The Swamp

Close up of a small, spent plant standing in swamp water
Photo by Piotr Szulawski, @brodatofotografia

The Swamp calls the shots.

The Swamp works on its own time, not ours, and in its own way, not ours. How long we spend in The Swamp is usually determined by how willing we are to honor The Swamp.

We can’t rush through The Swamp—whether we’re talking the one out back of Mud Lake or the ones of our life transitions.

If we try to get through The Swamp quickly, it will force us to slow down by taking our boots.

If we try to pretend it isn’t there, the reeds will remind us they can cut.

If we try to minimize it, it will make us feel its vastness.

If we don’t take it seriously, it will penetrate our clothes and our skin with a reminder that it is there. If we fall in the swamp in our jeans, instead of the waders we should have worn, we will have mud stains on our jeans and our underwear and the skin of our butts.

The Swamp forces us to slow down, to go inside. We hear our own heartbeat in the swamp. We feel our sweat.

Have you ever taken a pottery class?

Pottery is made from clay, which is the mud of the swamp. You can take clay and form a pot. You can leave that pot to dry, to become ‘leather hard.’ Then, if you still like the pot you have made, you can put it in the kiln and make it almost indestructible (fired clay can break but it cannot decay).

But maybe you want to change your leather-hard pot in some way. You can’t shape it the way you could when the clay was wet. It’s hard now.

The only thing to do with a leather-hard pot that you don’t want to fire is to throw it in the muck barrel.

The muck barrel is usually a large, heavy-duty plastic trash can, half-full of brown water and unfired pots. What happens in the muck barrel is the pots break down, they return to the muck from whence they came.

The potter waits until the pots have fully disintegrated, then takes the sloppy clay and lets it dry enough to be kneaded, to be prepared to be made into new pots.

Call it The Neutral Zone, call it The Swamp, what is happening in a transition is that some aspect of the form that we were is disintegrating, being prepared to be shaped into a new form.

The Swamp is not a yang experience of ‘the only way out is through.’

It is a yin experience of ‘the only way out is in.’

When we allow ourselves to be in the swamp rather than fight it, when we hear our own heart and feel what we feel without judgment, we give ourselves the opportunity to re-form ourselves into something new, something that is made from What We Were, something that allows us to become a new What We Are.


Chewing the Cud of Good

Thankful for the soft breezes on my balcony last night.

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