The other day I decided to take a walk in the woods out to Sterling Gorge Falls. I knew approximately the direction I was going in based on a mental image I had of a trail map, and I figured it couldn’t be too far from my launch point on Maple Lane. With the trail map in my minds eye and my two chipper canine companions, Sadie and Ben, I felt secure and confident as I headed off down the narrow logging road. I knew the road turned into the trail, which I hoped that would lead me to the falls. Having left my usual distractions behind such as my cell phone and my iPod, I set an intention to walk with purpose and relish in the present moment. I busted out my ujiyii breathing (that’s fancy sanskrit for “ocean sounding breath”) and counted the length of my inhalations and exhalations. I also made mental notes of my physical being. How were my knees feeling? Achy. How was my psiatic? Twingy. Apparently I’m a grandma in a 23 year old’s body… But that’s beside the point. I was being present. Or at least I was trying really REALLY hard to be present.
Like most times I meditate, I experience what we yogis like to call monkey mind. My thoughts jump and flip and dance around my brain like a chimpanzee at the zoo. With my impending move to Morocco creeping up on me, I’ve had a lot on my mind lately. This fueled the schizophrenic conversation I started having with myself as I walked. It went something like this: “What am I doing going to Morocco? Am I crazy? I’m overwhelmed. I should stay.” Then it would quickly turn to Lizzie #2 justifying and supporting my decision to go. She would say things like, “follow your dreams”, or “trust your intuition” and “you are going to be just fine.” Then Lizzie # 3 would step in somewhere mid thought to remind Lizzie 1 and 2 that she was supposed to be meditating and therefore should be clearing her mind of all clutter and thoughts and focusing solely on her breath. Lizzie #3 would win out for a good 30 seconds to a minute, before the chatter would start again. Thankfully I was the only person on the trail that evening, because I’m sure if anyone witnessed me and my ocean sounding breathing evidently struggling to contain the voices in my head, they would have turned on the heels of their sturdy hiking boots and walked in the opposite direction.
Many times when I go hiking in new places I experience feelings of doubt. Though I usually I have a vague sense of where I am headed, I often find myself wondering if I am going the right way. When that feeling of doubt sets in, it can easily pervade your whole being. You get this feeling of anxiety; an uneasy feeling right in the pit of your stomach. Often it urges you to turn back. It starts telling you that it is getting dark out, and that there are bears or woodchuck serial killers that are just lurking in the woods waiting to attack vulnerable weak-kneed girls. Just then, you spot a trail marker indicating your proximity to your destination. The little white paint on a tree is a comforting sign that urges you to press on, and suddenly you are flooded with relief because you know you are still on track.
On this particular walk I simultaneously experienced doubt in its literal and mental forms. I felt equally unsure of where my desired destination was on the physical trail I was walking and the metaphorical journey I am on. However, what I learned from the trail that day is that I need to trust myself more. Even the vague mental image of a trail map I had was enough to coax me forward, and to eventually be successful in finding my desired destination, Sterling Falls Gorge. It was gorge-ous to say the least, and I was thrilled to sit quietly at the edge of the falls and listen to the water rush by.
As I was walking back I recognized the symbolism and I chuckled. Obviously the trail was a journey… just like the one I am travelling on every day of my life. The doubt was there to try my commitment towards forward progression and it made me anxious and uncomfortable. But I’m stubborn when it comes to my dreams, and I am not the kind of person to succumb so easy to fear and doubt. All it took was just a few trail markers and some trust in my intuition to bring me safely and successfully to my desired destination where I could sit enjoy the gratifying view for a while.
I’ve learned many things from the woods this summer—trust and gratitude and presence—to name a few. I’m thankful that I was actively participating in seeking the present moment that afternoon, because had I not been, I could have easily missed the symbolism of the trail and its direction markers. As soon as I made the connection I felt instant relief about my upcoming adventure to Morocco and what lays unplanned thereafter. I also realized that everything could be much simpler if we can stay present. The answer I was seeking was playing out before my eyes and it was so simple that it shut Lizzie 1, 2, AND 3 the eff up!