I noticed my brain feeling frazzled and overstimulated. I missed my usual quiet school day hours filled with writing, coaching conversations, a little yoga and meditation and household organizing. I decided to go out for a short snowshoe in the woods behind my house. I imagined the quiet serenity of the snow-filled woods with only bunny and deer tracks to suggest the presence of other beings.
So, I bundled up and headed out with my snowshoes. I put my head down against the wind and blowing snow as I transversed the yard and climbed up and over the stone wall, seeking the shelter of the woods beyond.
Once I was in the woods, I picked up my head to look around. The snow lay untouched ahead of me, not even a deer trail to be seen. The wind was no longer whipping in my face, and I headed on, leaving a trail behind me as my snowshoes sunk noiselessly into the powdery snow.
I had reached the peace of the woods, and I was ready for that calm and quiet to penetrate my inner landscape. I have always imagined the boundary between the inner landscape of the mind and spirit and outer landscape - that which we perceive to be part of the environment outside of us - to be permeable. I have always imagined that one landscape not only informed the other, but influenced and impressed itself upon the other.
I have had seen this in myself and in my clients recently amidst the conflict and unrest of the current national political scene. Clients have reported feeling confused and conflicted, unsettled, anxious or overwhelmed without a clear sense of what is causing those feelings. I have seen myself struggling to focus on what is in front of me. I suspect that the external environment of turmoil and trepidation has permeated into our internal states of being. What is being acted out around us, begins to be acted out within.
Getting back to my experience in the woods yesterday - I walked along ready to be immersed in silence, ready to be soothed by the uncomplicated beauty of snow and winter trees. The reality was a little different.
While the wind was no longer blowing snow in my face, it continued to be a force unwilling to be quieted. The wind howled above my head, swirling through the trees. I heard the creak and squeal of boughs rubbing up against each other above the constant din. I don't think I would have been able to hear myself if I tried to call out over the noise. Not exactly the silent serenity I had imagined.
I made a conscious decision to let go of my expectation of peace and quiet, and I asked, instead, what the current scenario might have to offer me. As I listened to the gusting wind, I imagined it blowing right through my mind, cleaning out all the debris, the extraneous thoughts and needless worries.
I walked on, holding on to the imagery. As I walked, I felt my mind de-clutter and the moment come into focus. I had not realized just how much needless junk was taking up mental space.
I came to one of my daughter's favorite spots and I stopped. An old, gnarled fruit tree spreads its branches wide, creating a canopied spot just big enough for two people. I sat down in the snow and lay back under the tree, just like she had shown me to do. My body rested in the snow, every inch of me completely held.
The wind was quieter down here, and my body relaxed with this chance for a respite. I was struck by how perfectly the snow held me. The snow completely shaped itself around my body. I could feel the support against every part - my head, my elbows, my wrists, my back, my pelvis, the backs of my knees, my ankles.
Lying there it occurred to me - the Universe/Life holds us just as we are, in whatever circumstances we find ourselves - windy or calm, peopled or solitary. All of it is okay and is simply what is.
After soaking in my little epiphany lying there in the snow, I ambled up (that is not actually accurate - it was more of an ungraceful lurch thanks to my snowshoe clad feet) and headed back toward the house.
My mind was cleared and the day was snowy. And that was all.
How is your external environment being mirrored on the inside? What is taking up mental space that you are ready to let go of?
Jessica Curtis is a professional life coach who helps people cultivate intention and live from a place of meaning and authenticity. If you think you could benefit from working with Jessica or want to invite her to work with your group, reach out to start a conversation.