Stirring up the sludge

If I could return to the mind-as-a-lake metaphor for a moment, I’ll mention that if you’ve been meditating for a while, you have probably found that place where you mind is still, the surface like a still lake where you can see all the way to the bottom, and you can hear the quiet voice of intuition/spirit or however you refer to it.

That’s a wonderful place to be and something to celebrate and learn to live with as it invades your time outside of meditation.  I say “learn to live with” because often what your heart wants isn’t what you think you should do and learning to accept that the little voice saying ‘go this way instead of that way’ can be challenging. But, do it, I promise you’ll be glad you did.

Now, if you’ve found that quiet point of your mind you might think that’s it. You’ve found enlightenment and can just coast along. Well…not quite.

You see, even on its calmest day, every lake has a bottom that is covered in mud, silt and decaying leaves, sticks and all manner of other detritus.

Your mind has that same sludge in it, lurking underneath the quiet surface that is, believe it or not, more easily found.

A few weeks ago I had a conversation with a friend and fellow meditator who confessed that his practice will go along swimmingly (sorry, I can’t help myself with the whole water thing) until he dredges up an issue and then it stops because he’d rather not pull out that feeling/experience and work through it.

Rod Stryker had a great Faceboook post about this. He said: “Meditation can become more challenging as we evolve and/or different things come up in our life. It can also be a sign of deepening. You arrive at a certain level of accomplishment and the unconscious may download more distracting stuff. Keep practicing. Embrace the distractions. Someday you will look back and accept that your distractions were part of an invaluable and necessary part of your process.”

I love this idea of just viewing the experience of challenge as a sign of deepening your practice. You are simply ready to deal with some of the sludge that sits on the bottom of your mind. When you clear away the sludge, there’s more room for light and love to shine.


image courtesy of

Just this weekend I had this very experience while meditating in a hotel room at my college reunion. While sitting and meditating I found myself drawn to visualizing the lakeside cottage where, as a child, I would swim with my grandparents. I saw myself walk down onto the dock and sit while my grandmother sat beside me and held my hand. I’ve meditated on this before so that part wasn’t surprising. What caught me off guard was the flood of tears that came with this.

As I sat on the floor of my hotel room with tears pouring down my face, I heard a voice inside my head say, “I miss you so much and I love you so much.” Though I have grieved the loss of my grandmother, a part of me will always miss her and my subconscious was offering up the reality that we are never done grieving. I sat with the tears and allowed them to flow. It was uncomfortable at first, but as I stayed with it, I focused on holding her hand and began to feel an intense warmth in my own hands that were resting on my legs in real life. As time passed my tears stopped flowing and I was left with a sense of peace and calm and deep love.

Though the experience was a bit uncomfortable at first, I was able to stay with it because I understand the value of exploring those places and the end result was a sense of reconnection to my grandmother and the sense of pure, abiding love. In the end, we are all love; it is what dissolves the ego and allows our light to shine. My grandmother, who is a person who truly lived her life from a place of love, reminds me of the importance of my own work to live my life that way too.

Sludge is never pretty, but it is okay to dig into it, let it flow through the fingers of your mind, and see what you open up to when it is cleared away.

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