Creating Space

Some days I find it difficult to quiet my mind. Weariness pours over me from the constant drum of my day. Sitting for meditation on my cushion is important but sometimes I sense there is something else I’m missing – a direct recalibration from the source. Nature.

One particular day I felt it. The buzz in my mind. The pinch in my shoulders. The anxiousness in my chest. A disconnect from my inner voice. I’d checked my email and iCalendar more times than necessary. My system demonstrated all the signs of overstimulation emitting a fight or flight response to my “to do” list. It agitated me like an itch beneath my sock. Unreachable. Instead of continuing to labor over word-smithing a paragraph for a pending report, I boldly told myself, take a walk. Go outside for 15 minutes. A simple feat sometimes easier said than done.

I headed toward the creek. Long down jacket zipped to my chin, hat pulled over my ears, and boots laced up. Just 15 minutes, I consoled my agenda driven self. I would give myself that much time. I stepped off the sidewalk to sink into the fresh powdery snow. I took my first deep breath. Enough sharp cold singed my lungs for me to realize I had not been breathing. I had not been taking deep chest full breaths but rather shallow ones that come from a busy mind, one that is running, one that cannot listen because it’s moving too fast.

An untouched clearing blanketed by white fresh fallen snow dulled my internal discord. One high deliberate step after the other, powder snow brimmed over the tops of my boots kissing my knees. Ravens squawked to each other. A black cluster of them dotted the brown leafless cottonwood branches. Odd. Ravens usually didn’t hang out there. I turned away from them. A swirl of discomfort sent me outside in the first place. The winter solstice was fast approaching with scarce light, a cloud covered sky and temperature dipping below 20.

I heard it first. The trill of a bald eagle. A call like no other raptor. My heart boomed. My eyes searched. I heard it again. So close. And then another call. A white capped eagle flew overhead landed in the tree next to me and then another trilled back to land on a branch a foot away from the other. They sang to each other and ruffled their black feathers. Snowflakes began to fall. I waded deeper into the bank to get closer. I watched. I listened. And then another bald eagle dropped down with wings spread wide to a glide through the creek corridor to take a turn at the deer carcass fallen at the water’s edge. Nature presented me a rare scene of life, death, and grace all within 15 minutes. It summoned my stillness. I created my space.

“Awakened mind exists in our surroundings – in the air and the wind, in the sea, in the land, in the animals – but how often are we actually touching in with it? Are we poking our heads out of our cocoons long enough to actually taste it, experience it, let it shift something in us, let it penetrate our conventional way of looking at things?” – Waking Up to Your World, Mindful.org

I do not need to summit a peak in a remote mountain range, hike miles into the backcountry or paddle down river into the wilderness to connect with nature.  While those beautiful experiences do provide me with a deep immersion unparalleled to others, I can’t always afford the time during my average day to day with work, school, and family.  Nature plays far too of an important role in my life to be relegated to vacations or weekends.  I’m fortunate to live in Montana in the Gallatin Valley nestled up against the Bridger Mountains and steps away from a creek. But I haven’t always lived here. Some may not have access to much nature but in those cases tiny doses can serve. For example try some of these sources to evoke your senses, calm your nervous system, connect with the grace nature offers and help create your own space:

  • Walk in a park or a garden
  • Watch a tree’s leaves move in the breeze
  • Listen to a creek
  • Observe a bird move from branch to branch

“The trees are our lungs, the rivers our circulation, the air our breath, the earth our body” – Deepak Chopra

“If you connect with the blessings of your surroundings—the stillness, the magic, and the power—maybe that feeling can stay with you and you can go into your day with it. Whatever it is you are doing, the magic, the sacredness, the expansiveness, the stillness, stays with you. When you are in touch with that larger environment, it can cut through your cocoon mentality.”
– Waking Up to Your World, Mindful.org

Nature lives by its own rhythm. It’s a matter of survival. It’s one of my greatest guides.

With love,
Shawnee

One thought on “Creating Space”

  1. Thank you for this lovely essay, Shawnee. As you described your encounters and lessons Nature, the more-than-human, I shared in a sense of Earth as a beloved family member, one we cannot neglect, and a teacher to whom we are devoted.

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