Sitting in the mud, searching for lotus roots

Letterpress art by Sophy Wong with a lotus flower and phrase "no mud no lotus" in English and Chinese.

It’s been a long five years since my last series of posts from Malaysia in 2017. The world has changed dramatically, and I have changed along with it.

The pandemic, climate change and rifts in human society have forced me to look hard and deep at my career in public health and medicine. What bright spots are left? How much of my personal life am I willing to sacrifice for work? What positive and impactful contributions can I make in this moment?

I have finally made enough space to look carefully at where I’m sitting in life as I approach my 50s, the age at which my beloved father died suddenly from stress-related cardiac arrest. It is the dark mud field of mid-life. I collected so many things I was supposed to: education, career, home, stuff, stuff for my stuff. It is all in this heap of compost. In the process, I left little time to nurture my personal relationships and buried many of my interests as a wonderer and wanderer. 

Calligraphy art by Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh with the phrase "no mud no lotus" in English.


Each day I wake up and see this “no mud, no lotus” calligraphy by my venerable Zen teacher Thích Nhất Hạnh (Thầy), who passed in January 2022. “When we know how to suffer,” Thầy said, “we suffer much, much less.”

So here I am, sitting in the mud, looking into the darkness, learning to embrace suffering, searching for buried lotus roots to nourish, transform and grow into flowers. I hope to share some of those buds and blooms with you. 

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *