Monday, April 18, 2011

Confessions of a Solitudinarian

I will admit it; I am a loner.

This past winter I walked 80 days in the veil of the forest away from everyday worries. It was a trek to the inner world. I call it meditative walking. Meditative walking involves bringing myself to the center of nature in quiet solitude, with only the trees as my witness, and digging deep, really deep, to get in touch with who I am, who I have become. It is my winter ritual; the season pulls me in this direction.

My amazing journeys require very little preparation: warm clothes, comfy boots, an hour a day, willpower. My partner is my dog, Ribsy, himself involved in his own "spiritual" journey and requiring very little of my attention, though a terrific companion. Once I get over the hurdle of making it a routine, returning each day becomes something I look forward to.

Each day I enter the cocoon of snow and trees, diverging at spirit’s whim to paths that beckon me. I find myself in magic places that take my breath away, but only in a figurative sense, as really, I am breathing more deeply than I ever have. By breathing and tuning in to my mind and body, I get in touch with my truth.

In listening to my truth, I realize just how much I contort and fold myself in ways that are unnatural to me in an effort to fit in. Somewhere along the line I learned it was best to show only a glimpse of the real me and the rest of the time to fake it.

When I think about it, everyday life seems cut off from feelings in general as we rush around to adapt to inexpressive environments, like many work places. We have become image conscious to an extreme. Our energy goes to preserving an image of what we think we should be as opposed to living straightforwardly. Living in a more honest way might not present well in the context of the 9 to 5 workday. It might make for skewed data and untidy reports if people were to say how they really feel. They might admit they didn’t believe in what they were doing.

We all have our theories of how we came to be a whirling, unhappy, united cog, caught up in a wheel of repetition and pretenses: through media, the technology revolution, or the digital communication craze; it doesn't really matter to me how it came to be, it just matters that it is, and I don’t want to be caught up in it any more. The cost seems too great.

I am making an effort to be more mindful about the places I go and the people I interact with. For the time being, it may require that my world become a little smaller. But, I imagine, if I live authentically, my world will expand to include places where I fit right in. I have found some of these places.

My yoga practice is one of these places.  Because it is in a basement, I nicknamed it “the womb” and it feels like I am enveloped in security when I enter. When I look up at the windows, I just see sky all around me. I have a wonderful teacher who never pushes me, yet always challenges me. She is  genuine and honest. I love that she is not afraid to say things that some may find outrageous. It is because she is so authentic that I want to be in her presence, that I trust her and value my time with her.

Ironically, one of the hardest places for me to visit is an elementary school where I volunteer. You’d think that would be a pretty benevolent setting, but it isn’t. I used to teach in one and it felt like a second home, my classroom the heart. Things have changed. When I enter this school, I know to leave my feelings at the door. I try to express them but I always wind up with the same glazed look coming at me. When I am there, it is impossible for me not to see or hear snippets of spirit snuffing messages coming from the powers that be, directed toward impressionable children. They are told how to walk, talk, think, and express themselves, within perimeters designed for an adult world, just a little too tight for the vast scope of their young, malleable minds.

The thought of  conforming to fit in and please others now leaves me feeling tired. I have gotten in the habit of taking naps instead of going to unfulfilling social engagements. I realized the cost of living in the realm of “supposed-to’s". Supposed-to’s can be anything from what brand to wear, to who to hob knob with, to what sport your kid is supposed to play.

It doesn’t mean I don’t keep testing the waters and challenging myself to try new things, I do. Sometimes things that I think are right don’t work out and then I have to trust that this was not something I needed to be connected to anyway. I’ve had a few of these messages in the first months of 2011. I’ll admit, it is hard to give up the control and trust some days.

For instance, due to powers beyond my control: mud, ticks and a bear, I have had to come out of the woods for a little while. I am feeling a bit off-kilter as I enter back into the realm of "others." For one, things have gotten louder with leaf blowers and what not. But I do take solace in my back yard where I have a running brook and nature behind my home. I work for hours planting, weeding, pruning and planning my gardens. I suppose for now this will be my way to dig deep. Perhaps someday I will build a cabin far away from it all so I can enjoy the quiet in all seasons.

I confess, I am a solitudinarian.