Thursday, January 27, 2011

Natural Frame of Mind

Without giving it much thought, as yesterday's snowstorm came to a lull just before midday, my son Ryan and I pulled on our boots and jackets and set off in a northeasterly direction across a tract of woods towards my son's homeschool resource center where classes were being held despite the storm. Ryan's desire to finish a chessboard he was working on in wood shop, my lack of desire to drive over hazardous roads to get there, and both of our excitement to spend some time in nature prompted us to make the decision to walk to school instead.

Before leaving, we checked google maps, committing to memory our planned route through mostly wooded areas with a few homes and farms on acreage. Taking into account our estimated 1.5 to 2 miles to cover and allowing for mistakes along the way, I figured the journey would take about an hour, just enough time to get to Ryan's wood shop program on time. After heading out, it didn't take long for us to be in the thick of the forest, climbing over logs and ducking under brambles, heading up hills and over creeks. Forging your own trail in the woods takes time and travel is slow.
Normally traveling slowly, spending vast amounts of time rambling through the woods in a beautiful setting would be welcomed by me. I would embrace it and revel in just being. Being in nature, with nature.

But yesterday, I found my thoughts filled with bothersome questions. Why did I think this walk was a good idea, a good adventure? As I found myself beginning to feel tired walking through the deep snow, I wondered how far we had to go yet and asked myself if it would feel worse to turn around and go back home or were we almost to the school? I continually asked Ryan to stop frequently to check his compass to make sure we were not going the least bit off track. I just wanted to get to our destination by noon when Ryan's wood shop program was set to begin. I let the pressure of time and the discomfort of wondering if we were taking the best route, get in the way of properly enjoying my time in the woods with my son.

As I think back on it now, I see that just being in a natural setting doesn't guarantee a more mindful "living in the moment" experience. It doesn't suddenly make you forget the pressures of your life and open up to the beauty around you. You need to be in the right place in your mind as well. Bringing all of life's irritations and frustrations into the woods with you will simply make you continue to be frustrated and irritated. Going into the woods and surrounding yourself with nature may make you take pause and lessen some of the pressures you have, but it will not erase them. Just like meditation requires you to still your mind in order to get the most out of it, so does being in nature. Still your thoughts, open to the beauty around you. Listen, go slow. Look, breathe, appreciate.

1 comment:


Perhaps nature hands you more than a source of meditative qualities. Maybe it also silently warns you of the chaos in the nature of us humans and to please take heed. -- barbara