Muddy Waters

We all have been through some muck, right?? I mean, if you are reading this, it’s highly unlikely that you have gotten to this point in your life on this earth unscathed by upsets, disappointments, break-ups, bad habits, bad people or bad luck…I feel like even the people who seem perpetually blessed have at some time suffered in one way or another. At yoga we talk about suffering a lot, and from what I am learning, basically suffering is just all about how we look at circumstances. From a yogic perspective it seems that even in the worst of it, it is how we think about stuff more than the stuff itself. I know, I know, some stuff is very bad and very sad and very muddy, but maybe it’s possible to think of it differently, or not at all to free our minds for space to think about the present, or what is good and happy and all things NOT muddy…Getting out of muddy waters, no matter how we look at it, is not easy because sometimes it’s really more like quicksand and you are quite terrified that you actually are going to get sucked under very fast and be stuck forever. Sometimes muddy waters are really just like a puddle that ruins your shoes, not a big deal but the shoes are ruined. Other times muddy waters are like the worst drowning nightmare you could possibly have and when you rise you are shocked that you made it through. Lots of levels of mud make a life, AND it is how we think of it that makes our minds…

There is a lotus mudra we sometimes do in yoga class that is supposed to open your heart, and inevitably the teacher will make a comment about the lotus; how it manages to survive in muck and yet manages to unfurl into the sun as full and as beautiful as any flower could…we all can be like a lotus, if we want to, right?? I mean, honestly who would want to stay stuck in the mud?? BUT lots of people do, don’t they?? They let themselves get sucked back into negative self-talk, addiction, bad habits, bad characters, bad memories, bad mud. With an open mind and open heart we can fill our space with other “cleaner” things…cleaner is always better and mucky or muddy seldom, if ever, makes me happy!

Mud pies were a HUGE party of my childhood…we had a play house that my dad built just like a real house, and we “cooked” in it a lot, & mud puddles were a huge part of my teens, as we grew up at the shore and in between the ocean and the woods and everybody had big lifted trucks and we spent lots of hours in huge puddles of mud, & mud masks were a huge part of my twenties and thirties, constantly doing what I thought I could to make my face stay as wrinkle free and clear as possible, so to be honest mud has been in my life in some way for all of my life…but I am finding mid-life-mud is different…I am working, and WORKING HARD to keep space for good thoughts and push the muddy ones out when they come. By this time of life we have lived many variations of who we are and some chapters are much muckier than others and I find when I keep thinking about the muddy mucky ones they start to grow and take up too much mind space and too many minutes; mind space and minutes that would be better off thinking about spring and sunshine and flowers and finishing painting my house!!!

I know that it is nearly impossible to think happy thoughts all the time and I know that it is nearly impossible to BE PRESENT at present all the time…it’s only natural to have our minds wander and for some inexplicable reason, actually it has a name and can be explained, cognitive negativity bias is a real thing and it has to do with how adverse thoughts and experiences tend to have a more profound impact on our psychological state…meaning pretty much, even if your present tense is pretty great, your mind will keep finding its way back to when things were mucky or muddy. WHY?? Why does our mind want to keep making more space for the negative?? It is a mystery but I don’t want to dwell there. I want to give a big middle-finger “F!You” to the cognitive negativity bias and continue my efforts to keep my mind out of the mud and out of the muck and strive to focus on what is happy and joyful and fulfilling. It takes work. If we don’t do the hard work, the suffering, the way the brain pulls us back in, wins. It also takes work, SO MUCH WORK, to not absorb other people’s mud.

So many have had more mud and more muck and if you are around those people it can sometimes ooze out of them and onto you. This is sometimes the hardest part of the work. We have our own mud to contend with and don’t need yours overflowing into ours. It’s not a quick fix and saying, “just focus on the present,” is only sometimes helpful because you still have to do the job of letting the mud and the muck just flow right back out, not letting it puddle is a task in itself! Just like brushing my teeth and making my bed, I am working to make being present and being grateful for all that is good my go-to habit, giving my mind the hard truth that thinking about the muddy bits is not how it wants to waste time…I for one don’t want the mud to win…I do however still think a mud mask is always a good idea!

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