Summer Reading: No Mud, No Lotus: The Art of Transforming Suffering

No Mud, No Lotus: The Art of Transforming Suffering by Thich Nhat Hanh
Sara Goldstein, Staff Writer

The date was Saturday, May 9th, 2015. After my first experience with Dr. Shutt’s Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction silent retreat, I immediately drove to Barnes & Noble in search of more literature to keep me inspired. In retrospect, this was not the wisest decision. My car, under the influence of my relaxed mind, glided down Military Trail. As I pulled into the chaotic parking lot, I realized that I was not ready to overwhelm my brain with sensations.   There were too many lights, sounds, and people to navigate.

I gravitated toward the religious shelves and stood before Buddhism. My fingers brushed against Pema Chodron, Deepak Chopra and many titles with the word “zen”, stopping at Thich Nhat Hanh. Thich (pronounced like the word tick) is an old favorite of mine. There are countless titles to choose, spanning several decades and many different subjects. Like No Mud, No Lotusa shark drawn to a shiny object, I picked up No Mud, No Lotus: The Art of Transforming Suffering. The exterior is beautiful, but the words inside are even more exquisite.

Many of us have made it our mission to avoid emotional and physical discomfort. Readers are challenged to accept their suffering, inviting in all unpleasant experiences rather than trying to avoid them through consumption, addiction, or denial. In clear and comforting prose, Hanh explains how we are able to blossom from difficult experiences. The book invites readers to look at their suffering through practicing mindfulness. Many mindfulness techniques are outlined, including breathing meditation, mantras, metta (compassion) meditation, and incorporating mindfulness into daily activities.

No Mud, No Lotus was the perfect companion to my MBSR training. Since it is a quick read, I purposefully slowed down – only allowing myself one chapter per day. As with all of Thich Nhat Hanh’s books, I felt like I was having a quiet conversation with a good friend. I imagined a soft-spoken voice reading Thich Nhat Hanh’s introductory quote: “Most people are afraid of suffering. But suffering is a kind of mud to help the lotus flower of happiness grow. There can be no lotus flower without the mud.” This book brought me gratitude for all of the mud that has helped transform me.

Meditation 101

Meditation 101:  Q & A with Dr. Patricia Shutt

What are the fundamentals of meditation?
I teach basic concentration skills to beginners to cultivate discipline in the mind and to become more one-pointed. Our minds are divided during most of our day and jumping from one task to another, often without our permission. We start with practices of awareness of breath, awareness of sensations, and work toward awareness of thoughts and feelings. For some, instruction in using a mantram, which is a short phrase repeated silently, works as a way to harness the wild, restless mind.

How much time should one dedicate to meditation each day?
The formal practice of sitting meditation requires between 20-45 minutes per day. However as one begins to develop a daily practice, they can start off with a shorter duration, maybe 5-10 minutes, and gradually build as concentration improves. One will gradually shift their priorities in life to make the time for meditation as the practice continues.

What is the ideal environment to meditate?
The best environment is right where you are – anywhere and anytime. Any comfortable spot with minimal interruptions will do. Getting caught up in having to have the “right” place, space, and time often leads to putting off the practice. There really is no ”right” or “wrong” environment.

What is the most common misconception people have regarding meditation?
The idea that one must clear their mind or empty their mind is a common misconception in beginning meditation. Many people give up immediately when they discover “monkey mind” – a state of wandering and jumping from thought to thought, is a more typical experience. It takes time and patience to move past that.

Join us for Mindful Mondays at Sacred Treehouse!  Beginning Meditation with Dr. Shutt is held every Monday from 10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.  For more information, please call us at 561-278-6033.