Recently I had the opportunity to spend a few days by myself at a comfy cottage in the woods nestled beside a rustic lake. I know, I know, I am lucky! A few months ago I had a realization that it has been many, many years since I had spent a few days completely alone. When I was 23 and backpacking through Europe, I had a glorious seven days alone in Paris while I awaited the arrival of my boyfriend. SEVEN DAYS ALONE IN PARIS! I can’t even fathom the good fortune of that anymore. Three days alone in the woods was as close to heaven that was going to come for me these days. I was happy to take it!
Even though I was looking to spend time alone; I still had plans. Still wound up from life in the city and I was heading into the woods with PLANS. It took me a few hours by myself to realize that whatever I had planned, life was going to take over and it hopefully would be the guide for my time alone.
I made the decision to surround myself with quiet for the three days. I unplugged the ipod and settled into the sounds of nature and the sounds of me living by myself. I got myself settled and the first natural thing to come to my body was sleep. A two hour nap in the afternoon. I asked myself to listen to my own body rhythms which is sometimes challenging in the city. In the woods, it seems to be a little easier. My PLANS included me cooking wonderful healthy meals for myself. What my body told me was that all I wanted for dinner was a piece of toast and a glass of orange juice.
My body rhythm still kept me up late (I tend to be a creative night owl) but amazingly I did not sleep in like I had PLANNED to do. My body woke me up early to start my days of getting to know myself again.
I had PLANNED to write for the studio. For some time now I have wanted to get some words on paper but my body and my mind didn’t want to write what I had PLANNED. I did want to write, but it wasn’t about business. Instead, I wrote about big things such as happiness, what it means to practice and life lessons.
I had PLANNED to exercise each day (and I did make myself do this). At the end of my very hilly runs, I was proud of my ability to move up each hill and all to happy to jump into a cool lake and practice my yoga down on the dock. I was aware of a feeling of gratitude for my body to move as it just allowed me to do.
I had PLANNED to meditate each day. However, my meditation took on a different form than it does in the city. At home, I “set the stage” for my meditation practice. Finding solitude in the woods didn’t require a “stage to be set.” Every moment was a meditation. I found that there was a mindfulness that was more astute and more refined. It was hard not to be mindful when life was just oozing all around me. The moving clouds in the sky, the sound of the lapping waves on the dock, the calls of the loons and the whistling of the wind. Mindfulness came easier in the woods because I had a curiosity for what was happening in each moment. It was INTERESTING watching the birds interact at the feeders. It was INTERESTING watching the chipmunks plead to me for more peanuts. It was INTERESTING looking straight into the eyes of a beautiful deer and asking it politely not to eat the rose bush, but to kindly consider moving on over to the bush next door. (Funny enough, that deer looked irritated with me for my suggestion but then finally sauntered over to the other bush. Deer have personalities! Amazing!)
What my mindfulness meditation at the lake made clear for me these past few days is that life is always moving along, in the city and in the woods. In the city, it is all too easy to let it pass us by while we are consumed with the tasks at hand. What I know is that everyday we have the opportunity to make the choice to watch life and participate with it, or we don’t. Too often we get lost in the drama of our own minds. Time moves quickly but when we slow down, so does life.
What has become very obvious to me in the woods, is that while we are too distracted by our own busy lives and minds, we tend to miss the opportunities to watch the grass blowing in the breeze, or to hear the call of a distant bird, or to feel the gentle touch of our child; or most sadly, to understand the whispering of our own souls. The simplicity of the woods has reminded me that there is simplicity in each of our days. We can be interested in the regular routines that we perform every day. We can choose to feel the tap water on our hands. We can choose to taste the food that we put in our mouths. We can choose to see the light as it moves across the surfaces of our surroundings. The woods can be less distracting, but mindfulness can be found in nature and also in a busy city. Look, feel, taste, touch, smell and listen.