Perception / Lost in Nature

At times life can be difficult, and at times feel unfair. Then there are moments where suddenly the magic that is life hits you, and you're swept off of your feet. I remember some years ago that life seemed to be teeming with magic. A step outside and nature would sweep me off of my feet. Seeing a few robins in the morning would amaze me, and feeling a breath of wind would feel as if mother nature took a giant gasping breath. I am reminded of these times more often now than I have been in the previous months or years. There was a time when being unable to see the magic of everyday moments would frustrate me, and other times it would depress me.

The past few years have been incredibly trying, and I have realized that my personal outlook on life had suffered greatly due to the experience. Experiencing my mother abruptly losing here battle cancer, watching slowly as my niece-in-law seeped into the underworld that is addiction and eventually becoming a casualty to the lifestyle she was lead towards, forcibly disconnecting all social interactions with my friends and family due to a global pandemic, and accepting that political unrest lead me to realize how polarized our country can be, to name a few. Maybe it's the changing of the seasons. Maybe it's stepping towards reaching a personal goal that I've had for a long time (I've toyed with the idea of writing on this topic, but don't want to count my eggs before they hatch), or some combination of adding a bit of exercise and conscious eating into my routine. Whatever the cause, I'm beginning to feel the magic entering my life yet again.

Yesterday I spent several hours with two of my kids in the woods. One of my favorite things to do, as far back as childhood, is getting lost in the woods. Relying on your sense of smell and hearing to guide you in your intended direction while noticing a striking resemblance to the plant or whatever it may be that you past moments ago just to realize that you've made a giant loop and are headed in the opposite direction you intended to. Then, back to the senses. Personally in these moments I experience some sort of subtle subconscious panic. I have after all lead my kids into the wilderness and they assume that I will keep them safe. Following this is usually a reminder that I tell myself something along the lines of "this park only spans a few miles". So I relinquish trust in my sense of vision and begin relying on my other senses. To the east of us is a stream and to the west is a road. I stop for a moment and ask my children to be silent. The sound of the stream is directly ahead of us and a vehicle passing in the distance behind us. We follow our steps back towards the most noticeable trail, and suddenly we discover we are just around the bend from the main trail.

Somewhere in this experience is a metaphor for life. Often times the difficulty or unfairness we might experience in life is just surface deep. When we are willing to look past our relationship with what we are immediately experiencing, we make room in our perception of our lives to allow for the magic to return. This is a concept that I have been working through for quite some time, and recently a friend of mine mailed me a book ("Flow: The Psychology of Optical Experience") which dives deeply into this concept. While I'm admittedly a slow reader, I've made some progress on reading this book over the last few weeks. If I were to summarize the overarching message of this book, it's that we as individuals have a habit to confine our perception of reality into that which we are experiencing in the moment. Each of us has our own relationships to these experiences, and the ability to transform these relationships into a positive or negative experience. Our biological programming designed for survival often leads us towards perceiving experiences as existential threats. With a bit of intention and conscious effort we can train ourselves to appreciate the magic that exists in life, and overcome our powerful instincts that leads us to perceive everyday activities as existential threats.

In moments when we harness our abilities to do so, difficulties and unfairness becomes lessons for the present and future, and suddenly we experience the magic that life has to offer us.

Thank you for reading!

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