|A dying lotus|
Today I attended the 11am service at the Hollywood Self Realization temple, and per protocol they started the service with a chant and meditation. Our Bramacharya today instructed us to be mindful before launching into prayer or meditation–to carefully envision our Guru Yogananda or any saint or face we want to give to God… Him, Her or It. Envision that being, then proceed.
So I envisioned Paramahansa Yogananda just as we see him on the cover of “Autobiography of a Yogi”, with that serene expression that looks like a cross between bemused and disciplinarian. I began to picture that he was floating on a large pink lotus flower as if it were an anti-gravitational cushion, and I was floating up to meet him at eye level on a “loaner”. I basically expressed my embarrassment and shame over something I have struggled with all my life … vanity. I have struggled in the past with issues about my weight, and living in Los Angeles doesn’t help. No matter where anyone lives, however, the mass media invade our consciousness (if we let them) and convince us that youth and beauty are of paramount importance. I’d like to say this is only something that affects women, but let’s be real. More and more men are flocking to plastic surgery, or search for the ultimate cure for their hair loss.
Just when I think I am starting to feel at peace with this fleeting and temporary corporal representation (?) of my soul, I realize that age 40 is just a year away. I feel myself taking a few steps back in my progress of gracefully accepting aging. I’ve done a few stupid things in my time in the name of “being pretty”. Expensive eye creams, tanning in my 20s, laser hair removal gone very bad, and a few other “experiments” I feel stupid about, to say the least. I essentially expressed to Yogananda that I am embarrassed about this recurring mental lapse, that I don’t even feel worthy of talking to him.
Well, what happened next is that a stream of information started to form in my mind. Take it for what you will…maybe it was delivered to me, maybe I drew it up out of my subconscious after it had been waiting there all that time. But it occurred to me to reflect upon the meaning of the Lotus Flower. Why was I so compelled to get a tattoo of one on my upper back last year, in brilliant shades of pink? Why were we floating on them right now during this meditation? I began to think about what the Lotus flower represents: it represents spiritual enlightenment, first and foremost. But I began to consider the aspects of its beauty. Why is it so considered so universally appealing? I considered that it often sits on top of a layer of swampy mud/muck. Even in less-than-optimal conditions, it prevails in its vitality. So many parts of the Lotus can be used for nutritional/medicinal value. Then it dawned on me: the essence of the Lotus is health, or vitality. Keeping yourself in the best of physical, mental and spiritual health equals a radiance that cannot be denied, regardless of your age, the number of wrinkles, or your BMI.
The Lotus has nourishment and healing that it gives out to all. How can I be a person that gives nourishment and aid to others? Maybe those transfixed by the shallow ways of the entertainment world or fashion runways won’t really get it, but most of us on this earth will attract people and friends because we are just good to be around. Eventually, we all will age, and nobody is going to want to be around you because you have plumper lips than someone else. They will want to be around you because you radiate the beauty of health, truth, humor, peace and joy.
A Lotus looks its best when it is healthy and well-nourished. We do not tamper with the Lotus by painting a different design on top of its petals, or by fattening them up or thinning them down. If we come across a Lotus that has aged, we still respect and honor it for what it is, and what it represents. We don’t look down on the Lotus because it has lost a few petals or has faded slightly. As layers fall away to reveal more of the inner structure of the flower, which is wondrous and mystical, we appreciate it more and more.
Yes — I will continue to wear some makeup sometimes. I like to have my hair done, I like to wear contacts and I like to wear heels. These are reasonable things to do that enhance what I already have. I’m not going to become some kind of wandering vagrant, refusing to cut my toenails or wash my hair. That would be another kind extreme. But I would like to release myself for them time-wasting and vapid prison of worry over whether I will look “good” 1, 5, 10 or 20 years from now. Aging is beautiful and we have forgotten what it even looks like anymore.
I found a wonderful essay on the concept of the dying lotus here. I hope you enjoy it and will take some time to reflect on this idea. Meditate on the pure and untouchable beauty and resonance of your spirit. What can you do in your life and your dealings with others that best demonstrates that unique and shining light within? How can you see that light in others?
How can we more often attract as light to another light, so that trivial matters of wrinkles or age spots will flitter on by, like the annoying mosquitos of vapid human existence that they are?