Meditation on a Lotus Flower and Change

Water Lotus

Water Lotus ©2013 Bo Mackison

…the best kind of change, is the change that comes from the inside and begins its way out until it emerges on the outside; a change that is born underneath then continues and spreads until it has reached the surface. That’s a true change. A powerful change. ~ C. JoyBelle C.

A few days ago I strolled the Japanese Gardens at the Chicago Botanic Gardens. I rested on a slatted bench in the midst of a garden of water lilies, sat long enough to watch the lotus, fully open, gradually close its petals as the afternoon skies darkened. I contemplated the constant flow of rushing water in the waterfall gardens. It was a cloudy afternoon, not hot though, as a breeze blew in from Lake Michigan. Fishy air is often a part of the Chicago sensory experience. It was somehow comforting, an in-the-moment connection.

I wandered, sat, absorbed, felt surrounded and held: as I centered myself in the gardens; as I strolled, hand-in-hand with my husband of 38 years; as we sent comfort to each other in our language of hand squeezes and quiet glances.

Sherpa and I had spent the morning with his mother. It was a morning fraught with emotion and change, one of those times in life when a major life change — deeply feared — was inevitable. We were there to tell my mother-in-law that independent living was no longer an option, that her medical situation now required a move to an assisted care facility . The move was no longer a plan in the future, it was a necessity.

As I gently told her she had to move, she expressed an array of emotions – disbelief, confusion, anger, frustration, fear, denial. I watched her eyes as we talked, as she realized we couldn’t change the plans. Gradually she realized her children, doctor and the administrator of her current living situation were in agreement – she could no longer live in her apartment.

“What if I refuse?” she asked.

I held her hand and said as kindly as I could, “That’s not a choice.”

I deeply empathized with M, perhaps because I have been in similar situations — times when I grasped that I was struggling, when I needed more care than I could provide for myself, when I refused to give up control but the situation demanded another person make decisions for my care and safety. For me, those occurrences were temporary. But the feelings of knowing that one has lost their basic, decision-making powers is deeply frightening.

I don’t think I understood that this awareness was present while I was speaking to my mother-in-law, but once we left her apartment, I knew I had to find a green space to walk and process all that had transpired.

The Chicago Botanical Garden was not far from our route home, and we stopped.

I stood in the grasses of the gardens and grounded myself, visualized sending an anchor deep within the earth, visualized a calm light surrounding me from above. Re-connection.

I contemplated the lotus, a plant whose beginning are in muddied waters. The plant sends up a stalk much like an umbilical cord, its leaves open upon the water’s surface, and the flower rises above the water, opening into a magnificent blossom high above the waters.

The lotus breaks free of its muddy origins and emerges white and pure, with a brilliantly yellow pod, a tiny sun.

Change. Renewal.

Sitting on a bench and watching the open lotus slowly close as evening approached, I thought about my mother-in-law entering a new phase of her life. It was a small comfort to realize that the closed lotus flower would open again in the morning, and that M would pass through this stage of her life and eventually move into a different stage, and into her own light, in her own way.


Bo Mackison is photographer, book-maker, collector of stories, naturalist, and owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC. I am also daughter in law, and I have the deepest respect for my mother-in-law, doing the best that she can in a most difficult time.

About Bo Mackison

I'm a photographer, book-artist, traveler, naturalist, and creator of the Contemplative Creatives Journey, An Online Workshop and Community and Desert Wisdom Cards and Workshops. Though often not well known, I find the desert a welcoming place - a healing space. Its mysteries and gifts transformed me several years ago. Since that first encounter, I return again and again to fill my well in what most people think of as a desolate region. I'd love to share my desert discoveries and wisdom with you. Please subscribe to receive my five part mini email course The Gifts of the Desert. It's my gift to you.


  1. This photo is . . . incandescent. The lighting, oh, my!

    And the words – change is seldom easy, and often not an immediately happy thing. I hope your mother-in-law can find her renewal in the midst of such difficult times.

    • Bo Mackison says:

      I was quite thrilled with this photo, too, Barbara. The botanic gardens in Chicago were amazing — I have hundreds of photos to still process — happiness!

      And I think the adjustment will be hard, hope it is easier as time passes.

  2. A hard necessity.

    Exquisite photo!

  3. Oh. My eyes are weeping. A tsunami of emotions rolled through me while reading this thoughtful, sensitive, deep missive. Your photo is incredible. Oh.

  4. Such an amazing image, Bo. Comforting in a number of ways. Having been through this with my mother-in-law, I know how tough it is. I can’t think of a better way to ground than sitting with such beauty.

  5. Beautiful photo taken by someone with a beautiful heart. Your honesty and bravery has always be an inspiration. Love you.

  6. * have always. I’m with the personal grammar patrol. 😉

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