I’m a fan of meditation: It calms my mind. I sometimes listen to guided meditations just to be soothed by a voice reminding me of the peace we all carry within ourselves. My watch twitches with a reminder (which ironically, I can dismiss without even noticing I’ve seen it) every morning and every evening to take a minute for mindful breathing.
Why did I struggle to stick to a regular meditation practice then? Knowing it was great wasn’t enough for me to meditate with any kind of consistency. After years of “should”ing myself into one unsuccessful daily routine after another, I found it! The answer was, of course, sitting right in front of me.
Well, technically, the answer was sitting right above me.
Every morning, with joy not obligation, I step outside and take in the early sky. I listen for birds and taste the air. I look at silhouettes of trees against deep blue or shapes of clouds outlined by the sunrise. Sometimes I laugh at how high the sun is before my semi-retired self has made it out of bed. 😊
This practice started in a mundane way. I was taking an empty tin of cat food to the recycling bin and caught the energy of fresh air in my lungs. I looked up, and awe struck. I liked it, so I made a point of saving any recycling in the kitchen in the evening so my groggy morning mind could operate on autopilot. Even freezing temperatures feel refreshing and I stand calmly with my breath, present for as long as I need to be. I come inside smiling.
One dark early morning, I was startled to hear my name. A neighbour was saying hello as she came home from a night shift in the emergency department. I realized how funny I must look, in pajamas, standing on my porch, gazing up at nothing. Luckily, I don’t mind seeming eccentric, and I told her the truth, I was looking at the morning sky. She turned and looked. She hadn’t noticed its beauty and she went inside smiling too. Maybe eccentricity isn’t far from wisdom.
It gets better! Cat food tins and backlit clouds were just the start.
A few months ago, I went to a Women On Water weekend held at a girls’ summer camp after the girls had gone back to school. We spent two days canoeing, kayaking, and stand-up paddleboarding (fall-off paddleboarding, more accurately 🙃). I noticed that one of the first things I’d say as I gushed about it was, “I was outside from 7 in the morning till 10 at night – how awesome!”
Shortly after that fun, I visited my mother who lives in the woods on a lake and a friend who’s just moved to a place in the woods on a lake. I wasn’t outside for full days at their places but for many hours, in good weather and “bad” (I love rain and dramatic weather so it’s not really bad to me, as long as I have dry things to change into!).
Being outdoors isn’t always physically comfortable – last summer I floated down the Grand River in a leaky watercraft, basically sitting in sludgy green river water for hours no matter how much I bailed, ewww – but the longer I spend outside, the more I feel myself. I have sun gear and bug gear and warm and waterproof gear, I have hiking poles for adventures in the bush, and safety equipment for the water. I manage the physical so I can bask in the spiritual.
I came home from my rural journeys determined to spend more time daily in nature at home. I live near many parks. I have a car to get me to lakes and bigger, woodsier parks. What do I miss most in the city though? The sky. The horizon is cluttered with buildings here and the world feels small.
My first night home from up north, I went out to my back deck, feeling sorry for myself that I was looking at houses and power lines and listening to traffic. I lay down, heavy and tired from the psychic weight of it all.
You know where this is leading, right?
The stars. So many stars. They may be pale, scattered city stars, but they’re still miraculous reminders of the infinite universe. They gave me perspective. The world was suddenly both enormous and miniscule. The stars touch part of me that can’t express itself with words.
Every single night since then, I’ve lain on the deck. Along with stars, I see clouds and the moon and bats and shooting stars (but not the Starship Enterprise again – they know I’m onto them). I get rain and sleet and snow on my face. I lie there and meditate.
In nature, I breathe.