I’ve been home from Spain less than a week, and I woke up feeling a little out of sorts today. I decided that what I needed was a walk in the woods. During 12 days in Spain, we spent most of our time outdoors. Of course hiking the Camino de Santiago was outdoors, but European cities are made for walking and outdoor life. The plazas are filled with people eating, drinking, shopping, and socializing. If you need to buy groceries, you walk to the fruit and vegetable market, then you walk to the bakery for bread, then you walk to the fish store. You’re outside more than you’re in. Here in suburbia, we go into our garage, get in the car, drive to the store, go inside to buy everything, get back in the car, park in the garage and walk into the house. It’s very isolating. Even if you’re alone in a plaza full of people, you feel connected to humanity. In addition to needing connection with other people, I think humans also have an innate desire to connect with nature.
I love to be outside. In fact I need to be outside in nature a lot. My poor husband is already bracing himself for the cold east coast winter, and I’m not just talking about the weather. I get grumpy, I feel trapped, I find it depressing to look outside and see nothing but the color gray. I will bundle up to walk outside, but I just don’t enjoy it. I feel like I’m enduring something, not thriving. I’m a warm-weather person. I need my winter escapes to Costa Rica, Southern California, and Florida like I need air. Which brings me to my walk in the woods this morning.
Since returning from Spain, my days have been full of errand-running and car-to-indoor activities. We did make a point to eat two meals outside, but it’s been a lot of busy-ness. Luckily, we have a nice patch of woods running through our neighborhood, so I was able to quickly get out and get plugged into nature while it’s still bursting with aliveness. “Plugged in” is fitting, because being in nature really does recharge my internal batteries and connect me to the Universe. The sounds are fantastic. The sounds of birds, cicadas, squirrels … the sound of water running over the stones in the creek. The sound of the forest is truly the best music. (I used to bring yoga music to play in my outdoor classes in Costa Rica until it occurred to me that nothing could top the accompaniment of the rain forest in all its exotic splendor.)
In addition to all the joys for your ears, the forest offers a feast for your eyes. There’s all that green stuff — trees, plants of all sizes, some with brightly colored wild flowers. Birds flitting about … insects of all types. There’s a dazzling play of light and shade as light makes its way through the gaps in the trees. You can step into bright white light, then take another step into cool dark shade. I came across a section of the creek that seemed perfectly still, but as I watched I realized that even though it appeared to be still, it was vibrating just under the surface. In fact everything in the forest was vibrating. I watched the little plants growing next to the creek and noticed their subtle vibration. Just like us! All living things vibrate with life force. If you don’t know this, sit still and close your eyes. Take a moment to breathe and let your mind settle. Then bring your attention to the palms of your hands. Don’t look, just feel. Notice the vibration or pulsation there. The aliveness. The radiance. Bring your attention to the inside of your mouth. Same thing — it’s full of aliveness. We are vibrating all the time but we rarely notice. We all vibrate at different levels, and as we practice yoga or other spiritual methods, we can change our level of vibration. As we start to vibrate at higher levels, we get to be in our higher selves. We can have some pretty amazing spiritual experiences and realizations. The people and stuff that vibrate on lower levels seem to fade away, and suddenly all of our friends are wonderful, supportive people. The people who drain our energy have gone away because we no longer vibrate on the same level.
See? A walk in the woods can inspire us to look out at the bigger picture. As I continued my walk, I passed a woman who had her eyes glued to the ground and music blasting out of her phone (no headphones). Of course she has the right to enjoy her walk in any way that she wants. Who am I to say what’s best for anyone other than myself? But I really wanted to say, “Hey. Just try this for 10 minutes and see what happens: Turn off the music and lift your head up. Really look. Really see. Really listen.”