If we focus exclusively on pursuing happiness, we may regard suffering as something to be ignored or or resisted. We think it is something that gets in the way of happiness. But the art of happiness is also and at the same time the art of knowing how to suffer well. If we know how to use our suffering, we can transform it and suffer much less. Knowing how to suffer well is essential to realizing true happiness. – Thich Nhat Hanh, No Mud, No Lotus: The Art of Transforming Suffering
The above quote is one that I find myself turning to in moments of difficulty in life. Life is certainly not always flowers and blooms — but rather filled with the muck and the mire of soggy mud; more akin to a marsh than a garden. The muck and the mire of life can be any number of things: obstacles and challenges. When we are bogged down by these difficulties, we may find ourselves stuck. We may experience anger, frustration, and depression, or even pulled toward self-destructive behavior like addiction and self-harm.
And yet, even in these moments of seeming despair, we also feel a real imperative to blossom — to seek healing, to better our circumstances, or to create conditions that bolster our contentment.
As Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh wrote, we can look to the lotus flower here for inspiration.
The lotus has a biological imperative to blossom, even bogged down in the muck and the muddy mire. It manages to do so because the lotus is not looking down at the mud. It actually appreciates the mud as necessary nutrition for itself.
Rather, its tendrils are always reaching upward toward the light. In fact, the lotus and the sun seem to have a special relationship upwards and onwards it looks targeted and designed in its purpose, to move forward to grow tall to blossom in all this beauty. The mud then no longer remains mud. It becomes divine mud, the nourishment needed to sustain the creation of the bloom.
Suffering is our "divine mud." When you are faced with challenges, let your pain turn into divine food so that you too may blossom like the lotus. It is in this transmutation that we find purpose.