The deepest of peace and true happiness can only really be found when we are truly still in the present moment, so they say. So often I feel so pulled by all the clatter in my mind that are worries, to-do lists, work pressures, deadlines and benchmarks. Rarely when I’m in my day-to-day routine, working my 40-hour work week can I find moments of that free feeling that is so liberating. When I do experience this, the moments are so blaringly wonderful, and so soul-permeating that I actually take note of the moment, the day, and the feeling, and hope that I can hold onto it again and again. Actually, I never want it to leave. It’s a peaceful, “there is truly nothing to stress about” kind of feeling that comes over me when I feel my perspective of my life and my world is in harmonious balance. Why it is that sometimes I can still my mind to this peaceful place and other times I am involuntarily weighed down by the world? I had been thinking about the practice that seems to help get me back there, and then, this week, it happened again. I had a perfect moment.
I remember one of the times that I had a radical shift from the intense worry and stress of losing our home in 2008 (short sale). All of the reasons that was happening had been taking residence in my mind for months. My husband was dealing with a short-term disability (we had hoped it was only short-term) and had a loss of income, and so we could no longer afford the mortgage for the home that had taken so long for us to purchase only a few years prior. We had just moved to a rental home in the country with our three kids after having to move and I was taking a walk alone down a wide, paved logging road that was rarely traveled. Walking in the fall, through the filtered sunshine and shaded by massive fir trees that lined the road and filled the hillsides, I was overcome with this feeling that I remember thinking of as “total freedom” because my mind was so at rest and my soul felt so elated. I was overcome with peace, and although my circumstances had not changed with current family health concerns and finances still being an issue, I felt separate from them, as if they were tangibles I could reach out and hold, if I wanted to, but I didn’t have to, and at that moment, they didn’t feel like they were pushing and shoving all the other thoughts around like the bullies they always presented themselves to be. I walked a long time on that road taking in the quiet of the forest. I noticed an abundance of caterpillars and appreciated their slow pace and they caused me to be still as I stopped to look at them. The quiet of those woods and all that was around me was also how my mind felt, and I literally took note right then of the wish that I could hold onto that feeling, a separation from the worry and the stress, and be able to move through my days with it just as I was on that walk. The feeling was so enrapturing that I remember it like it was yesterday and that was over 12 years ago now.
This past year, 2020, I have thought many times about this feeling of freedom and wondered if it’s possible to get to such a peaceful feeling in the midst of so much clamor, clatter, and clutter, at least more often than I have experienced. You know, to truly be able to find a state of peace in the midst. When I lived in Colorado and hiked in the Rocky Mountains, I felt this permeate me on a regular basis. I do believe a regular practice of intentional living with things that contribute to our soul wellness is an essential base for this recipe. For me, this means a daily practice of stretching, mindfulness, prayer, eating well, drinking enough water, regular sleep, and getting outside and exercising as much as possible. I think maintaining all of those things this past year as much as I have has helped me stay as mentally-healthy as possible during a year full of hardship and isolation due to the pandemic. But, that radical feeling of freedom in my spirit, that one, is a rarity. I’m convinced that it only wraps itself around us like that when we are still. Still, and truly present in the moment. To take that time for ourselves, to stop, to be present to all that is around us, to take in the beauty and let our bodies soak in the gratitude for the present, that is when it permeates. Every time I have felt it to this extent, I was in nature.
The holidays are hard for me, as they are for many of you. Life is very different now. The memories I have of my husband and three kids at a cabin in the snow every Christmas are so wonderful, but they accentuate the loneliness of being single now and an empty-nester. This past Christmas, during a pandemic, I didn’t see my adult kids since they all live in another state. I have had a new level of awareness in the letting go process which is that I have been holding onto the hope that life would be the same again, filled with a family and friends and lots of entertaining in my new city and state. But, I need to accept that it will never be exactly the same. It may be similar, but my new life will be different, and to be fully free and happy, I have to let go of the idea it will look the same again one day and continue to focus on the beauty of my new life.
My holiday break was a staycation due to the pandemic but, I have been going on several hikes with a friend over my holiday break, and that’s when it happened, when I had that perfect moment. I got to experience this incredible, elated feeling, so very free from any of the worries and heartache of this past year. It happened as I crested the peak of a mountain that had a 180-degree view of the ocean, the mountains and across to Mexico. It just landed on me and permeated every part of me. It was truly a perfect moment. I stood there for a long time just resting into it, being still, letting it feel at home in my soul. This is the secret place. The place of stillness. Do your daily practice to prepare for its’ occasional, unexpected arrival, and then, when it lights on you, be still and embrace it for as long as you are able and remember what it feels like so it will carry you through until the next time it visits.