What does it mean to be at peace?
This is a question I ask myself quite often lately. Following a sequence of incidents, I find myself heartbroken, empty, numb, and anxious. A strange concoction of feelings. Like when the bartender tries a new mix, you taste it and don’t really know what to make of it. Do I like it? What IS that flavor? Is my stomach supposed to feeling like ginger just exploded inside it? That’s pretty much how I’ve been feeling over the past month or so. My heart is gone, and I find myself in no-man’s land.
With many concerns weighing, I search for peace and grounding throughout the day. What will calm me down? What will make it all better? Where are home, peace, love and cadence? I used to search the answers to those questions in food – overeating or under-eating. But, lately, keeping my food diary quells that. And instead, I go outside.
Lately, walks in nature bring me a sense of peace. It’s not that I find answers when I go outside. Rather, I’m OK with simply being as I am, with whatever is.
Thich Nhat Hanh’s The Art of Communicating speaks to the power of going on a walk:
“Mindful walking is a wonderful way to bring together body and mind. It also allows you the additional opportunity to communicate with something outside yourself that is nourishing and healing: the earth. When you take a step with full awareness that you are taking a step on the ground and the earth, there is no distinction between body and mind. Your body is your breathing. Your body is your feet. Your body is your lungs. And when you are connected with body, feet, breath, and lungs, you are home.” (24-25)
For the longest time, I couldn’t understand why walking outside worked for me. Because even on the most stressful days, the minute I go outside, the chatter melts away. Now, that’s not to say that I stop feeling. But, I give myself space to breathe and be out in the open under the sun. And somehow, by simply taking in the scent of grass, the sound of birds and the wind on my face, drama melts. I find peace in simply being right where I am. No edits, no fixing, no wishing. Just being.
Fascinatingly, it’s not answers that bring me peace. Sure, I might have a nagging question in my heart and want answers. (Ha! OK, let’s be honest. I DO have nagging questions in my heart. And I often demand answers, usually of my stuffed penguins. As if they know.) But, receiving answers doesn’t necessarily make it all better for me. Rather, it’s presence that provides cadence in my soul.
Honestly, spending extended time indoors renders me crazy. I see how my mind unwinds out of control, how my perceptions and (mis)interpretations unravel into madness. But going outside into vastness, the unraveling stops. And instead of searching for answers, I let go into truth. What I really feel, who I am, when/where/how…all of it manifests when I go outside and let go. And in letting go, I find space to reconnect with nature.
“Many of us live in a way that alienates us from the earth and from our own bodies. Most of us live very isolated from each other. We humans can get extremely lonely. We’re separated not just from the earth and from each other but from our own selves. We spend many hours every day forgetting we have bodies. But if we begin to practice breathing mindfully and listening to the body, we can also begin to look deeply and see that the earth is all around us. We touch the earth, and we are no longer alienated from our own bodies or from the body of the earth.” (Hanh, 27)
peace and home
My heart still hurts from many things right now. And, I don’t know how or when I’ll feel or be myself again. But, I just keep going back outside. I touch grass with my bare hands and feet. My ears receive the serenade of water, my nose the gift of flowers. Spring’s vibrant colors bless my eyes, and I simply allow myself to be in and with nature. There I am connected even as I am shattered. I have peace even with the madness within. Although answers escape me and I have no idea what’s next, I know the now, the present. And even as I feel lost, here I am home.