Tuesday, June 30, 2015

A Walk in Beauty

"An early morning walk is a blessing for the whole day." -Thoreau 

One of the things I find so beautiful about being in nature is that it puts me in contact with a lot of beauty. It urges me to look closely at the world, and to step back and look widely too. There is a peaceful inner solitude we can feel when we let ourselves be taken aback by it, when we really marvel at all it is. It surrounds us and engulfs us; it makes us feel small- yet connected, and part, of something bigger than us. To me, something about it evokes the feeling of being home. There is both presence and peace.
A little over two years ago, just when I came home from South America, I had time to go into nature spontaneously and often. I had a part time job and money saved from before I left, so it was a pretty cool season in my life: I had lots of time to paint and spend outside, sort of easing back into life in a country where our standard of 'enough' looks to many places like 'a lot.' I'd walk and hike for hours a day, sometimes driving a state over and explore new terrain. 

It's not uncommon, the more people whose stories I've heard, to be emboldened with a new attitude- and a new perspective- when you travel, especially to somewhere quite different from the life, culture, and landscape with which you're most familiar. Somewhere along the line you seem to gain a quiet sense that your life is a blessing: here you are, where you are, and you can really do whatever you like. There is something magically freeing about the moment that fact really hits you.

And I had time, when I got home, to think about the kind of life I really wanted to live during my brief time here on earth. Being in nature was good for that kind of refection: it offered me solitude and quietness, so I could think (or sometimes stop thinking) and receive what intuition was saying.
The kind of life I decided, over time (and still decide every day, really) that I wanted was one where beauty played a prominent role; where if I woke up too many days in a row uninspired, I would have to change something. Life can be a difficult and complicated thing to live, but I got in touch with the fact life itself, on the whole- and each and every day- should never lose that quality that nature itself brings to us: beautiful, fresh, new; something to be discovered and dived into every new day. Inspiration, I decided, should be real, authentic, and often.

I still hold this as a mantra today- not even a mantra, really; perhaps just a way of seeing. Life is too short to wake up too many days in a row feeling so attached to our sadness or misery; or unforgiveness or unfulfilling relationships; or anxiety or worry. We each have finer faculties of thinking that tell us that life should be a rich experience, but so often we set aside what they're telling us for what we feel we have to do, or what is most comfortable to do. 

I've learned though, that when you try to measure yourself by the code of what's inside you more than be measured by what's outside, things change. You change. And then you're days change, and then your life changes. Calling out the person you truly are can be tricky: it's challenging, it's exposing and uncovering, and it takes dedication. But once you do it with you, you can do it lovingly with others. And by offering your best life, you give others nothing in particular- except the inspiration to look for theirs themselves. 
How peaceful and good this exchange is. How urgently it calls us to remember ourselves. There are worlds within everyone we meet, and you won't be afraid or judgmental of others' if you're not afraid or judgmental of yours. I've learned to see everyone- including me- as, very literally, a work in progress. Some of us shape ourselves with our own hands. Some let God work. Some do both. Some are still stuck, unchanging. At various times, we could all be any of these.

And nature reminds me of that too: just as there's a whole universe, a whole ecosystem, a whole connected organism that just by noticing, just by spending even the littlest time with, I am inwardly changed by, so it is with living. The more I engage in life, the more I pay attention to how things- how people, how I- really work, the more inspired I get. To paint. To write. To listen to. To live. And the less I have to say.

I had missed that before. In a previous life, so to speak, I didn't know. No one teaches you these things: that you ultimately don't belong to your past or what you've done or even the role you play in your family, you belong to great, wild, unfolding universe and that just by way of being here, you're life has a purpose in it. If you realize that life doesn't belong to you, but you belong to life, things get easier- and you get humble. You find more freedom and less to lose. But you have to learn and stay awake and remember that there are no bigger things than you can imagine inside of you- if you feel you were made for more, you were made for more.

Go for a walk, and you'll see.


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