Our woods are pathless.
Weeds with thorns and burs are everywhere. Branches and fallen trees must be navigated around. In one place, it is so congested that the only way through is to get on hands and knees, crawling under a large fallen tree. When I hiked, I just pushed through whatever was there, sometimes giving up.
Often, I quit before I started, knowing the struggle I would have. It didn’t feel worth the effort.
Last summer I decided that I needed to start working on making some paths through these woods. Not only would it be less of a struggle to hike, it would make it more of a pleasure to take walks with the dogs, cats and goat. If I created the paths well enough, it might mean that I could eventually ride my horses there…
I picked a spot and began to force my will upon the woods.
I knew where I thought the path should go, how I thought it should look. I struggled; I fought. Quickly, I grew tired. Gave up. Went home.
The next day, I tried imposing my will on the woods again, trying to create the perfect path that I thought should be there. Again, I struggled and fought. Again, I gave up.
I sat down on a log and rested before going home, drinking the cool, sweet water from our well that I carried with me. My mind became quiet. I listened to the birds, felt the wind stirring, started noticing the plants around me. In this quiet one-with-all-of-nature state, my eyes started seeing where the path should naturally lead.
The path was not where I was trying to force it to go.
Looking at this natural path that had revealed itself to me, I started my work again, this time letting the woods guide me. True, the work was still hard, but it seemed that the woods themselves were aiding me in this work. On this path there were less weeds to remove, less fallen branches to push aside. The ones in the way were yielding, and with much less effort came out of the ground. Tangles of wild grape vines were somehow more willing to be coaxed out of the trees.
By following the natural path—where the path wanted to be—I found the path of least resistance through the woods. The work was a challenge, but it was satisfying. I made progress much more quickly. One small, satisfying path was created in a few hours time.
While doing this pathwork, this co-creating with nature, I wondered…is there not a larger lesson here to be learned? Might not my life be like this? How much time do I waste in life, giving up before I really get started because it seems too hard? Attempting to force things to be the way I want them to be? There is this constant struggle of forcing my will upon life, trying to make it the way I think it should be… and, at what cost to myself? At what cost to others?
This was the moment when I began pathwork in my own life, trying to work more gently with myself, learning to follow my own paths of least resistance.
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Editor: Bryonie Wise
Photo: Barbara Agnew/Flickr