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A Lesson from Nature
I learned long ago that being in nature is one of the most cathartic things I can do for myself. To stay grounded and centered I need time outdoors. And, when I am having a rough time, I almost always feel better if I can make time to get outside.
Recently I was having a rough couple of days; it seemed that almost everything I was trying to do was a struggle. I was putting in more and more effort on things and getting less and less “results.” I had a prime seat on the struggle bus.
I was trying many of the self-care and awareness practices that generally help center and ground me, and while they were helping to an extent, they just weren’t helping me in the deeply impactful ways they normally do.
It was clear to me that there was something more than the normal, tough day happening, but for some reason I couldn’t gain clarity on what the deeper layer was. That was a sure sign for me that I needed more time in solitude to get back to myself.
I didn’t know what I needed exactly and truth be told, I was just damn tired of trying to figure it out. Hence, the best medicine I know for myself was what was needed. It was time to put on my hiking boots, find a trail, and be by myself for a while.
Sometimes my hikes are grueling and extreme workouts, but that day I clearly needed a slow, gentle pace to supportively allow my body, mind, soul, and heart to re-align. As I started out on my hike I set an intention that I had nothing to do, no timeline, nothing that needed to be figured out, that this time was just going to be whatever showed up for me in the moment.
Yes, I was wanting to “get back to me” — but I also knew that by having an agenda or mission of some sort I was not going to get what I needed. I didn’t know what else that might be, other than being alone in nature, so I trusted that the time I was gifting myself was enough.
The trail I was on — one of my favorites — follows a stream for portions of the hike. In addition to knowing that nature is a deeply healing space for me, I also know that I am drawn to and healed by water. I can spend hours listening to the waves on a beach, staring at a creek, or soaking in warm water.
I was drawn a little ways off the trail to sit close to the stream. I lost track of time for a while — I believe I may have even dozed off — but at some point as I was watching the water flow by I had the thought: nature follows the path of least resistance.
The water was flowing on the path of least resistance. It wasn’t trying to battle its way uphill. The trees that were surrounding me were growing toward the sun. Following the path of least resistance, going toward that which allows them to grow and flourish.
Another a-ha moment for me… I had been struggling in part because I was going against my nature. I had gotten off my path because I had started to second guess my work and what I was doing. I had started to feed an old, untrue story, the one that said if the work I was doing was worthy and my best work, it should be hard and challenging and exhausting.
I had started to “throw away” some of the work that was heart- and soul-aligned because I was telling myself that if it was that joyful and fun to do and didn’t feel like grueling, exhausting work, it wasn’t enough. That I wasn’t trying hard enough.
Like the old and unhealthy story I mentioned the other day about needing to prove myself to be worthy, the story that work should be hard — and in some ways the more soul-crushing it is the better you are as a person — was peeking back in.
I called B.S. on that story years ago, just like the one about how I had to prove myself to be worthy. But as the most well-worn stories tend to do, they like to creep back in.
I was being given the time in nature, next to the stream, to recognize where my struggle was coming from. I was going against my nature. I wasn’t following the path that was best for me. I was resisting, rather than going with the path of least resistance.
My lesson from nature was that in following the path of least resistance in my work, I was actually on the right and best path for me.
I know well that we are not always able to follow the path of least resistance. There are times and places where the path of least resistance is not in our best and highest good and where there may be struggle and pain to get to where we want to go.
I wonder, though, how often we make things much harder on ourselves than they need to be? Might there be some place in your life where you have been struggling and perhaps the path of least resistance is actually what is best for you?
Good things don’t have to be hard to come by. Our work can be flowful and joyful. Our relationships can be flowful and joyful. Our day-to-day can be more flowful and joyful if — when it is called for — we follow the path of least resistance.