May in Boulder was one of the wettest on record, and consequently, the trails we love so much were a mess, because of the mud itself, but also because hikers are reluctant to get muddy. Yet at the start of many trails are clearly marked signs, “GET MUDDY”. But instead of doing so, some hikers go around the muck, and start creating now trails which then becomes even a greater mess.
This unwillingness to get muddy reflects a human tendency that is important for us, as yoga practitioners, to consider. We must look at this unwillingness to get muddy and ask ourselves: what are we avoiding? What is there in the mud that is so bad, so frightening? And might our wading into the muck be exactly what we need to keep steady on our path, rather than divert our course?
One misunderstanding of yoga is that it is all about light, enlightenment, bliss, beauty, and so on. And yes, that is definitely part of the experience. However, any authentic spiritual path will acknowledge that there are difficult times, times where navigating the path is challenging, and we may be tempted to avoid or circumvent the circumstances, or even give up. Yet between where we are on the path, and the journey we need to traverse to move toward the light, are the muddy parts. The parts that are clouded, cloaked, and in the way.
Yoga philosophy gives many different descriptions of this mud, these obstacles on our path, the cloaking of our innermost self. And it further acknowledges that these are in fact the source of our suffering, so encountering them can be painful. Yet just because of some temporary challenges, the muck you have to wade through, do you give up and turn around?
In fact, one component of our practices is precisely the stirring up of the muck, all our unconscious obstacles that block us from deepening our awareness. Do we want to keep sidestepping these issues? Notice how in the physical world that just creates a bigger mess of mud. Likewise in our lives it is much more effective to move forward instead of sideways.
So may we each go ahead and move through it, traverse the challenging muck, and see what is waiting on the other side. The worst that happens is we get our feet wet or our shoes dirty, which to me is a sign of a path well-travelled, our willingness to explore what is being offered in this life, what is possible. To see where the path leads.
My hikes all over the world have often taken me into the mud, and arriving on the other side I’ve experienced some of the most treasured moments of my lifetime. But I had to be willing to get muddy, to get down and dirty. to experience the goo and gunk that was standing in the way. Slipping and sliding, even falling down and getting muddy, then getting up to continue.
The journey is worth it.
Likewise our journey in our yoga practice is worth it. It is worth it to choose to continue to practice even when it seems dark, muddy, challenging and unpleasant. We have to be willing to move trough the muddy places, or we will never experience the delights that lay beyond.