by Michelle Katz
I have been lost.
I go out, with the intention to find some sense of Self. But I must remember that one mindful walk with the intention to return to myself, does not a returned self make. Self, defined here as soul, psyche. As I walk, wanting to feel some semblance of who I know myself to be, I realize that my Self seems to have lost trust in me. I must say, I don’t blame it. I have said “not now,” “I’m tired,” “it’s too late” to it’s needs over and over again, for 2 months too long. I cannot help but wonder about those who have said this to their souls for nearly their entire lifetime.
My soul crashed the other week, having been ignored, it finally cried out for attention too loudly for me to not pay attention. The smallest comment was the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back. I cried into the night, then into the morning, till I decided to call a sick day, a day to remember myself, a day to remember the nature of all things.
There are the things in life that we do to live and the things we do in life that we do to live! The questions, “what do you do for a living?” still continues to feel like one of the oddest questions to me. For the uncertainty of defining “living”. I have a job (besides Oaks Counsel) that pays my bills and takes care of my needs, and I know I am lucky because, most of the time it also gives me meaning, joy and purpose. But I also know that what truly brings me alive is being in the woods, by a river, in a canyon, or in the middle of the desert, feeling the elements on my skin and being remembered by everything inside me. It is here that I feel myself really living into meaning, purpose, joy, connection in a pure and genuine way.
Lost, following paths that somehow allure me for misguided reasons or a path that I take unconsciously or naively. I knew I was feeling lost for weeks now, walking on thinking it will all be okay while getting further away from the path I am meant to be on. The extended time in silence with the landscape helped me stop, wake up, look around, and no longer being distracted by everything else, I could not avoid the lostness anymore. With the space, I could make my own path, get conscious, become aware.
On this just-snowed day, moving to meet my lost feeling, I begin to hear myself ask those all too important questions again: Where am I? Who am I? What is my way? How do I get back to myself? Where is my knowing of self? How do I access it again and nurture it to not leave? How have I forgotten my Self for so long?
I step into the snow, partially remembering the way and largely creating my own path through the woods. Walking in nature, particularly on a mountain, covered by untouched snow, felt wonderfully simple. Up is up and down is down. Complexity, of course, lies within the simplicity of it all. Up is further away, deeper in, toward peak, steep climb, tracked by changing mini-ecosystems as elevation is gained, its grows colder, more rocks, more snow, grander views. Down happens quicker than expected, brings us closer to where we began, nears more vegetation, more water, more population.
Stopping along the way to admire a tree, a boulder, a number of birds, to get inquisitive of tracks in the snow, or to decipher my own next step. If I lingered too long, the cold would ask me to keep moving on. Keep making my way, carving footprints in the snow, standing still offers too much danger. I grew curious and longing for different circumstance. One in which standing still didn’t feel like I’d freeze to death, but rather would offer healing, insight, connection, understanding. I reflected on how I have been moving too fast, perhaps for the fear of slowing down, my anxiety higher than usual, it feels like standing still is impossible in these moments. I know all I need is to slow down, to meet the pace of nature, to truly see what is around me in order to see myself.
I was incredibly annoyed by the incessant intrusive thoughts throughout the day, the thoughts about everything I was trying to get away from during this me time. Then, suddenly, as I was trying to call back the Self I have so been missing, I realized that the arising thoughts were me. They were something I needed to pay attention to and work through, the parts I don’t like knowing but must. They, in their own way, were footprints in the snow, craved and followed to their end. Some newly made with a fresh sound, some familiar, iced over slightly, dirty and going in the opposite direction, but both were guiding me back to myself. I had a whole journey between the path up and the path down, the different directions provided a new view and the views offered perspective. I choose to make my own trail rather than taking the main one, though there were overlap at times. The thoughts are no different: some familiar, iced over, dirty and in the wrong direction, some new with different views and perspectives, but all me.
The journey had me show up, speak up, value up when I was feeling so unseen, unheard and unvalued. Each step, I brought all the contours of what I know and how I feel into view. Taking a pause in getting curious about my knowing, growing interested in my patterns of where to step next, when to leave things behind, when to crave a more difficult new way, when to stay on flat ground or head for the top, or stubble down in the most graceful way.
I have a tendency toward burn out, I am passionate and give my all to all I do, this is part of who I am. I find these moments of burnout troublesome, unbalanced, off. I cannot understand if I am who I am or if I am simply what I do. I notice the mountain does not seem lopsided, it does not feel unbalanced when part of it is steeper than other parts, or when it dips and protrudes invariably, when parts of it have seen fire but lived through it to grow new life, it does not ask if what it does is who it is. On the other hand, I cannot help but feel something essential in me gets lost when I dip, and feel the burn of fire. I cannot help but wonder if what I do is who I am? My moments of tumbling and cracking are offering me an opportunity to refined the definition of who I am, will I stay burned and charred or find a way to grow in new ways? Or both, each in their own time. When I feel burnt out, I get sick, I quit and live out of my car for a while, I break up or fall in love, I break rules, I get wild, I fall to my knees, grieve the loss of a life, until I have the strength to get up and start anew.
The forest gets sick, breaks and falls in love, loses life and breaks rules but it does not leave, quit, and live out of a car. Severance is different than how I have conceived severance in the past. The severance I need now, it one about breaking away from a pattern, severing from the practice that simply no longer serves me.
At the peak, nothing feels indistinct. The cold and snow are crisp. The rocks solid, the edges clear, the sounds in the distance are known to be dogs even when they are unseen. My thirst and need for water has arisen with no uncertainty, the icicles break cleanly from the branch and have the distinct flavor of the pine trees they came from. The vast distance views have clearly defined city, plains and mountains.
My task, feels to be, one of great importance. To be clear, crisp, well defined, distinct and known. There is nothing to bury under the snow here, nothing to intentionally place under rock or sand, nothing to break and throw, nope, that’s not the ceremony here. Here, there is only space to feel and grow into, to know my edges, solidness, sound, flavor. To stand at the top and claim who I am, all of me.
And as I walk down, there is simple knowing of my journey and the ease-fullness in the pace, the gratitude for the solitude and the slowly encroaching warmth of lower elevations, even in the presence of a descending sun. I know what I must do and I am ready to do it. It is a practice, one that requires consciousness and time, but, I hope the Self, soul, psyche, will trust me and return as I speak up and show up for what it needs to nurture my aliveness!