The gnarliest mud I’ve ever encountered was about halfway across Zion National Park in the spring of 2014. Seriously, it was the slipperiest, stick-to-your-leg-iest, sweep-you-off-your-feet-iest mud ever. With at least twenty five miles to go in our day adventure, getting pissed off about it was not a productive option, so we slid and skid as gracefully as we could through a good hour of it and ran the rest of the traverse with dried gray sludge caked on our calf sleeves. A few years before that I might have lost myself to frustration and indignation that this offensive mud was ruining my fun. Trail adventures have moderated my attachment to keeping everything nice and pretty and neat.
What our motto also recognizes is the harder, dirtier, messier stuff back at home when the outdoor adventure is done.
I grew up in an exceptionally tidy household with expectations to meet those standards, and believing it really wasn’t abnormal. As it turns out, I’m innately messy. I don’t mind leaving my clothes in piles after laundered – I’m just going to get them out again and I wear the same things every day anyway. My last car was a lost cause. Why vacuum when I’m going to climb back in tomorrow after a dusty run and shove trail mix in my mouth (and all over the seat)? I never hurried home to shower after workout, and it has become apparent that I am content with my current once a week bathing routine. Sure, there’s a few things that gross me out. Basic personal hygiene, dish soap, rodent deterrents – all necessary. Since I stopped fighting my natural inclination toward disorder a few years back, I stopped feeling bad about not doing a good enough job in at least that area of life.
Our message to “Get Dirty, Feel Good” is born primarily from our love of running, riding, hiking and generally galavanting around dirt trails. You can Google “negative ions” for some scientific-y explanations of why humans feel better on mountains, near waterfalls or even just in a town park. But we all just know it’s true (sadly, many forget too often though). Getting outside, away from urban noise, walking barefoot in sand or through a creek, scrambling on hands and knees up a peak and dumping all that dirt out of our shoes back at the trailhead is divinely satisfying. What our motto also recognizes is the harder, dirtier, messier stuff back at home when the outdoor adventure is done. Like me: somehow I let worry about getting my clothes dirty spill over into being fearful of messing up the rest of my existence. Emotions are messy, so I mostly repressed those for a long, long time. Sticking your neck out beyond your comfort zone is messy, so I failed to wholeheartedly devote energy to risky professional pursuits. Oh and relationships – those can be the messiest of all so I kept people a certain distance and avidly avoided confrontation. Just like with my slovenly car and laundry piles, once I started accepting my cluttered thoughts they stopped holding me back. I mean, there is still plenty of room to go with this – millions of miles of room – but I’m comfortable looking back and ahead on my sidetracks and switchbacks along the trail.
It is tough to get the presence of mind and courage to look at yourself from an objective perspective, it is again, dirty work! My study and practice with yoga has been a little spasmodic over the last ten years, mostly because I am terrified of that quiet time on the mat. I can’t clearly see the dirt between my toes like after a hard trail run, but I can feel a cloud of dirt swirling around me like Pig Pen. In the quiet concentration of asana practice (physical poses) I am forced into complete awareness of what exactly my body is feeling. No ignoring the ugliness of my body’s present struggle. The purpose of these asanas is to quiet the mind and turn the concentration inward, toward your true Self and to release all the ego and dirt that is holding you back from your full expression. All the poses are beneficial in different ways, but forward bends can be particularly helpful to nurture introspection, self examination. You are literally and figuratively folding into yourself. What is important here, though, is that you are not just folding in to look at yourself and all your current dirt. When you fold, as in all the asanas, you must first extend out in all directions, lengthening, actually making yourself bigger, creating space for more; more movement more energy, more growth. You are reaching and expanding beyond all the garbage, you are realizing that you can be more than what you thought you were. My time with yoga has forced me to stop ignoring the dirty and messy parts of my life that I’ve tended to ignore. Admittedly it doesn’t always feel wonderfully good at first, but after my initial horror comes immense relief and my own Feel Good’ness. Remember, without dirt nothing will grow, so go ahead: get your hands beautifully dirty and see what you might dig up.