This week someone said to me, “I can have self reflection and I don’t need nature for that!” I laughed and replied, “That’s excellent! But nature offers something a lot more than reflection...it offers mystery.”
A couple weeks ago, I found myself distressed, my perfectionist self challenged and my expectations beat down. I understood these feelings as related to an experience of lacking control and authority over my life. Being told who I am and what I have to do, my outside circumstance was not reflecting what I knew within myself. I found myself stuck in thought loops. Outside the walls of my home, the weather seemed to lack control of itself, moving from warm sun to spring winds to swirling snow storm (nature as mirror). What I felt I needed most in that moment was to put my back on a tree. I stepped into the mystery of nature, into what I knew I had no control over, the unexpected world that would bring whatever it would bring.
I headed to the large cottonwood down the street, I sat upon its’ roots, deeply penetrating and embedded in the earth; I put my back on its’ trunk, the contours of the bark meeting my back. A being that knows its’ truth regardless of what comes to it. I bundled up as the snow and winds came and peaked out in the sunny moments of warmth. I felt the patience of the tree. The surrender to the mystery yet holding strength of self; flexibility of branches in the winds with steady roots and core. I thought of the seasons and situations it’s seen, the moments of mystery, from beautiful visiting birds to wild crashing hail, and it remained to see it through. I thought of when it might have been young and it’s branches froze and cracked off, and the knowing that the loss was part of growing. A humbling of Self to surrender to what is.
And then again, this week, on my daily walk, I decided to stop. Not my usually 5-10 minutes stop, but a full stop, a sink-into-it-timeless stop. As an adult, juggling so many life things, stopping in such a way feels impossible or irresponsible on some level. I began to feel the anxiety. I began to think of everything I know I need to do, growing uncomfortable in my body. I desired so dearly to move, to walk it out, to walk this feeling away. But I stayed. The wind blew strongly in intervals I could not predict. And when it came, I watched the juniper move in unchoreographed ways. Sounds came from the distance that stimulated curiosity. Living beings emerging from nowhere and were gone just as quickly as they came. At one point, I thought, “I’m bored”. Laughing at the thought, how could I be bored here? Mysterious things keep happening! I stayed. Eventually I heard the intriguing ringing pines, saw the moving picture clouds, felt the sand shifting earth. Anxiety came again and again. And I remembered that the movement toward healing anxiety begins with being in mystery. What an invitation!
Both these experiences happened in a brief period of time after a long day of work, reminding me of why I am here on earth.
Nature teaches and invites us to let go of control, to live with the unknown and learn the beauty and surrender in this practice, to learn the cycles of living, to learn about how to move with mystery in all parts of our lives. The mystery offered by nature helps us come alive to ourselves; it helps us remember our connection to the greater world and our own human nature.