I've been wanting to write about this for days but somehow time has escaped me as I prepare for my month-long, whirlwind tour of Brazil. I warn that this may be the last serene post in a while; at least in my experience, Brazil is not synonymous with Zen. That said, I am looking forward to the trip, and I'm eager to measure my inner progress against the version of myself who left Brazil frazzled and rather disheartened back in June. More on this in the weeks to come. For now, nature:
On Sunday I walked Noland Trail barefoot. I have done so shoeless in the past, but this was the first time I'd walked it alone. It was a date with myself, a chance to get grounded and connect with earth energy.
The trail itself is a spectacular five-mile dirt and gravel loop through the woods, circling a large lake. The wooden footbridges needed to traverse sections of the lake are the only interruption of the canopy of incredibly tall trees hugging the path. Yes, the place looks and feels like something out of a fairytale.
And the weather--oh the weather. The temperature was warm with that hint of fall crispness that I find nearly erotic. The sky was blue and the sun bounced off the lake, reflecting perfectly the red and golden leaves on the trees. Absolutely heavenly.
As I walked I did my best to turn off my mind and with that, ignore the strange looks from other people on the path. I focused on the smell of the pine and the sounds of the squirrels preparing frantically for winter and the leaves crunching softly under my feet.
I managed to sustain a walking meditation for roughly a mile, at which point I became bored with myself (as evidenced by the fact that I had indeed begun to look for mile markers). I found myself thinking that time would pass by more quickly if I had a walking buddy, and then the internal struggle commenced: "Why am I wishing for company if 20 minutes ago I was seeking time by myself? Why can't I fully embrace this time alone that I deserve and need? Because I'm not used to taking it and therefore have trouble enjoying it when I do. Well, then all the more reason to stop counting miles and take in the surroundings. But first I need to stop thinking about this. Oh crap, here comes another couple staring at me for being barefoot. Why do I care what they think? I'm doing this for ME. And I'm tough; they probably couldn't take it. Stop it, Mira. Get back to nature. I can stay out of my head and focused on that. Oh, only 3.5 miles to go..."
So it continued for a while. Eventually, however, my mind did tire and I let myself get lost in the experience. And when I did, I became Snow White. There were suddenly animals everywhere. Squirrels by the dozens seemed to keep pace with me. The birds chirped and the turtles in the lake surfaced to greet me. Several bunnies hopped across my past, and when I turned to look for the animal creating the rustling in the trees only a few feet away, I saw a buck. I've seen loads of deer in my life, but never a full-grown, fully-horned buck. As it bounded away I stood dumbstruck. I wasn't sure if I should be grateful for my luck or the deep connection to nature that I was generating. Either way, I knew that this moment was special.
I finished the loop feeling calm and confident. Through the connection with the ground, I had channeled out everything that wasn't serving me and had taken in that loving energy that sustains us. In the process, I'd bonded with a zoo-full of animals. I'm eager to discover what the next date with myself will bring. A chow chow, perhaps? I can only hope.