When we quiet down, the joy of those sacred moments stay with us long after the physical experience has gone.
By Mary Boutieller
I’m just returning from six days backpacking in the woods—hard to believe that I once did that for five and a half months! My body is sore and tired, but my spirit lifted by cloud-covered mountains, green in more shades than I thought possible, and the little things, like my husband making me coffee in the morning, in hopes of coaxing me out of the tent.
Gratitude finds many forms, but the essence of it is still the same…that upwelling of oneness, of seeing past the nonsense that can consume our days to the truth that these experiences can expand who we think we are. Recently, I listened to a podcast about a woman lost in the woods for four days in wintertime. As she spoke about her experience and contemplated the real possibility that she would not make it out alive, her overwhelming thoughts were of gratitude and love for her children and what they meant to her. She saw the beauty in her surroundings and felt joy—at the same time as she contemplated her death.
It seems those things would be in opposition—feeling joy and contemplating one’s death—but apparently that is not the case. We often hear of people who laugh with others while getting chemotherapy; of those who lose a limb and find themselves stronger a year later. It reminds me that we are more resilient and flexible than we think we are. We are not “one thing or the other.” Our capacity to hold more is vast, and we rise to the occasion, over and over again, whether it is surviving a tragedy, raising a grandchild, or helping a community devastated by disaster. We rise.
Mark Nepo, in his poem Swordless, wrote, “They say the old samurai, tired of being on guard, gave his sword away. It took months to accept a life without armor, months to let his wounds turn into blossoms…”
Those six days in the woods allowed me to lay down my armor. No news, no protection beyond a thin veiled tent…just me and John and nature—to heal and surrender for a little while, before coming back to civilization.
I know that we don’t lose what we gain when we quiet down. The joy of those sacred moments stay with us long after the physical experience has gone.
Go to a place that fills you up and calms your spirit. Find a tree that is worthy of your time and contemplation (they are all worthy). Share the stories you know and listen to others’ wisdom. Let go of the armor as often as possible and feel your joy, even in the midst of sorrow. It is there.
Let’s all rise together.