I am a lover of solitude. Right now, I am sitting quietly in my house. My family is out and about while I sit and have my afternoon tea. I love my family, but I also love quite time. I’ve never been one to be in the center of activity – rather, I’d prefer to be on the fringe. My true personality is one of an introvert, a thinker, a quiet person. The older I get, it seems the further I am removed from that quiet young lady whose college mentor correctly recognized as quietly assertive. She easily noted that I listen, formulate ideas, then, and only then, share. Space was graciously created so that it fit my function or way of being. I did not try and take over our student preceptor meetings, nor did I try to boldly convince others my way was what we needed to do. I was allowed to be a quiet thinker. It did not interfere with my success, my leadership, nor my productivity. Now, as the world moves faster, we experience a 24/7 news cycle, instantaneous messaging, and constant interruptions to our thought processes, it is less less likely that I, or anyone, is allowed to be a quiet thinker, or even quietly assertive. You will easily be moved past by those who act first, or more openly, and then think. There is nothing wrong with that, it is just not the way I conduct myself. My “thinking” is a way of being has led me on a successful life’s journey and it is something I do not wish to change, but instead wish to do more.
Finally, I’ve gotten to the age where I realize that I don’t have to do something if I don’t want to do it. This is both a perk and a privilege of having gone through the stages of “requirement.” At earlier ages, you are required to work – a job is a must if you want to be able to pay your bills and have insurance. Additionally, you were, most probably, required to have some advanced schooling. This particular requirement never posed much problem for me. I love being a student and even the process of going to school. This is obvious from the completion of a second advanced degree at age 55. But, I find it is not what I learned but what I can now apply and connect to from my vast life experience is far richer than what I was able to do as my younger self.
For a while, I thought I was required to go to church on Sundays. I tried – for years, actually – bringing my sons along with me on my attempt to find a good spiritual fit. Going to church was a “requirement” of my upbringing. I used to enjoy it – until I didn’t. I began to recognize it as more contorted that I wanted it to be. I think this came from a good religious fit as a child, adolescent, and young adult to the poor fit as I found as a young mother, after after moving to the midwest. Today, on a nature bathing hike, when I listened to some of the participants state what they had observed on our forested walk, I noticed reverence. Nature can be a spiritual house for some. I think, in many ways, it is for me.
I noted that I was thankful for the beauty of the land, the diversity of the foliage, and the twining of life and death as seen between the contrast of green and brown leaves, decaying branches with a velvety moss covered surface, and the firm, yet yielding ground under my feet. On the path, there were ups and downs, slick surfaces, and those which led one on a clear trail ahead. There were many choices in the forest, just as there were many metaphors alive in the forest for the journey we all travel as living beings, whether leaves, branches, moss or human.
It was nice to be told to slow down, look, listen, and use all our senses – even those beyond the five we most often think of and use. We all became thinkers. We accepted each others thoughts and did not comment on the differences or whether we agreed or not. A space to think was created. We were not judged or told to do something different. We were Free to Be……
This intentional slowing, stillness, and overarching calmness was noted by most everyone on our walk. It was restorative and relief generating, as in a reset of mind, body, and soul. Even now, I find myself still turned inward settling on how I can retain the quiet sense of calm that rained down upon us as we travelled the trail this morning.