A wall means you are stuck. Can we get around this?

By Simon Bell

I have been writing about the use of mindful stories as a means to help us, in groups or alone, to get over some of our mental issues and concerns. Here is a new one which also makes use of a picture. The following story is one I wrote some years ago but one which resonates with elements of the idea of being ‘stuck’. The story also makes use of a drawing in pastel by the Artist Rachel Furze.

As with previous blogs, find time in your day to read and think. You will need about 20 minutes.

I suggest that you place the story in a mindful setting. So, settle down in a comfortable place and take a few seconds to control your breathing, focusing on the in-breath and the out-breath. Give this a couple of minutes.

When you feel calm and your breathing is steady, read the story and look at the picture and let them seep into your mind, and then, when you feel ready, look at the questions which follow:


Picture in your mind the Everglades, or any kind of a swamp.

Swamp Illustration

Interesting word, ‘swamp’.

It is a word full of evocative images. It’s used a lot by authors and screen writers, no doubt because of its powerful imagery and mystique. For me it conjures up a range of images and perceptions drawn from childhood.

To me, a swamp is a place where water is the powerful, dominant medium. Here tracks are hard to find, pathways are constantly changing. This sense of trackless space, with the difficulties of both wood and water to navigate provides me with the basis for the swamp principle.

What is in the water? What lurks in its brooding darkness, and unfathomable depths? Unfathomable? Surely the water is not that deep? The problem is the depth cannot be assessed, it’s an unknown. And how far does the water extend? There is a primal feel about swamps and limitless, still water. Was there a time when we knew swamps intimately? Is there some kind of human race-memory of the primeval swamp? The watery place where all kinds of dramas were experienced by our ancestors long ago?

A swamp is quiet. Still water and quiet landscapes where the vertical dimension is dominated by trees. In this swamp-form there are cathedral-like corridors of vast trees. Trees masquerading as pillars in some vast, green fairy hall where the dappled blue-sky shimmers through a ceiling of leaves, supported by an invisible wall of limitless trees.

It strikes me that a swamp is an easy place to be lost.

Despite their powerful aura of mystery, swamps obey the seasons just like everywhere else. The trees give up their leaves each autumn, and the smell of warm, humid decay arising from the floating, rotting detritus is another ruling sense arising from the first impressions of swamp. The legacy of the swamp lies rotting in the water at its roots. Feeding the new growth. Its decay is the life force for the new system.

The floor of a swamp is not the reassuring solidity of stone or even the yielding, sprung cushion of leaf-strewn grass. The floor laps darkly to the bowls of the trees, thickly, oozily, oily dark and impenetrable water. In places the deceit of firm land is complete. For watery acres the surface appears solid, covered in green algae, masking the insubstantiality which lies beneath. But the deceit is easily broken as some bulk of unknown size and intention moves in the medium beneath and the floral covering is swished aside to reveal the reflective black of the true flooring.

OK, here are the questions for you to consider:

Question 1. What is the main meaning of the story?

What message or core or essential meaning does the story hold for you? There may be many meanings which occur to you but for now try to prioritise just one.

When you feel clear on this, hold it in your mind and read the next question:

Question 2. How is this meaning of relevance to you?

How does the story impact on your life and your challenges right now? Why is it important to you at this point in your life? What element emerges as being most relevant?

Again, give yourself time to think of your response and when you feel prepared try the next question:

Question 3. Think about what is the main value that you can draw from this relevance of the story. What does this value bring to the concern you identified earlier?

Don’t rush your response. Take time to think about the value. The word ‘value’ is an interesting word. What do we value and what of value is here? When you are set try this:

Question 4. What insight does the identified value provide for you?


Question 5. What action might you engage with as a consequence?

Give yourself a little time to let the ideas which come from the story and your review settle down. This is key, giving yourself time to let things happen on the inside. You may like to look at the questions later today, just to remind yourself and to reconsider some of your early-thought-responses. Each time you reconsider you may get to a deeper level of meaning and this could result in new ideas. Enjoy your day.