‘Being aware of our jealousy, judgments, and fear is already a positive step towards acceptance. When we accept ourselves as we are, we do not any longer need to fight to change ourselves. The moment we become aware that we are being to critical of ourselves and we accept our negative seeds, we are already making progress. People who are unaware of their negative energies will have difficulty making progress.
Even so, striving to increase our compassion does not mean that instantly there are only positive elements in us. If this were the case, there would be no need to practice. It is exactly because we have the seeds of negative energies in us that we continue to practice. The practice is easy: just become aware of our negative energies, and in just cultivating this awareness, we will make steady steps on the path. Conflict is not necessary.
We practice like the lotus flower and the mud. The lotus flower does not think, “I do not want the mud.” The lotus knows that it can bloom beautifully only because of the mud. For us, the same is true. We have negative seeds within us, the element of mud; it we know how to accept this, we accept ourselves. The flower does not need to get rid of the mud. Without mud, it will die.
Unless we have garbage, we cannot have flowers. We should not judge ourselves or others. We only need to practice acceptance and there will be progress without struggle. The process of transformation and healing requires ongoing practice. We produce garbage every day, so we need to practice continuously to take care of our garbage in order to make it into flowers.
There may be friends around us who seem to practice better than we do, but it is important to accept who we are and not reject ourselves or our efforts. If we have within us only 10 percent flowers and 90 percent garbage, we may wish we had 90 percent flowers and only 10 percent garbage, but this kind of thinking does not help. We have to accept the 90 percent garbage in order to be able to increase the 10 percent flowers to 12 percent, then 14 percent, and then 20 percent. This acceptance will bring us peace, and then we will not be caught in an inner struggle. Even those who produce many flowers daily have garbage and must practice continuously. It is okay for us to have the mud of suffering if we know how to practice. The Buddha said, “You cannot grow lotus on marble. You have to grow it in mud.”
Even an enlightened person has to practice like this. You might wonder why a person who has accomplished so much still needs to practice. She does it in order to continue transforming the garbage. You might imagine an enlightened person is someone who does not need to practice anymore, but this is not true. She needs to practice to continue being happy, just as you and I do. She never stops practicing mindful breathing, smiling, and walking. This way she continues to generate within herself the flowers of joy.’
– Thich Nhat Hanh, Creating True Peace: Ending Conflict in Yourself, Your Family, Your Community and The World