This world is a confusing place.
Making sense of our emotions, contemplating our existence, and finding purpose and fulfillment are a full-time job—that pays nothing.
But when the great outdoors becomes our office, when we connect with Mother Earth, we find we are able to work through worry and fear. In being connected to her, the more we can hold ourselves in a natural flow state, which has a pretty big payoff: contentment.
And contentment gets a bad rap. We are constantly seeking the instant gratification of extremes like pleasure, joy, and elation, so to be merely content seems less than ideal. But I will argue that it is actually better! It is the satisfaction that is so fulfilling, because when we cease seeking, we can just enjoy whatever is present—and that is being content. Perception plays an important role here, and just like everything in life, practice makes progress. Once we understand that we choose our thoughts, we can flip the seeking mind into a gracious one, and also find contentment in any challenge or hardship.
For me, the best way to shift energy of any kind, but especially my thoughts, is out in nature.
When I sit at the south-facing shore, my eyes surveying a hundred hues of blue above and below the horizon, where water meets atmosphere, I feel small, vulnerable, and yet supported by source.
Sitting atop a mountain, completely exhausted by the climb, swallowing air, both hands resting on my knees, I’ve never felt so alive. With my heart beating out of my chest as I catch my breath, I have proof of my strength—the journey didn’t beat me like I thought it would. The victory, the prize, is an opportunity to be eye level with mountain ranges sprawling as far as those outstretched waves of my beloved sea. I feel intimately connected to the universe.
While on a stroll through the woods with my dog, I watch her follow a scent or a small rustling on the ground. Her innate animal instincts—alert to prey or potential danger—reinforces that we are born with the know-how to survive. I feel grateful for this divine, inner guidance.
To be a puny container of immeasurable atoms, housing electrical charges, and channeled through universal networks—life is a mystery, and we are provided examples, within us and around us, of the magnitude and gift of our existence.
Those nagging questions—How did we come to live here? Why all the pain and suffering? What is God? What is life? What is my carbon footprint? How is capitalism destroying humanity? What is collective karma? What is my duty? What is my purpose?—can float away on a breeze, leaving the peace found in simply not needing to know the answers,
I am grounded when the arch of my naked foot smooshes flat with each step. I am instantly connected to a deep channel of wisdom, accessing centuries of knowledge from the women who came before me. Every time my heel strikes the sediment, trillions of years flood through the fascia of my foot, nourishing me with strength and experience—not only my own, but that of my ancestors. And your ancestors. And all of those who came before them. And all of the bones laid to rest in the earth. And all the dead and dying things swallowed up in the soil that now grow tall, and green, fueling all life.
I understand the sensations in my body are communicating more than what my five senses can catalog—it’s subtle energy coursing through hundreds of thousands of channels, carrying a multitude of messages.
Many of us have seen how the structure of human lungs mimics that of an upside down, 100-year-old tree, full with green leaves at the height of summer. Taking a microscopic look at one of those leaves, you will see an intricate, veiny network that sustains life, similar to our own circulatory system. Or, how the cross-section of a tree trunk has its own layered, curvaceous pattern, just like that of our fingerprints.
There are endless commonalities throughout life on this planet. We are nature, and nature is us.
Sure, we can walk through this forest of life as a means to get somewhere, only focused on the arrival, and a means to an end. We can wallow in hurt feelings, allowing our minds to get lost in endless questions, making us miss the deep knowing that comes when we simply slow down to notice how one brief moment encompasses an entire cycle of growth, decay, death, and rebirth.
I walk on a trail through the bite of cold autumn air, and a leaf kicks up from the swing of my boot, is carried in an upward spiral, and floats to my eye level. Lit golden by a shaft of light, it is still a shadow of what it once was. In my next breath, the leaf falls to rest against other decaying droppings on the forest floor, where it awaits another journey in the wind, or to roll atop the ground into a nearby stream, or it meets its demise, trampled and pulverized to bits, absorbed in the soil once more.
As Mother Earth feeds us, we too nourish her.
I don’t ask the wind why it’s streaming across my skin, or picking up a leaf near my feet. I don’t question the beams of light infiltrating the canopy of the dense treetops, a hundred years high.
Instead, I breathed.
I participate in a moment with them in pure contentment.
I actively partake in this universal life force, which allows me to let go of hurt feelings, painful memories, and emotional energy that is no longer serving my growth. Like the trees, I release my leaves that have completed their purpose.
In the forest, I can dance my hips, spiraling energy to free emotions stuck deep within the pelvic bowl. Swirling the energy upward through the torso, I burn up untruths and permeate love throughout my center—and I can now open to grace. I spin and twirl, allowing my arms to fly away from my ribcage, sending the current out through a flit and flick of my fingertips like sparks—anger and worry, regret and fear shoot outward into the thin, frigid air.
Slowly I come to stillness, my feet spread wide apart, arms stretched upward in a wide V, my spine and head tilting backward, and I expose my soft side to the sky. From the depths of my gut, I express a bellowing chant to the ether, while the filtered light rains down on me. I trust the divinity beaming all around me, and through me, like an invisible chord that plugs me into the ground through my feet. I am recharged from the cosmic energy of all of it—Earth, the sun, the moon, the stars.
In my next breath, a scent is brought in by the breeze—an aroma of wet wood, dead brush churned into dust, and a swirl of hickory-scented smoke from a faraway chimney. In this one breath, I witness the beauty of a fire transmuting.
Both my heart and lungs are filled with wonder—and with each exhale released, more leaves rustle. The rhythm of breath melds with the pulse of the planet, and I no longer feel a need to even question existence. I can just be me.
I come to know that we are all energy vibrating in certain frequencies, manifesting this reality. There is nothing to figure out—they’re all just moments to bounce around in, with the astonishment and miracle of being alive.
When the weight of the world becomes too heavy to hold, go outside in bare feet, and anchor yourself to Mother Earth. Dance through the fields, cartwheel over snow, stomp up a mountain, lay in a meadow, soak in the sun.
However awful life can become, know that you are supported.