Friday, October 9, 2009
I have many times been aware how instantaneously calming it is to walk into the woods. I’ve also come to know that there is often a stark comparison between how I was feeling before I’d arrived, and how I feel when I have left. On countless occasions I have headed for the cover of the forest in woeful shape; my state of mind reflecting the world from which I’d emerged: the drone of car engines, the distant whirr of machinery, the blare of emergency vehicles, and the incessant, critical and analytic monologue in my head, which ceaselessly required attention; somehow, miraculously, all fall into silence, and another consciousness prevails; the moment I step under the canopy, a different world reveals itself. These oppressive influences are instantly replaced with the soft murmur of rustling leaves, the buzzing hum of insects, and the chatter of birdsong. A muffling of most, or all of the outside noise occurs, and it is quite literally like stepping into another world, indeed, it is another world.
Suddenly problems are put into perspective, they shrink in importance; a more balanced view is revealed. Over time, I have developed the skills and self discipline to bookmark my troubles, promising my fearful ego that I can, if need be, pick the worry up again tomorrow, but for right here, and now, I promise myself, ‘I will be present’, ‘I will be here now’. ‘I will feel this breeze, smell the perfume in the air, and hear the birds singing’.
As a result, my breathing relaxes, shallow gulps of air are replaced with a slow, deep inhalation, and my weary mind and body are bathed in the relief of nurturing, in a sustenance that they forgot they needed.
The ironic thing is, I used to be quite literally, afraid to do such things on my own. Having been raised in suburbia, by city-born parents, I was never exposed to walks in the woods, nor invited to explore the magic of a flower, not told that I would be all right to set out on an adventure of my own, and so I never did. Never, that is, until adulthood, and quite slowly at that, for I had many dragons to slay. But, little by little, I succeeded; perhaps because the more comfortable I became with myself, the more comfortable I became in the woods.
It is still an on-going test of courage; each time I meet a new challenge I must encourage myself to go on, and then I remind myself to breathe. When I remember to take those simple steps I always am the better for it.