Last week, I carried clippers into the woods. I was ruthless, clearing the path of as many obstructions as possible: leaves and branches that block my passage, grape vines that have grown across the trail. I did this because of my friend Willow. Over the months I’ve been making this trek, I have debated with myself over whether my desire to walk lightly on the earth precludes slashing away at the stuff in my way.
But Willow’s argument changed my mind. She talked of a spiritual teacher who once told her, “How can you expect anything to come in if the path isn’t clear?” Now Willow keeps her physical path open so the metaphysical lessons she needs to hear or the people she needs to meet can make their way easily to her.
It’s what I’m hoping happens for me: that the rocky path I walk, both literally and figuratively, becomes easier to negotiate and, as the Quakers say, that Way will open. After chopping back the brush like this, it did feel good to be able to traipse back up the hill without getting whacked in the face or having to duck under branches and trip over vines. It felt like I could breathe better too.
But will this make the rocky path I’m treading through life any easier? Who knows? Perhaps it’s just my wanting to see results, but only two days later, I had an insight that seems like maybe there is something to this woo woo stuff.
Another friend talks of sensing some voice of guidance, some higher power or Spirit or something like God that helps her know what she should do, reassures her that she’s on the right path. She knows this voice and trusts it. It’s something like what I hoped I would experience when I started coming to the woods in the morning, what I’ve often longed for in my life, something to show me the way.
So I come to the woods, and I try to relax, try to just be. I sit and breathe and try to reconnect with nature that so inspires and renews me. I try to meditate, and sometimes I try to pray, although mostly I don’t think I know how to do these things. I bring my journal, and I record my thoughts and observations: the rush of the water when it’s raining, the surprise of looking up to see a raccoon climbing toward me in the stream, the sound of that winter bird that always reminds me of a clear quiet Christmas morning.
Mostly I find myself muddling over the challenges I happen to be facing when I’m not in the woods, what’s going on or going wrong and what I need to do about it. I think about the phone calls I need to make, the emails I need to send, the interviews I need to do, how I can start that article I have to write. I even find myself writing blog entries in my head. So many words.
What occurred to me the other day, though, was that the voice of God doesn’t speak when I’m flailing around like this in my head. The voice of God can only be heard when I settle in, let go of thought, follow my breath, and open to what might come from some other place, even if that’s someplace within me.
So for the past few days, I’ve tried to do this, tried to settle in and follow my breathing, tried not to think. It’s when I do this that sometimes, if I’m lucky, if I can go deeply enough,I feel it: a gentle pulsing, a rhythm not of my making rocking me, some energy flowing through my body. And rising up from who knows where come gifts, whole images, complete ideas, challenges and affirmations, and not a single word.