By Juliana Di Leonardo
The Lotus plant is known to settle into the soil at the bottom of a pond or river. Once established, the plant will grow towards the surface through the mud and murkiness to find the sun where it will bloom one petal at a time. This plant teaches us about pushing through darkness, suffering, and overcoming challenges and obstacles to achieve spiritual consciousness or awakening. The Lotus flower has always been a great symbol of transformation, but maybe the Pekin duck is more inspirational to us larger animals, humans.
While observing domesticated ducks like the Pekin, an all-white duck, I find myself captivated by their enthusiastic preening. These ducks constantly clean themselves to ensure that their feathers are fresh and waterproofed. This daily upkeep ritual prevents them from looking disheveled, being cold and experiencing disease or parasites. Every day after becoming muddy and covered with nature’s debris they transform themselves back into the white glowing feathered being they were once before. Pekins after getting covered in mud will always find their way back to their pristine white self, one feather at a time.
Humans, like Pekins, will go through life accumulating mud that dampens or obscures their internal light. This kind of mud however is more complicated than what the ducks sift through and less visible. In our society we collect invisible mud which makes it difficult to know when we’re in need of preening or “house cleaning”. The mud that we experience usually shows up as physical exhaustion, depression, anxiety, and other feelings that may cloud our perspective making it difficult to stay on course. There’s no handbook for being human but we know that there are many things that we need to do to keep ourselves feeling well and mentally sound; like brushing our teeth, eating healthy foods, and exercising, but it’s too easy for most people to neglect their basic needs. Sometimes we work ourselves ragged to earn enough money, so we get home, eat junk food, don’t wash up, and collapse into bed. During these challenging and negligent moments, it may be helpful to think about the daily routine and constant maintenance that Pekins stick with to make each day more pleasant.
This practice of Ahimsa will help keep our “mud” at a manageable level and the chatter within our minds will lessen. For this week’s Anuvrat, I encourage you to learn from our fellow domesticated fowl and find your light each day through a daily practice of your choosing that which will help keep you from becoming overwhelmed or sick.
Juliana Di Leonardo