If you have been around me a while, you know I am obsessed with the lotus flower imagery and symbolism. I’ve written about it before. I even want to get a lotus flower tattooed on my body! I just feel like it couldn’t be a more perfect symbol of the growth and transformation we undergo through a breast cancer journey.
Debbie Ford said “Like the lotus flower that is born out of the mud, we must honor the darkest parts of ourselves, and the most painful of our life’s experiences, because they are what allow us to birth our most beautiful selves”. Of course the lotus is an aquatic plant, rooted deep under the muddy water, taking its nutrients from the muck and traversing up toward the surface, where the pristine flowers bloom, beautiful and unstained by the muddy depths from whence they came. So these flowers are a powerful and universal symbol of growth, transformation, resilience, purification, and even spiritual ascension. For us as breast cancer survivors, the dark muddy journey to the surface is of course symbolic of all of the challenges and difficulties we go through from diagnosis to treatment, and into recovery. But just as for the lotus, these challenges can be grist for the mill of our own growth and transformation, if we just allow ourselves to see them through that perspective. His Holiness the Dalai Lama said “Unfortunate events, though potentially a source of anger or despair, have equal potential to be a source of spiritual growth. Whether or not this is the outcome depends on your response”.
Don’t get me wrong, having cancer sucks big time. But since no amount of being angry, sad, and frustrated is going to change the fact that we are here and we are dealing with this disease, we might as well figure out how to make something good come from it. Many women say that they are even grateful for their cancer journey, because of all of the positive things that came out of it. OK, you don’t have to go quite so far as to be grateful for it! But try to think of some good that has come out of the whole experience. Maybe you became closer than ever to your partner. Maybe you got rid of a crappy unsupportive partner? Maybe you learned to take better care of yourself. Eating healthier or exercising more regularly? (I quit drinking a coke every day for breakfast! Yuk, how did I live like that before?) Maybe you make more time for yourself and things you know are good for you, like napping, reading, or stillness, instead of constantly running, working, and achieving. Maybe you became more compassionate and understanding for others going through similar things. Maybe you realized just how strong you could be. Or that it is ok to also be vulnerable and admit when you need help. I know I learned to let go of my need to control everything, and to just be more open to whatever the universe brings me each day. I’m more flexible and more patient. My values and priorities shifted a little as I thought about what is really important to me (rather than what others or our culture value). And finally, I know we all have newfound appreciation for the preciousness of each moment and each day, knowing that tomorrow is not guaranteed (for us nor for those around us).
Whatever unpleasant and difficult things cancer brings into our lives, we can refuse to let that keep us down, and instead turn it into an opportunity for growth and improvement. We can birth our most beautiful selves!
ps who wants to get a tattoo with me?!
pps Photo is from the beautiful lotus pond at the Vallarta Botanical Gardens