I took a walk in nature today, and it absolutely transformed my mental state. I walked out the door full to bursting with flitting thoughts, anxieties, shoulds and should-nots, judgments, fears, questions, discomfort. It was actually, on some level, just a lucky chance that I actually went out there – in my moments of serious self-judgment I label actions to be helpful or unhelpful in my forward momentum, and I often judge activities like this to be “unproductive” or self-satisfying. But the red light of the setting sun cast on the hills called to me, and I went.
I am having so many moments like that right now. So much judging myself, trying to force my way out of where I am, tiring and burning out, then judging myself again. I know on some level that this struggle is futile, that flailing isn’t the path to freedom; and yet, it’s what I know. It’s what I fall into. And in the midst of it, I really believe I’m not doing enough, I’m not doing the right things, I’m failing. So I try harder.
Anyway, amidst all that mental noise, I picked myself up and walked out the door. (That’s really all it takes sometimes.)
Step, step, step. Crunch of gravel under my feet. Cool air on my face. Deep breaths. Into the trees… crunch, crunch, crunch. Noticing branches, leaves, water, rocks, dirt. Everywhere, life. As I walk and notice everything growing and living around me, I can see that it is beautiful and perfect, and I desperately want to be a part of it. I don’t understand why I feel so much pain, why I have to be so stuck inside myself. Step, step, step. Out of the trees.
The last rays of sunlight coming over the hill to my left, falling on the hills to my right. My body is moving. Slowly rising above my mental fog is the feeling that this is might just be where I need to be. I watch my feet. I look at silhouettes of trees. I look ahead, to trees and rolling hills. My mind is racing, but my body is moving smoothly. Breathing and walking.
I walk up a hill to a cluster of trees and picnic tables. Looking at a tree, mid-size with smooth bark similar to a manzanita: I wish I could live like this tree. Observing the world go by from this one spot, slowly growing upward into something beautiful, using the resources that come. Trees are so wise. I climbed into the tree and cried.
Letting go of the tree I walked a bit back down the hill to where an oak tree stood. Touching the bark on an outstretched branch, so much rougher than the bark of the other tree – I appreciate it for being so different but still so beautiful, so much itself. I want us to see our fellow humans like this: different, yet all perfect and beautiful. I am crying, holding onto the rough bark of this wise oak.
Then I am walking back home. Crunch, crunch, crunch. The sky is beginning to darken. The silhouettes of trees on the hill to my right take me back to nights on the trail last summer. I see Mathew and I walking the trail in southern California, silhouettes of wind turbines up on a hill in the distance. I see myself, alone, sitting next to my tent in the Cascades as the sun sets. A knot in my chest forms… nostalgia? So many deep feelings, knotted in my throat and chest, the past couple days… maybe the past couple months. I hope that they are expressing themselves, moving through me to make room for something new. But for now they are here, and I make space for them.
I know, somewhere in my mind, that I create my own suffering, and that peace and joy don’t depend on my circumstances but on my way of being. We can’t control what happens to us, only how we respond. There is such a thing as peace in choosing to be present – choosing to be aware, to live in the moment. I have experienced it in moments of lucidity, where I remember myself and remember that nothing is as important as I sometimes believe it to be. In lucid moments I remember and deeply know that what matters is that lucidity, is being my deepest self.
And yet, that is only a thought in the midst of my thought storm. I am blaming myself for suffering and not understanding how to stop suffering.
…Until I am suddenly not. I think I must have stopped trying so hard, for a moment. Something in me let go. I was thinking, and then I was peacefully walking. Joyful thoughts started coming to me: I remember that we are all pieces of God, that what matters is treating people and all other beings that way, respecting everybody’s path and walking my own path the way I will. I feel inspired to write. I feel so grateful that I came out for a walk and that nature brought me out of that headspace.
I came home and wrote this:
Every second of every day, countless thoughts, endlessly flowing through us. Pulling us. Biting, stinging, breaking, building, crashing into each of us. Mental tug-of-war. Mental fog. Mental identity. Thinking is a never-ending analysis of our existence, a statement of our experience to ourselves that gets re-played over and over in different forms.
Where do they come from, our thoughts? A select few of them might be “conscious”, as in, originated with our own purposeful intent. But for those thoughts, where did the initial inspiration come from? Thin air. Beyond ourselves. Beyond our understanding of ourselves.
On some level of existence there is an infinite field of creative source. Most of the time we are distracted by our thoughts, living through our impulses. In the rare moments of higher awareness, when we aren’t so distracted by our own reactions, pulled into the thought loop, acting out on impulses, buying into the illusion that these thoughts create… we are one with the creative source. Moments of inspiration are our experience of touching it. Art as we know it, and meaningful experience in this life, is what we create from these moments of real knowing, of touching the infinite creative source.
And in the creative source we find… our selves. We come back to our selves, we remember our selves. Our realest selves are what some people call God. God is everything in its entirety, our physical reality as well as the creative field, plus infinite dimensions beyond what we are able to comprehend. God is the real and the incomprehensible. And each of us is also God, underneath the fog of our learned existence.
Living in this world is difficult because of the mind games. It’s all a lie, everything we are told to think about ourselves, the measures we learn to judge ourselves and others by. The biggest lie is that we are separate by our nature. If each of us is separate, than we believe in an every-man-for-themselves kind of existence. We learn that we need to be fearful and compete with others for our very lives. This mindset is an illness. It has led us into countless wars and famines. Without it we could provide food and water and shelter for everyone on the planet, easily. We could create the circumstances that would allow people to be who they are, and create in ways that feel genuine to them, instead of feeling forced into jobs where they aren’t valued as people or even paid enough to live comfortably.
I can see the injustice of it, but that is still the reality of life right now. These are the circumstances we all have to work with and make meaning out of. I can’t afford to cave in to my fears. I can’t afford to sacrifice my self either, even in a world that tells me all the ways I should be, the roles I should play. What I’m working on right now is entering into the game without losing myself. Entering a world of people that believe themselves to be separate entities, attempting to stay conscious of the fact that we aren’t at all separate.
For when I am stuck in my thoughts and fears: I am sorry to all of you for taking things personally, for acting out of fear, for believing myself to be superior or inferior, for hurting you in any way in my shallowness. I am sorry for judging you based on your own unconscious actions. I am sorry to myself for believing in those moments that I need to be anything other than myself. Part of the path I choose is working on this level of awareness, of practicing higher consciousness. It’s difficult, but it’s the work that needs to be done. That’s the world I want to be a part of.