Sometimes we think pleasure is a complicated thing. Do I have time to take some pleasure? Do I ‘deserve’ to do what feels good? Shouldn’t I work more before I take some pleasure? But when you enter the natural world and you gear down your mind, you’ll find pleasure couldn’t be simpler. My five days on a canoe camping trip last month helped me understand this simplicity.
Living under the stars and having an immediate, close contact with the land, water, sky and trees was delicious. No walls or roof to separate me from every… little… thing… in the world around me. It took a couple of days to sink into the experience. By the end of day two I felt my senses sharpening – the variety of sounds made by the wind in the trees and over the water, the smell of the earth, the changing colors of the rocks as the sun came in and out of clouds, and the delicious feel of water on my skin.
Several years ago I took a workshop on weather shamanism with Nan Moss and David Corbin in Vermont. I learned that each element of weather has a spirit attached to it, and that these weather spirits communicate and connect with humans. I felt their presence in all the weather that happened over these days.
Our moods and emotions are like the weather – they roll in and then they roll out; if we don’t get attached to them, they move. Each aspect of weather, like each emotion, is beautiful and interesting, and if allowed they constantly change. This immersion experience in the outdoors, in immediate contact with weather, helped me take in the deep truth of this metaphor.
I loved the abundant variety of weather that happened over just a few hours. As each weather spirit visited, I attuned to hear its unique character and its gift. This is something we miss when we live indoors – as helpful as the four walls and the roof are in other ways!
I was studying poems during my time outdoors. Hafiz’s All the Hemisphere begins with an invitation:
Leave the familiar for a while
Let your senses and bodies stretch out
Like a welcomed season
Onto the meadows and shores and hills.
Hafiz lived in Persia (now Iran) and wrote this poem around the year 1340. But for me it is timeless, and I love when I can learn a poem by living it!
It will be perhaps another year before I have the chance to be outdoors for a long stretch again, but it has quickened my motivation to take short times away from my four walls. Even the garden outside my door is an option, to go to it with a heightened attunement to the senses and to my body, like a new season – to stretch out on the landscape right in front of me.
As I sit in my office this morning, I hear the companionable spirit of wind on a rainy day and let it be part of my experience as I do my morning write. It couldn’t be simpler than this!
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“As I step into the classroom with Madeline, I am aware of a spaciousness that few other facilitators offer, giving adequate time for self-reflection and digestion of the material. The spaciousness is well-supported by experiential learning and practical teachings. Madeline’s work—both within her own life and in facilitating others—speaks clearly through the profound space she holds for learning, and healing, to happen.”