus in quite the same way again. Harry
Thanks Katie. Not surprised that the lotus is/was a source of inspiration. I have always liked this flower, I like it more now!
I think this was the length of time for me more than the distance. But we all must “travel” more to see the world around us or even next door 🙂 Cheers John
Oh Uncle John your writing is so inspiring. I wanna write like you one day. 🙂 Can’t believe you haven’t been on Ted talk yet! 🙂 Sounds like your trip was amazing. Much love Brisa.
Thanks Brisa. It took me years to have more confidence in my writing. Then I had to practice. Like your surfing, the more you do it the better you get. In writing, words are like waves. Write more words and ride more waves! Aloha John