Part 1. New Beginnings…The Bud

New Beginnings usually bring relief.

If you have been going through a time of uncertainty and change, it feels good to be out of the unknown and finally have a sense of direction, goals and focus. Yet, times of new beginnings may start slow, can often be indirect, unimpressive and the signals that you are really ready to move forward can be subtle.

How do you know that the path in front of you is a genuine and new beginning? According to William Bridges, respected author and transition expert, we all long for some sort of external sign that points the way to the future for us, but instead we have to settle for inner signals that alert us and let us know a new beginning is at hand. So it’s from ‘within’ that we sense something has shifted and we are in new territory. It’s a feeling we get. We just ‘know’ something is different but may not be able to explain it to others….. instead it’s felt and recognized on some level. And if we’re paying attention there are subtle signs that help us claim this new ground.

In a recent meditation I ‘saw’ a lotus bud.

In my mind’s eye it looked like the one in the picture above. I started to research lotus buds and blossoms. The last 4 or 5 years have been challenging ones for me. They have been filled with health issues, loss, challenging conflict and uncertainty and although the health issues were resolved, thankfully, I was still feeling a bit unsettled and unsure of where I was in terms of change.

Times of transition consist of three normal stages. The endings, this is a time of loss. It might be many things. For example, our health, job, relationship, youth, dreams or home. Something that was important has ended or been lost. Endings often bring sadness and grief and it takes time to experience and work through the feelings.

The next stage is a neutral zone, or the term I like best, fertile emptiness. This is a time of confusion, lack of clarity, unfamiliarity. It’s a time where we’ve been stripped of what we knew and now are not really sure of what’s next. In ancient traditions this was called the place ‘in between dreams’. It’s the place of emptiness where a new sense of self can generate. This is a tough place for most of us because it is a time of uncertainty and unknown. But this is the place where the real business of a transition happens. It’s where our inner realignment and reorientation is taking place. This is where we make the real transition.

The last stage is new beginnings. Interestingly enough, this is where we finish.  We come to the new beginning at the end of the transition. The new beginnings depend on the inner realignment and reorientation that has occurred in the time of fertile emptiness. Because when we are truly aligned with our transformed self and the deep longings we have from this place, we become powerfully motivated. If we can identify with the final result of what it is that we really desire, this helps us to move forward with courage, clarity and self compassion.

So, with my own personal time of transition, I sensed something felt different in my life and when I ‘saw’ the lotus bud I got this inner feeling that something had changed and I was in a new place.

‘Symbols are the language of the soul’ wrote Carl Jung many years ago. I’ve found this to be true over and over again. In working with myself and others I have learned to trust symbols and trust that they have important meaning. So I started reflecting and researching….

Here’s what I discovered.

Take a moment and look closely at the lotus flower bud……

The perfect teardrop shape.

The petals so tightly drawn in

The hint of color

The strong stem that brought this bud up through the muddy waters and into the clean air.

Lotus seeds sprout underwater. They are surrounded by mire, sludge, muck, mud, fish, insects and all sorts of dirty and rough conditions.

They endure, like many of us, the challenges, struggles and abuse as they grow and eventually rise up and out of their sordid conditions and open into a beautiful symmetrical bloom.

For this reason, it is a sacred symbol in Buddhist, Hindu and other cultures. It represents our ability, as human beings, to grow and eventually rise above the adversity we all face.

‘No mud, No lotus’

Thich Nhat Hanh

I love this statement by Thich Nhat Hanh, Vietnamese author, Noble Prize Nominee and Monk. It’s such a simple reminder that without the mud we would not have the beauty of the lotus. The mud cannot be avoided. It is required for the flower to bloom.

I discovered it takes 3 days for the lotus to come up from the bottom and break the surface of the water. And then it is a green bud that slowly gains color and over time comes into full bloom.

And what is remarkable is that when the lotus does bloom, it is not dirty. It is clean. It does not cling to the dirt or let it stick to it. It lets all of that go and simply, when the time is right, unfolds and reveals the beauty within.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. If you look closely at the picture you can see that this bud is tightly closed. It is not ready to open.

And it will not be rushed.

Things are happening within that bud that are invisible to our eye but that are needed in order for the bud to bloom.

This is a time of sacred waiting. A time to be patient and wait for the full ripening to occur. And trust that it will know when it’s time.

This is where we can learn from nature. There is an inherent speed to things and there is no rushing the process. Angeles Arrien, Ph.D. often said, ‘the natural rhythm of nature is medium to slow’.  We must learn patience, respect and trust for the process itself and understand that it’s not holding us back but, instead in a loving way, making sure we are ready.

All of this was meaningful for me. Seeing this symbol helped me recognize where I was in the process of change and new beginnings. I felt like I was that bud. And as I looked at it, I felt appreciation for it and all the work that it had taken to get to this point. I sensed that right now I needed to understand the importance of patience and allow life to unfold.

Because of the symbol I felt clearer about next steps and could make some decisions.

  1. I decided to stop judging where I was in the process and instead hold this time with self-kindness.
  2. I decided to let go of trying to figure things out… and instead let this be a time of information gathering and have a ‘beginners mind’, one that is open and willing to learn.
  3. Lastly, I decided to trust that when the time is right for the petals to open, and I will know it. I don’t need to force things.

These things gave me not only a sense of relief but deepened my self-trust. The symbol had come to me during a quiet time and I had paid attention to it. And when I did and took the time to listen and understand what it meant for me, I felt an inner ‘knowing’  that this was right and that I was at the start of a new beginning.

How about you? Are you going through one of the stages of transition? What is going on in your life that feels uncertain or is of concern?

Paying attention to symbols will support you where ever you are. Try this. Begin by creating some space for yourself. Perhaps taking a walk or a break from work. Then bring a troubling issue to mind and reflect on it. Notice how you feel and what you are aware of. Then look around you and see what draws your attention. It might be an object around your house or workplace or something outside in nature. Or another way to do this is to ask yourself, ‘when you think of this situation, what symbol or metaphor comes to mind?’

Pay attention. Symbols can be anything….. Remember they are the language of the Soul. They bridge the invisible world with the visible world and when we pay attention to them, they give us information and guide us forward towards positive change.

To more fully experience the power of symbols for yourself, do this…

  1. Notice the symbol. Get very curious and take some time to reflect on it. Look at it literally and subjectively……What does it mean to you? What comes up when you think about it?
  2. Does a meaning for this symbol come to mind? If so, great! If not, go on line and look up information about the symbol. Open your mind to the exploration of it and see what resonates most with you. This is important. It’s not that one symbol means something for everyone. Listen to what this symbol means to you. This will deepen and build the relationship you have with your own truth, your inner guidance.
  3. Imagine that a LOVING Source is offering this symbol to you as a way to support you in your life. What is the message that speaks most honestly to your heart and mind? What gift is this symbol bringing to you? If it is helpful share this with a trusted friend. We are better together and sometimes another perspective and insight can be invaluable.
  4. Once you feel you have clarity and understand what this is telling you, make some decisions. This is important. Take action on this information…..Decide what you can do differently now that you have paid attention to this symbol. And then do your best to do that.

Next will be; Part 2.  Moving Forward……The Softening.

Good luck and please share your thoughts. I love hearing from you!