Stuck in the Muck: A True Story

The forest trail was beyond muddy. Fitting somehow, because I also felt like a total mess. I had been called to come to this particular trail. Each day, I decided very intuitively where to go based on where I felt called. I trust that the medicine I need will be present where I feel pulled to go.

On this particular day, I had chosen the mud, literally and figuratively.

Looking back, I don’t know why I didn’t turn around the moment I saw the state of the trail. There were concrete paths nearby but I was stubborn and preferred the "goat trails" that meandered deep into the bush.

The mud was so deep and dank that when I set foot down it suction cupped my boot to the ground. Each step required extra effort as my foot sank in and then needed to be hoisted out so I could take the next step. Forget having a leisurely walk, I felt like I had landed in a full-blown obstacle course!

I kept trudging along. Trees had fallen across the trail that needed to be scrambled over. My legs felt heavy. I may have been muttering something about this being "total bullshit” as I pressed onward. There were steep banks of mud and ice as the forest floor thawed. The only way to scamper up was by holding fast to tree roots and branches and pulling myself up with all my might.

Usually going to the woods brought me deep relief and peace, and eventually I did connect with that, but I had arrived that day feeling out of sorts. This trail was mirroring my internal state.

I was epically out of the flow and this trail was not going to let me forget it.

The sun seemed too bright. Boys talking loudly and drinking beer had infiltrated one of my sacred spots and were disturbing the peace. Who was I kidding, though? I didn’t actually have any peace they could disturb. As I pressed onward, I found that I could get a bit more of a foothold by stepping on the patches of mud that were covered in dried leaves. The leaves kept my feet from sinking too deeply in the muck.

And then there was water, lots of it. I found myself in what looked like a shallow creek bed. “Yeah, great idea dude…go for a walk in the marshy creek in your suede boots.” My spine hurt. My body felt heavy. Angry tears were never far from the surface. All of existence seemed to be conspiring to make me miserable. Ever have one of those days?

I increasingly understand that this world is but a projection of mind. As dramatic as it sounds, I feel that what I experience in the outer world is but a projection of my inner state. On the trail that day was the physical manifestation of my own lack of ease. My resistance and turmoil were showing up as dank mud, fallen trees, steep banks of ice, and watery trails. Each step felt hard.

It finally occurred to me that I didn’t need to keep pushing myself onward. It sounds so obvious now that it’s completely ridiculous. But we do this don’t we? We keep pressing forward when what we really need is stop and find our center. And as we press forward without a connection to center everything tests us and opposes our efforts.

Everything seems to be working against us because we are working against ourselves.

We don’t take the few moments required to reconnect to our breath, to let our shoulders and jaw soften and to reconnect to the sense of ease and peace that live under the struggle. It finally occurred to me to pause or maybe I had just exhausted myself by anxiously trudging for so long. I finally stopped trying to get away from myself. I stopped trying to outrun my suffering and I sat with it instead.

I found a dusty log that had fallen across a semi-dry patch of grass in the full sun overlooking this little river that up until a few moments prior I was apparently trying to trudge through. (!?) God, we can be so insane sometimes. I sat down. I sat right in the center of my suffering, eased a full-bellied sigh and just let myself be there.

I decided that I wouldn’t get back up again until my state had shifted and I found ease or some ease found me. I felt the solidity of the log beneath me. Then, all of a sudden, as though out of nowhere, I heard the birds. They were chirping and singing in call and response. At first it sounded like they were mocking me, like they knew something that I didn’t.

I watched two crows dance by on a current of wind, circling each other and then parting ways in the vast expanse of sky. I heard the ice crack and crumble into the melting water canal where I sat. I watched the light particles dance off the water. 

I forgot about my sorrow. No, I forgot about myself. I stopped stoking my own suffering and just like that it vanished, I vanished. Actually, I became everything.

My mind forgot to torment me with the story of my own suffering that I had been spinning relentlessly. The story that claims things are supposed to be different than they are; the story in which I disapprove of myself, of others, and of life in general.

Beneath all that shitty chaos, awaiting me with open arms was a deep and abiding sense of peace. It had been there all along.

It took about two hours to center myself and for a sense of ease to take root inside me. When I finally got up I realized that I was way closer to the main path than I thought. Within a few brief moments I found myself on a clear path of packed snow and I walked with ease out of the woods.



As you go about your day today, I invite you to try on the idea that everything you encounter presents you with clues as to your inner state. Be curious about the ease or lack of ease you experience, the way people treat you, and what you encounter. What can you learn about where you’re at based on what crosses your path today?


Copyright © 2015 Marie-Ève Bonneau