no mud, no lotus

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.
— Thich Nhat Hanh

As humans in an on-the-go society, buzzing with technology and judgment, it can be challenging to step back and evaluate the way we are living. As most people do, I have the habit of being caught up in the motions of life. It can be a challenge to stray away from the social norm of partying at the bar or ignoring the people around you, with cellular tunnel vision.

The act of stepping back is difficult because you must be prepared to deal with the reality. You need to have the courage to keep moving forward and commit your time to taking the life that is rightfully yours. In my life I have finally stepped back, but it has not been an easy process in the slightest way. I have started to work through the beautiful mess we call life by practicing gratitude, compassion, and self-love.

In the month of July, I plan to continue to step back and commit to being the best version of myself. Striving to be a whole person is different for every individual. I took the time to evaluate the pieces of my life that make me happy and what aspects I want to change. I came up with three goals:

  1. Starting each day as a new beginning, I will develop a practice of non-judgment and compassion. In my Buddhism studies, I have read a lot about the prominent practice of non-judgment. By recognizing judgment, and in turn practicing compassion and acceptance, you will experience the freedom of inner peace. Non-judgment is a challenge for all people. If you spend a whole day being mindful of judgmental thoughts and actions (directed at others or yourself), the results can come as a shock. I never realized how judgmental a person I was, until I did this exercise. I was surprised how easy it was for a thought to become judgmental, especially when I observed the negative internal commentary I have for myself. This month, as I experience judgmental thoughts or actions, I will question them and find where they come from in order to find acceptance. 
  2. A happy body is a happy soul. As I enter my third month of Yoga Teacher Training, I am more aware of the strong connection between the body and mind. Physical health plays a crucial role in mental health, and vice versa. This month I hope to benefit my emotional and mental health through making positive changes in my physical health. In evaluating my physical being, I found four major areas of improvement:
    • Sleep - improving sleep habits
    • Alcohol Consumption - abstaining from drinking
    • Nutrition - eating a healthy balanced diet
    • Yoga and Meditation - developing a daily practice
  3. Practice gratitude and self-love. I sometimes need to remind myself of how fortunate I am to have the life I am living. I have a roof over my head, food to eat, and people who love me dearly. It is important to me to show gratitude for the people I am so lucky to have in my life, even if I don't see or speak to them on a daily basis. Thanking someone for who they are and what they do for you can go a long way. Showing appreciation for yourself is just as important as showing it to others. We don't spend nearly enough time loving ourselves because we associate focusing inward with being selfish or egotistical. It is all about finding the balance in loving yourself and others. As well as knowing when it is the right time to make things about you. This month I plan to do just that.  

I am so excited this month to share the benefits of stepping back and things I learn along the way. I hope you are inspired to create change in your own lives and those of others!

Phoebe Axtman