Enter the Wilderness

When the weather broke last week and the first signs of warmth and Spring made themselves known, my children took me for a walk to see their new “housing development.” They’d found in our woods several trees that had fallen during the winter and were now perfectly placed for climbing upon, sitting on and beneath, laying still and dreaming big life dreams. The two filled their backpacks with snacks, water, a blanket, and their journals and “moved in” to their tree home for many hours of the day. They were shoe-less and bare legged, happy to feel the warmth of sun on skin and squish of mud and moss in their toes. Even with several clusters of brambles and pointed branches threatening their little legs and arms, they were not deterred by what they deemed a “magical place.” What they saw was a place that was exactly enough as it was and allowed them to be completely whole just by entering in.

I needed to continue working, to remain at my desk so that I’d meet business deadlines. But I could not bear to not follow them on this walk and take the tour of this space. Sometimes I must force myself to let these two angels, not my calendar or to-do lists, be my guides. My children will not be this young ever again, I know, and I’ve vowed to remember how to pause to allow their magical moments interrupt me when there is no pertinent reason it should not. Yet even with this vow, I find that all too easy I forget to be present and become frustrated by the interruption.

This all feels especially important because I have been thinking about the goals I’ve wished to incorporate into my daily existence. Not New Year’s resolution exactly, but habits that I’ve intended to build knowing that the addition to my life would feed me in some way–to spend more time outside walking and playing; to read and write daily; to put away my phone and listen more closely to the humans in front of me. In the past few weeks, I’ve let these life-enriching habits go, not because I consciously said no to these habits but because I was saying yes to activities that made it near impossible to not say no. So I’ve found myself thinking of the fact that for every yes I give to my life, I must give a no to something else. If I say yes to staying up late at night, I’m likely saying no to my morning yoga practice and walk. If I say yes to reading and writing a bit at night, I must say no to watching that show with my husband. If I say yes to every request from others or deadline that I’ve created to keep building a business, I must say no to playing and climbing on trees. To keep a promise that I make to myself, I must think through the no’s that are necessary to sufficiently live the yes’s that will buoy these promises. A simple enough concept but surely not easy.

Henri Nouwan wrote, “You don’t think your way into a new kind of living. You live your way into a new kind of thinking.” My yoga practice has become incredibly rich as I’ve learned to investigate myself more deeply and to remember that no matter what I receive on the mat, I can decide that it’s enough for that day, for that moment. I am living my way into a new way of thinking about life. I can breathe through my day, pray and meditate on and act with awareness about the kind of integrity I wish to have in my life. Integrity doesn’t mean there is not wildness and no heart ache; integrity means learning to create wholeness well put together. And that, to me, means learning how to say yes to that which builds wholeness and allow the no’s to come as a natural release of that which isn’t a part of this wholeness.

It’s spring, so perhaps you’re hearing the bird song and seeing the buds of new life pushing through. If you are hearing the call from your rich and lovely life to refresh some vow, some habit that you know will feed you, now is a wonderful time to heed that call, and like nature, renew the promises you made to yourself, to your life. Allow something new to bloom within you. It may feel a bit like heading into a wild place, a place of brambles and possible disappointments, to enter into a yes knowing there must also be a no. But if any of these yes’s are building integrity in your life, the time to live your way into a new kind of thinking is now. And if you step into some rich place of self-discovery, let whatever you receive be just enough.

I am not asking you
to take this wilderness from me,
to remove this place of starkness
where I come to know
the wildness within me,
where I learn to call the names
of the ravenous beasts
that pace inside me,
to finger the brambles
that snake through my veins,
to taste the thirst
that tugs at my tongue.
But send me
tough angels,
sweet wine,
strong bread:
just enough
~Jan Richardson