Nature is your portal into the present moment and your portal into yourself
Wow, talk about reset! Getting out in the wilderness for a few days brought me back to my center. Hiking at altitude with 35 lbs on my back, made business deadlines evaporate and my mental chatter clear. The conditions pulled me into the present moment.
As I started down Sliding Sands Trail at 9,900′, I barely noticed the moon-like vistas as my mind chewed through the drama of preparing for the trip. Gradually, I stopped worrying about what equipment I might have forgotten and I let go of my frustration with the people who dropped out of the trip at the last minute. I was far away from any cell phone reception or screen that would bring me new information, and I began paying attention to the world around me.
I noticed the vistas disappearing. I put away my sunglasses and pulled up my hood to keep water droplets out of my eyes. Soon all I could see was the rocky trail at my feet and white blankness. It was wet and the worn lava rocks on the trail were slippery so I had to pay attention to each step. My hips hurt with the unaccustomed extra weight, going downhill. My right collarbone was developing a large bruise under the pack strap. I was primed to have the same trip I had done before – clear skies, bright stars, some aches and pains… But it was all different; NOW was something new. It was also perfectly fine.
Then I started to tune in to the wetness. Drops weren’t falling on me, I was surrounded by moisture. I couldn’t see vistas because I was hiking in a cloud! And I wasn’t suffering. No drama. I got a little cold so I put on a hat. My shoulder hurt so I adjusted my pack. This was an extreme experience bringing me into the present but without fear or adrenaline. My breathing matched the cadence of my steps and I was content.
I thought of Cheryl Strayed and the trip she chronicled in her book, Wild. This trip through Haleakala Crater was not as long as her trek up the Pacific Crest Trail, but it had the same effect of bringing me back to myself and distilling down what is most essential and True. Nature will do that, if you let it.
As my meditation deepened, I wondered if I had gone into the “nothing box” where men often go to zone out. I didn’t think I had one. I am constantly thinking, connecting, and analyzing. Except when I meditate, and even then I often notice mental background noise. But attuning with Nature like that seems to both get me out of my mind and connect me to everything, effortlessly.
What a different kind of “mindfulness” that was. My awareness was full of the vastness of nature and my experience in it. Yet my mind was empty of the inconsequential stuff that often occupies my consciousness. It was a delicious relief.
In my previous post, I talked about watching ants and other handy portals into natural connectedness. I’d like to add that because you have a body and its senses, you can feel nature now, wherever you are. You ARE nature. Every smell, every sound, every visual perception – is the world translated through the wonder of your body. Nature translating nature. All you have to do it tune the dial of your awareness to your senses and let your mind recede.
I took a 360° panoramic video and there was no sound for the microphone to pick up. It felt like we were thousands of miles away from civilization – until we got the to little cabin in which we would cook dinner, play games, and sleep. But even there, the concerns of “regular life” had no place.
Instead of the vivid array of stars that I had seen on other Crater trips, I met a cloud and danced with it. It wasn’t what I expected, it was more because it was what was and I was present to experience it. I didn’t hear chucker birds but I heard silence dotted with nene geese flying in beautiful duets. Once again I was reminded that the earth is magical, powerful, unspoiled and vast. It was definitely a good price to pay for the privilege of having that much majesty all around me.
You can create a Present Moment Portal for yourself right now. After you read this paragraph, close your eyes and simply listen to all the sounds around you, whatever they are. Appreciate that your magnificent body is translating those sound vibrations into something you understand, pumping blood to and from your cells, and digesting your food. Pull your breath deep into your belly (several times) and feel your body from the inside out. You are a natural wonder, too. 😉
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