Today I went for a hike around the local reservoir. Actually, I drove one town away to take this hike. Despite the fact that I hiked a trail practically in my backyard (several streets away) yesterday at sunset, and that there are plenty more easily accessible trails, I felt compelled to hike in this particular place. Something about trekking around the reservoir is comforting to me, as that’s what my family and I do in my hometown. I grew up clambering around a brimming (and sometimes frightfully low) reservoir and it brings me peace, the long, bent circle of trail rimming sparkling water.
So I walked today, along with seemingly everyone in the SF bay area and their brother; yet another comfort, being surrounded by innumerable strangers, immersed in the ups and downs of their own worlds, the stories and dialogues of their own lives. I didn’t put in my headphones, which I think I had been planning to do…I had also toyed with the idea of calling my good friend Ryan back, which I’d been meaning to do for days. But something urged me to listen to something else, something rather pressing, I was urged to tune into the rhythmic melody of the Universe…of life.
So I did.
I walked, in my beloved hiking boots, around that 3 mile loop. I caught countless snippets of conversation…learned intimate bits and pieces about the lives of people I will likely never see again.
Did she go to Alabama with him? … The only way we could afford it is to have Dad come out here … Pam was like, STOP THAT RIGHT NOW, you don’t DO that! … We’re halfway … Wouldn’t you rather hear it from me than him? … I just have so much on my plate it’s just the last straw … I was like bro, you don’t even fucking know! … I know how to say that in English, she has short hair, now you grow your hair long, ha ha! … But do you hear what I’m saying? I’d have to take two more days off if I came back Monday. …
These are just a few of the snippets I recall from today. Some more were murmured in foreign languages, some were spoken low while others were laughed aloud and echoed off the water. Many people walked in groups, and a good number walked alone. Some ran, a few jogged, many walked briskly, most ambled. There were strollers, mom’s with babies strapped to their backs, dads trailing roller blading kids. An old man jogged in corduroy pants whose color reminded me of the Crayola burnt sienna crayon. It was a form of people watching with heightened awareness, passing by these lives that were busily going. I know I’m like that when I walk with my mom, chatting away, sharing my deepest secrets with the trees, momentarily with the people strolling past, eternally embedding my worries and joys into the thick moss that covers the forest.
While my solo hike to the soundtrack of life was immensely soothing, one lesson stands out amongst the rest, one reason why it was so very soothing.
I was reminded that I’m not alone.
I knew this already, yes, but I was reminded more firmly, more solidly today. As I whirred past the woes, fears, triumphs and doubts of so many human beings, human beings of all different shapes and sizes, in all different garb, speaking different languages, living starkly different realities…I was reminded we are all the same. No one of us is more important than the other, no one face prettier, no one conversation better, or worse. We are all human. We are all in this together. While one couple walks by laughing and talking, the next blathers nervously, asking their partner, Why? What do I do?
I felt alone today, and I was okay with it; I was comforted in my aloneness. I could have been with others easily, I could have driven a couple of hours and been with family, but I knew my presence would not really be enjoyed, not in this state. I knew that giving away this one precious day would not be beneficial to anyone, I’d have been nervous, angsty, recoiled.
So instead I walked. I walked for two hours in the sunshine. I wandered off the path midway and into a meadow. Some trees blocked me, mostly, from view and I stood in a warm pool of sun. I practiced a few half Surya Namaskara, sun salutes, and then sat. I sat and meditated, eyes closed, in the grass, sunlight spilling across my face. Midway through my meditation my face began to crumple, some tears leaked out of my eyes. By the end my face was serene again. Throughout meditation I was breathing full, deep, nourishing breaths. I was trying with all my might to calm my racing mind. My jaw is tired, sore and aching today; I must be clenching my teeth in the night. The anxiety of my days sneaking into my nighttime rest, my sacred space of rejuvenation, causing me to wake with this throbbing discomfort: stress as a physical manifestation. To quiet my mind I latched onto my usual meditation mantra of “Om” on the inhale and “Om” on the exhale. But I felt compelled to address my racing mind, and upon the crumpling of my face and the shedding of my tears my mind had insisted, “I am not this racing mind, I am not this body.” I said it over and over and the tears fell. To stop the tears my subconscious led me gently towards a profoundly more positive mantra,
“I quiet this mind, I nourish this body.”
I won’t soon forget that mantra. It carried my spirit through the rest of my meadow meditation, and loosened my grip on reality. I rose from my spot there in the sun and explored the nearby valley before returning to the path. I finished my hike calmer, the chatter of my mind quieted, my breath a little more smooth. I saw a family of deer and stopped. One locked eyes with me and my soul felt so calm. Mother Nature bathed me in love and warmth and calmed my chaotic energy.
We are coming up on a full moon and I believe fully in harnessing its energy. I reread one of my favorite MindBodyGreen articles this evening after dinner (shared at the end of this essay) and felt bad because it recommends not engaging in arguments during the full moon. I had come home from my hike to a nasty email from my landlord (who is just genuinely not a decent human being, I will leave it at that). I responded and, as expected, the interaction filled my body with toxic energy. I felt angst and upset, the calm I had worked so hard to cultivate was churning, thrashing waves lapping up on the smooth sandy shore.
It does no good to “feel bad.” Guilt and self-deprication are, as far as I’m concerned, figments of one’s imagination. They might as well be. We have all of the control around these emotions. It is up to ME to feel that way, or to refuse to feel that way. So, I refuse to feel bad.
I will meditate on positive, beneficial energy tonight before sleep. I will harness the energy of this full moon to its utmost soothing, healing capacity. I will count my innumerable blessings and see through the film of worry into the sunshine. I have so much to be grateful for. I am so grateful. I am so grateful. I am so grateful.
Discomfort is in the eye of the beholder. I’ve spent a great deal of my life believing that if I just had the perfect circumstances, if I could just think a certain way, if I just looked a certain way, if I could just change a certain few things…that I’d be perfectly happy. But you know what? I am happiess. You are happiness. Those circumstances will never be perfect because we are perfectly imperfect. We are neither our bodies nor our minds, but the subtle thread of Awareness that has always been. So be grateful. Be grateful, Sara. Be grateful, loving and kind to your beautiful body in all its transience, be gentle and patient with your sweet mind, it’s trying so hard to rally for you. Dedicate the energy that so easily funnels into unhealthy obsessions instead into fortifying your thread of Awareness, to calming your stream of consciousness. And when that wind begins to blow and your balance is threatened, remember the meadow…remember the sunshine…and remember these words…
“I quiet this mind, I nourish this body.”
Because no one else can do it for you.