Spaciousness of body, heart, and mind is powerful for creative work and expression. But there is so much mental clutter--so much stimulation and bombardment from the external world. So much in the way of busy-ness and distraction. With all that chaos, it can be difficult to even remember the stillness of the Soul, to remember that we can ease into a comfortable quiet within ourselves.
Our creative projects need us to find this spaciousness from time to time. Then, without strain, we can develop our works. Insights and ideas will surface effortlessly, and we can then make note of these to later incorporate into our projects.
Meditation is thus an excellent practice--it's helpful for developing the skills needed to return to inner repose. But in my own experience it seems to really be time in nature that unravels all the knots and makes space for the body, heart, and mind. Quiet time in nature does change your brain and can be considered a form of meditation. Plus, the contents of nature directly provide inspiration and material for you to work with. If you are a musician, you may be inspired by the rhythms of the sounds around you, or get ideas from the vocalizations of native wildlife. If you are a visual artist, you may be intrigued by the geometries, colors, and textures of the natural space. If you are a writer, the sense-scape can become an enriching groundwork for the abstractions you've been exploring. Let nature inform you. Form within you. Arrange and align the body, heart, mind, and spirit.
If you're asking "What's the point" of lounging or walking in nature, I'm smiling so big at you. Go see for yourself. Without a cell phone. Bring a journal or a sketch pad, some water and snacks. The way nature makes you feel will be all the explanation you need (but obviously maybe seek relatively comfortable conditions, although whipping wind and pelting rain can be amazing in their own rite).
The power of nature to relieve my stressors and release my attachments was never clearer to me than when I took a hike to the summit of Chalk Mountain in Santa Cruz one Winter morning. Read to the end to find out how a burrito rescued my hope for humanity. Here's the story:
The Time Chalk Mountain Finished my Poem
I had learned to keep Friday night restful, to decline invitations to go out so I could wake early on Saturday and hit Highway 1 with coffee and my journals. Coastal morning fog filled me with wonder and deep happiness as I followed the curves of the highway.
One morning I set out from Waddell beach into Big Basin, zipped snugly into my black down jacket. The trail was devoid of people, brisker than I’d even expect on a winter morning, and wonderfully quiet. I figured I’d hike to Berry Creek Falls, but when I reached the fork in the trail after an invigorating barefoot creek crossing, I hesitated. The last time I’d looked for that trail I couldn’t find it, and a similar distance away, according to the sign, was Chalk Mountain. I looked left to right several times. I wasn’t entirely prepared for a 14-mile round trip on an unfamiliar trail, but something about the name called me over to the left. I put my shoes back on and headed onto the unknown trail.
I saw not a soul at the mountain’s peak. I laid under a tree and rested after devouring the one piece of bread and avocado I’d thought to pack. I let my body sink deeply into the ground, gazing out at the clouds over the ocean. I was so content there, so blissfully alone. I lingered long. I meditated. I napped. I lifted myself into handstands. I gazed at the panoramic view as my skin absorbed the welcome winter sunlight.
When I descended, verses from the poem I’d written on my drive back from Bishop passed through my mind. I spoke some of them aloud, somewhat surprised I’d memorized them. As I spoke, it became apparent that the poem was missing some verses, as they now began to form in my head. Amazed the poem had followed me up the mountain, I took a moment to write down what was in my head. I marveled at the aliveness of this one--at its volition. It didn’t occur to me that it would give rise to more poetry in the coming months. Maybe years--who knows?
Hikes, runs, or rests in natural spaces can be incredibly gratifying. They ease us back to a peaceful state and help us release our attachments. From these places of rest, we can draw from our creative sources and breathe life into our spirit. Creativity easily follows. The gates to inspirations open wide. What are you waiting for?!
P.S. Remember to tell a friend if you are going hiking alone. And don't do what I did! Bring adequate food and water! I had to eat a huge burrito after this hike to save myself from thinking the world was evil (a common affliction caused by hanger).
This year I will be designing an online meditation program called "Nature Connect." Sign up for the Pattern Shift Monthly Newsletter (in the sidebar) to stay up to date.