Lotus flowers are beloved in Asia, in part for their beauty. Even more, they symbolize the purity that can come from muck. Lotuses are often found blooming in filthy ditches by the side of the road or in muddy ponds.
A favorite Buddhist myth says that when the baby Buddha was born, he took multiple steps in each of the cardinal directions. As he lifted each foot, a lotus flower bloomed.
This inspired Thich Nhat Hanh to suggest a walking meditation where we visualize a lotus blooming under each foot as we walk. When we are anxious or agitated in any way, this can help us settle down. The focus or concentration that can result replaces our worry thoughts and we have a better chance at putting our worries into perspective.
I know someone who was unable to practice sitting meditation due to her anxiety. She had a hallway in her home that was about fifteen steps long, and she began to practice this type of walking meditation there. It helped so much that when she moved to another state, one of her criteria for the new house was a long enough hall to practice lotus walking meditation!
Airports and parking lots are other places that lend themselves to this kind of walking. I had a friend who went very early to the airport in Paris after being on retreat with TNH in order to meet her young daughter who was flying from LA on her own. She practiced walking meditation as she waited; she later told me that several people stopped her to say how calm and inspiring she was in the midst of the busyness of the airport.
Please enjoy planting virtual lotuses where you walk!
Photo: from a Thai temple mural