Thich Nhat Hanh, wrote this amazing book entitled, "No Mud, No Lotus" and as I walked through Brooklyn today I came across this mural. It was this beautiful woman emerging from a lotus flower. The elements she was holding in her hands and lifting to the sky could be up for interpretation but the impact this mural had on me immediately reminded me of Thich Nhat Hanh's book. Suddenly, I was more aware of my breath in and out and it became the center of my focus as I gazed at this wall.
As I sat staring pieces and parts of this book went through my mind. There was one passage in particular that I recalled.
"When you come back to yourself and breathe mindfully, your mind's attention has only one object, your breath. If you continue to breathe in and out mindfully, you maintain that state of presences and freedom... When I was a young monk, I believes that it took a long time to get any kind of insight. The truth is, there are insights that can come right away. When you practice mindful breathing, you know right aways you are alive, that to be alive is a wonder."
It is this final thought of being alive as a wonder, a gift that struck me as I stood before this woman painted on the wall. Her expression is one of peace and focus. The arms overhead symbol triumphant enthusiasm. Indeed you can just imagine her rising from the mud that has been created by the muck of doubt and defeat and the rain of fear flooding her mind and see that despite all she has found her breath. It is by this very breath we can see that she is reborn with new perspective, one in which she can see being alive as a state of wonder.
I am foreign to this city that I walk and see so many faces glued to their phones. Few even see me as I pass them. I wonder if they even see themselves? Or do we so mindlessly live in life that we forget that we are ALIVE. We are living, breathing works of art and our breath can enhance this very image. How powerful is that? Your breath can give you new life and perspective.
As a yoga teacher, I want each student to come alive by matching breath with movement on the mat, but even more I desire for them to match breath and movement in their daily lives. I hope they can see their existence as powerful and beautiful. Each person I pass in the city has a unique story of how they too have risen from the mud to be a beautiful lotus. There will always be dirt that tries to cloud our visions, passions and life. There will always be water that rains upon us and can serve as a source of life or drown us in the mirky, muddy times we face. Return to your breath, know that out of the mud you will blossom into your fullest potential in due time. But most importantly know that it begins with your breath.