Lotus flowers are simply beautiful. I have always liked them, even as a child. Whenever I come across any type of floating flower I get enchanted by them. When I started practicing Yoga, I loved the fact that everything was embellished with lotus flower, and that was something that caught my attention and drawn me into the science of Yoga. I practiced Yoga for a while and enjoyed being surrounded by lotus flower imagery, but it wasn’t until I took my Yoga teacher training that I learned why the lotus flower is around so much, and it’s not just because it’s pretty. One day my teacher started chanting “Om mani padme hum”. I was immediately intrigued. I knew “padme” had something to do with a Lotus, and I had no idea why anyone would sing a mantra about a Lotus flower. I very politely asked what the mantra meant. My teacher explained that
Some mantras really don’t have an exact translation and have a more extensive meaning than it seems, so I am not going to go too deeply into the meaning of the this mantra and its interpretation, but I am going to explain it as my teacher explained it to me. She said that it meant that the treasure of enlightenment is achieved when you purify your heart, when, like a Lotus flower, you grow and shine in a world in which it is not easy to do so. She explained that the Lotus flower has the ability to root deep into the dirt and the dark, and was able to grow and blossom in the most stinky and nasty waters; taking something that seems useless and disgusting into pureness and beauty. This is one of my favorite mantras. I LOVE mantras, did I mention that? They are a great tool in stress management for kids and a great kid’s meditation technique.
When I was teaching kids yoga in schools, I realized that most of my students were stressed out. They were pressured to be the best, not to fail, not to make mistakes, to behave properly, never to disagree with anyone else, to do everything as they were told without asking questions. They were also having a lot of interpersonal problems, fighting with each other, telling on each other, bragging to each other, they were taking all of the pressure they felt and taking it out on each other. I was really trying hard to find a way to help them cope with these feelings and situations, and I had no idea, with the little time I had, how to make a difference, until I remembered the Lotus flower.
So I came up with a Lotus flower themed class. I don’t call it that because boys make funny faces if I do. The idea is that throughout the class I remind them that whenever they feel there is nothing good around them, and when they feel that everything they do is turning out the wrong way, they can be like the Lotus flower and use all that dirt to grow… to become better people, to free themselves from the bad, to transform it into something beautiful! I was really nervous on how they would receive it. It is a BIG concept to teach, but they all got it right away, they knew what I was talking about.
I started OMing and meditating. You can do some concentration looking at a lotus flower picture, or looking at the real deal if you can get ahold of one. I also added a round of jokes to loosen them up, and I told them that laughter is the best medicine when you feel like things get overwhelming. I told them a short story saying something like, “When I was a kid I was not a happy baby. I was sad because people were mean to me and I wanted to hide like a turtle. And then I learned about the Lotus flower. And now I don’t feel like flying away when things get stinky, I use the poop in my life to rock n’ roll and grow into a shining star.”
Then we did some Sergeant Salutations and a bunch of balancing poses. When it gets hard and they wanted to quit, I say, “why don’t you do like the Lotus flower, and transform the frustration into determination and mindfulness?” We went running and swimming in a pond where we would “swim” and see animals in the water, and we climbed on a big leaf to see a Lotus flower. Then the challenging part came: the lotus flower origami. You can google the instructions, these are the ones I used.
If the kids are too young you can pre-fold them up in your house so it will be easier for them to actually do it. Or you can do one really big lotus with some big paper and decorate it as a group. Before they started folding, the kids had to make a drawing in the center and the corners. I suggested that they draw themselves being happy and to write positive words at the corners. Then we folded up the origami, and when they open up the petals they would read the words and see themselves happy. The thing is that origami it’s not easy and many of them got frustrated and wanted to tear it up. I would tell them “don’t let the anger beat you. Be like the Lotus flower and try again.” It was also a big lesson on how perfection is not a real thing. The poses, the origami, there is no perfect or wrong. There are just different ways of doing them. And just because your way is different, it doesn’t mean that you are doing it wrong. And if people make you feel bad about it, use that to grow knowing that perfection is a myth. Just keep doing it your way, and one day you’ll be teaching others how to do it.
I invite you to give it a try. Either apply the lesson to your own life or share it with your kids. When I taught that class, and I did it with several groups, kids would approach me at the end and thank me for the lesson. Hopefully they will remember the lesson I have given them whenever things get really tough in life.