I have walked our pastures/fields hundreds of times in the years I've lived here. They change with the seasons and with the wind, snow, rain, cold and extreme heat. It’s easy to be tricked into thinking the changes I see in the land are solely due to these external forces. I often forget that this experience of walking the land is co-created between the two of us: what the land is presenting and in equal measure what of me I bring to the land.
At times, I have walked with distraction, thinking or talking so much I hardly notice anything at all. During morel season, I only have eyes for mushrooms, greedily searching the ground for that unmistakeable hint of grey, gold or tan. And even then, moving instantly to imagining the feast that will come later.
I have walked in anger, trying to “cool off” and finding irritation in each branch I bump in to or with Hunter the cat tangling into my legs to trip me.
I have walked in joy, smiling serenely at each flower and butterfly I encounter. Painting the environment with my happiness, seeing each leaf vividly in “hi-def”. Rose-colored glasses firmly planted on my nose despite what is being presented to me.
Today, Dave and I joined our friend Cheryl to walk the land. And today, as best as I was able, I simply walked and was present. Emotions of all kinds came and went, at times, as fast as the shutter speed of Dave’s camera documenting the event. I let them be, trying not to engage with the emotions or repress them, simply letting them be and walking. I noticed the arising feelings inside of liking certain plants and not others. I let those preferences be, too, and simply stayed present. It was Cheryl's first time walking our land, so it was fascinating to see it through her eyes. I noted this and likewise let it be.
This was an experiment I was running to see what would happen by just being present with all that showed up. Would I feel flat, detached? How would it feel to give a break to constantly evaluating everything?
What, I experienced, it turns out, was much more. By not grasping on to everything -- “I like this I don’t like that. I want this, I don’t want that” -- I began to recognize a deep connection to the surroundings. And with that arose a pervasive happiness and sense of wellbeing. This connection was not created by preference nor by intention of any kind. I recognized it as a natural state waiting to be discovered, resting underneath internal chatter. I was able to experience with more detail and clarity what was being presented to me.
I know Muir, Emerson and Thoreau have said and done this all before and with way more eloquence than me, but that doesn't matter. This is my discovery and exploration. And the fact that it has been done thousands of times before doesn't make it any less extraordinary.
There is a subtle, deep and profound joy I found simply by connecting with the present.