Quiet is good

Long walk, down a country road…

I’ve had a very quiet few days… when I’ve been at home, that is.

This past week has been crAYzy, and I’ve spent my time at home relaxing and just enjoying the quiet.

Interestingly, these days, I don’t have much interest in going online, when I’m not at work. I think it’s about just being all maxed-out with the computer — all day, every day — and really enjoying not having to type anything…. or be in front of a humming electronic box, when I don’t have to.

So, I’ve been spending time reading and thinking… sketching out some ideas I’ve been having, and just working through a lot of logical problems in my head.

That’s my new thing — exercising my brain on “problems” I invent, and then try to solve. Some of the problems are very practical and everyday — like, how best to organize people at work to get all the jobs done, without completely frying their systems. Some of the problems are very abstract — like, what do we really experience, and how do we know what we know?

It’s good practice for me. And it gets me thinking in all new ways.

It keeps me honest and it keeps me humble. And it also keeps me on my toes and reminds me to take care of myself and my brain. I tend to wear myself out a bit, when I think too much about things.

That’s another thing I’m working on — patterns of thinking that move me forward, instead of wearing me out. What’s the best “cadence” for me? How do I best function? When is the best time of day for me to “do thinking”, and how can I organize my day, so that I can put my brain to work on different problems, and still have a life?

I think I have some good ideas around this. I pace myself. I also think up to a certain point, then step away and do something completely different. Like today — I read about a new type of computing, and then I cleaned the bathrooms. My spouse has mobility issues and cannot get down to floor level, or lean over to clean under the commode basins, so that was my “quest” for this morning. I promised myself I wouldn’t spend more than 30 minutes on the task, because I have really bad recollections of being forced to clean toilets when I was a kid, and I am also sensitive to the cleaning supplies. So, I worked as quickly and as efficiently as I could, and I was done.

And then my mind was clear again to go back to what I was reading before, and come at it from a new angle.

Now I’ve been reading and researching and thinking for another half hour and it’s time to go for my long walk again. I walked for 2 hours yesterday, and I got some great ideas, along the way.

Time to walk again — this time in a different direction. Who knows what will come to me then?

And this afternoon, while I have the house to myself, I’ll take a nap, then get up and do some chores… make some supper… and get a good night’s sleep.

I’ve got a good cadence going. Last night I actually got in bed before 11:00 p.m., and I got over 8 hours of sleep.

It’s amazing what a little balance will do for you. That, and exercise.

Onward.

The ghost and the machine

It’s all about your perspective – “Ghost in the Machine” by linnsetane

I had a pretty good weekend — no, I had a pretty phenomenal weekend. I had an exquisite balance between body, mind, heart, and spirit, that I haven’t felt in some time, and I actually felt like myself.

Again.

It’s been a long time, since I truly felt like myself. I was reading and studying again, doing some journaling. I did chores around the house and cleaned up outside. And I was out in the woods a whole lot, with naps in between.

I didn’t “accomplish” some of the goals I set out to do, but you know what? I don’t care. I feel really solid, and that matters more than any external goals I set for myself. On Fridays, my weekend goals seem so terribly important. But by Sunday morning, I’ve “rearranged the furniture of my interior life” and a whole new set of priorities come out, which are a lot more life-giving than the ones I identified on Friday last.

It has taken me a long, long time to get to this place. I have been “in the woods” in a not-so-good way for many years, and at last I’m at a really stable place, where I’m not all over the map for no good reason.

Now, in some ways, I still feel strange to myself. But that strangeness has actually become an integrated part of my life now. See, the thing is, I don’t just see myself as a person whose character is set in stone — and that’s it. I see myself now as more of a person whose character is constantly developing along certain lines that are “me” — it’s not the particular details of how I’m feeling and what I’m doing, that make “me” the person I am. It’s actually the process I go through to get where I’m going, that makes “me” the person I am.

For example, I am usually in pain of some kind or another. Either I have a pulled muscle or I have a headache or a backache or joint pain. I literally can’t remember the last time I did not have some kind of pain — and this goes back to my childhood, when I had a very rough-and-tumble kind of life and I was usually getting scuffed up or knocked around by someone or something or other. I was extremely sensitive as a kid, and a lot of times, if someone touched my arm or my back, it felt like I was being hit. It stung like fire ants or burned like fire or it felt like someone had me in a vice and was twisting. Being young, I couldn’t really explain it. That’s just how it was.

And when I was younger, because of that, I felt like I was always being punished. Because when you were really bad, you got hit or paddled or yanked around by an adult. And that hurt. But I wasn’t being constantly punished — I was just having that kind of experience without any connection with reality. My body didn’t realize it, and my mind couldn’t process that.

So, I’ve had this complex — pretty much my entire life — about being a bad person who needed to be punished.

Well, now that I know more about my situation, that’s not burdening me anymore. I know that my sensitivities are connected with how much tension I’m feeling — when I’m tired or stressed or upset — and they’re not about me being a bad person who should be punished. Pain is happening because I’m doing good things — not bad things. Pain is a sign that I am genuinely trying to do better and be better.

It’s like after a hard workout. Your body is absolutely wracked for days on end, while it recovers and gets used to the “new you”. It’s not a bad thing — it’s a by-product of a good thing, and it will totally be worth it in the long run.

So, I have a completely different view of my pain, these days. And I have a very different attitude towards my experience. Thinking of my pain as the result of me pushing harder to be better, makes the pain about me being driven to be better. That’s a far cry from the old way of thinking and feeling — which was all about me being bad and deserving to be punished.

It’s kind of a “no pain no gain” mentality — “pain is weakness leaving the body” and all that.

So, while I don’t feel physically peachy-keen, most of the time, which at times makes me feel really terrible about being in my own skin, the way I think about feeling crappy has actually restored some of my sense of self. Rather than the pain meaning that I’m deficient, it means that I’m genuinely trying to do better, that I’m motivated and really trying. Waking up today with a headache and fatigue means that yesterday I wanted to be better, and I did something about it.

It’s not about me being in an ideal state at any given point in time. It’s about me being in the middle of a process of improvement that is taking me towards a variety of ideals which I can experience at different points in time. Life isn’t always going to be perfect. Where would be the challenge in that? In fact, it seems to me that the more “yourself” you are, the most challenges you’re going to face, because life likes to keep us guessing — and so do we. I have seen so many people unconsciously create situations that get them in trouble, and I’ve seen so many “good” people dragged into complicated messes, that after close to 50 years of wondering “WHY?!” it’s all I can figure.

Being a good person doesn’t mean I’m going to have all good things happen in my life. It means I’m going to have plenty of opportunities to create more good in the lives of myself and everyone around me, no matter what the circumstances.

And that goes for TBI. Lemme tell you, it has been one tough motherf*cker, getting through this, and in a lot of ways, I feel like the “old me” is gone for good. But the “new me” — or maybe the “real me” that I never recognized before — is not so much about being a certain way in certain circumstances, thinking certain thoughts and having certain feelings about things. Maybe the “real me” is actually a dynamic personality who is constantly learning, constantly changing, constantly leaving the old behind.

I think that once upon a time, I knew this. I cleaned out my study, over the weekend and found some old journals from 20+ years ago. Back when I was still wet behind the ears, I had this amazing capacity for fluid adjustment. I think because everything around me was changing all the time, and the multiple TBIs messed with my head so much, I realized that it was pointless for me to try to hang onto anything for long. But then I “grew up” and got all adult-like and what-not, and for some reason, I had it in my head that “I” was a certain way, and that “I” wasn’t going to change.

How strange.

It got worse after my 2004 injury — my thinking just got so rigid and fixed and brittle. And now that I think about it, that “self” that I felt I had lost… that “self” may have never even existed, because my thinking was so one-dimensional and fixed. I had this vision of myself in my head that was distorted and confused, and for some reason, I thought that was “me”.

It was like going into a funhouse and looking at all the mirrors, and then deciding that one image of myself I saw was THE REAL ME, and I invested all kinds of energy in hanging onto that distorted image of myself. Even though it was as far from “me” as you can get.

So, this weekend, it was all about the process. All about loosening up, all about cleaning out dusty spaces and getting things in order. My study is still in some disarray, but that will change. Gradually, I’ll work my way through — one shelf at a time. And by this time next year, there’s no reason to think that it won’t be in decent shape.

Truly.

So, that’s the result of my great weekend. It felt so good to just let go of the Friday-fatigue-flavored expectations of last week and just let things flow. Letting things flow didn’t get me “off course” – if anything, it let me get some rest and more inspiration for the coming week. Now I’m coming back to my work week with a renewed energy and a better understanding — the machine of my life is just that: a machine. But it’s the ghost that does all the driving.

Can you tell Halloween is coming? ;)

Onward.

Good day, good progress

It’s been a very busy day today — full and just about as complete as you can get. I started with waking up around 6 a.m., which gave me about 6 hours of sleep. Not great, so I lay in bed for a while and just relaxed, drifted in and out of sleep. Then, by 7, I was awake and ready to get up and go. I got a little bit of exercise and stretching, then had my breakfast and sat down to catch up on some reading I’ve been meaning to do — as in, reading I haven’t been able to do for years. There’s this book that I’ve needed to read, but I just couldn’t manage to start it, for some reason. I started it yesterday, after years of just looking at the book on my shelf. And today I continued — got the first chapter read — and understood.

So, that was pretty huge. I have really struggled with reading, and I’ve been missing it; I used to be an avid reader, just about all my life, but after my fall in 2004, I wasn’t able to really sit down with a book and read it the whole way through. It’s been slow going, getting back into the swing of things, with some fits and starts. But now I’m feeling pretty strong and optimistic — this book is about things that really interest me, that I can use in my everyday life, so I have a lot of incentive to read it.

The morning just flew by, and I made a lot of great progress, so to celebrate I went out for a walk in the woods near my house. I got a little turned around and lost my way once, but I just kept going until I recognized something. The woods are not that big – I can just keep walking and eventually come out to a road or a pond or a stream which I recognize.

Such a great way to spend a few hours on a beautiful fall day. I took it all in — the colors, the sights, the sounds, the scents — I got more exercise, going up hill and down…  and I had a few more decent ideas that built on what I read this morning, which is always nice. I also had some time to just sit in the sun and see how I was feeling — and I wasn’t feeling that great, when I stopped to think about it. I was shaky and sick to my stomach, my head hurt, and I felt really foggy. It wasn’t stopping me from going about my business and doing what I needed to do, but it wasn’t me at peak. Not even close.

I was tempted to spend the whole afternoon outside, but I needed to come home, have some lunch, and have a nap. I’ve been so wiped out — I need to make extra effort to sleep when I can. So, I walked home, had some soup and crackers, and then slept for about an hour.

I got up feeling pretty good, and after I cleared the fallen leaves off the driveway, I helped my spouse load the van for an event they were going to. They were having a little trouble focusing in and getting everything together — they’ve been distracted thanks to another upcoming business trip next weekend which promises to be quite challenging for them. So, my evening was spent coaching and reassuring and gently nudging them in the direction they were supposed to be going.

After they left, I had a little leftover barbecue chicken from last night, and I caulked the seams of our kitchen counters, which have been cracking and separating, now, for years. I’ve been looking at those seams, promising myself I’d do something about them. And tonight I did just that.

I’m pretty happy with the result, too. It’s neat, it’s going to look great when it all dries, and I managed to get through the job with only a couple very minor freak-outs, when I was dropping things and having a hard time holding the caulk tube steady. I managed to finish the job without melting down, which is nice. Even though I’m on my own tonight, and there’s no one to hear me flipping out, it still feels like crap when I lose it, and it takes me some time to recover from the outburst.

I don’t want to focus on the flipping out, though. I want to focus on the fact that I’m back to taking care of the house and doing right by it. I have not been keeping up with things at all, over the years. It has just been too much for me to get my head around. Now, though, I seem to have regained my ability to take things one step at a time and not get overwhelmed by the sheer volume of things that need to get done. I’m not panicking at the sight of a stack of firewood that needs to be split and moved. I’m just grabbing the axe and having at it.

I’m also doing much, much better at being “editorial” in what I do. In the past, I have been so bogged down by distraction and details that didn’t matter at all, that it kept me from starting things and getting them done — it was all just too overwhelming, and I didn’t know which things mattered and which didn’t. In the past year, however, I’ve learned how to cut through all the static and focus on the core things that need to be done.

Now, instead of being overwhelmed by thinking through the minute details of every single step I need to follow, I am “roughing out” my chores and just cutting to the chase — focusing on the essentials, like grabbing one piece of wood and splitting it cleanly, then tossing it on a pile to move later. In the past, I couldn’t even grab a piece of firewood, because I couldn’t figure out which one I should pick out first, how I should place it on the chopping block, how I should place my feet, how I should stand, exactly, how I should hold the axe, what angle I should strike with the axe, and where I should toss the wood when it was split. I had so many competing details rattling ’round in my head, that I couldn’t even get started.

Now that has changed dramatically. The sequencing is much clearer and cleaner — less static, more flow. I honestly believe all the cooking I’ve been doing has been helping me with that. So, I continue to cook. And more good things follow.

Yep, it’s been a good day, all in all. I’ve got a few more little things I need to do tonight, but it’s no big deal. I can do them while watching a movie, which I plan to do shortly. With any luck, I’ll get to bed before midnight and get some real rest.

It’s all good.

Yes indeed, it’s all good.

Bringing light

Light is where you find it – find more art like this at http://www.atagar.com/bobsGallery/

I’ve been thinking a lot about this holiday season – and all the ways that it’s associated with light. Most of the “big” traditions I know about feature light of some kind, and no wonder — this time of year is when the days become longer, and we literally can celebrate the return of the light. It’s a physiological thing, as well as a psychological and spiritual thing. And it’s well worth celebrating.

I celebrated yesterday by walking deeper in the woods than I have in a long time. Once upon a time, when I first moved to this place, I was out in the woods for most of my waking hours every weekend, rain or shine, good weather or bad. I guess I’ve always been drawn to the forest — it was the one place I felt at home when I was a kid, and there’s something really calming about being in the woods. When I was younger, I wanted to be a forest ranger, until my guidance counselor talked me out of it because it wasn’t “practical”.

Hm.

Anyway, now I get to be my own forest ranger, and I don’t have to worry about government funding cutting me off from my livelihood, so it’s not all bad, the way it turned out. And yesterday I got a good reminder of the things that matter most to me in my life — clean air, fresh water, room to roam, and friendly, like-minded people also sharing the paths.

And I couldn’t help but think about how — for years after my concussion/TBI in 2004 — I couldn’t go into the woods. I just couldn’t. There was too much stimuli there for me. It was either too bright or too dark, or it was too quiet or it was too loud. I got tired so quickly, and when I did, I got confused and anxious. And the idea of interacting with anyone I came across on the paths, was out of the question. I panicked anytime I had to interact with someone who was out for a nice quiet hike like myself. I also got turned around and lost very easily, and since I have never had the best sense of direction to begin with, I would spend hours just trying to find my way back to where I wanted to go. I told myself I was “exploring” but the fact was, I was getting lost and had to keep walking to find my way back.

And half the time, I couldn’t remember where I’d come from. Even reading maps was impossible for me. Especially reading maps.

So, I quit going into the woods. I gave up my forest. And things were very dark and dreary for a number of years. The crazy part was, I told myself it was by choice, not something I was stuck doing, because I was so trapped in anxiety and sensory overwhelm.

What changed it? I think just living my life. Working with my neuropsychologist to just talk through my daily experience. Also, doing my breathing exercises — and exercising, period. And practicing, practicing, practicing some more at the things I wanted to do, until I could do them pretty close to how I wanted to. And learning to not be so hard on myself for being different now than I was before.

I also really paid attention to the times when I saw signs of more functionality — like when I started going on hikes again, after years away from them. Like when I was able to read an entire book, after years of only being able to read short papers — and not understand much of them at all. Like when I gave things my best shot, and found them turning out pretty darned close to how I intended — sometimes even better.

Taking the edge off my anxiety, giving myself a break, focusing on things that were bigger and more significant than my own petty concerns… those helped. Those brought light to my life.

And it continues to get better.

When I think back on how I was, just five years ago, it amazes me. I was so trapped in a dark place, confused and not knowing what was wrong with me. I didn’t understand what was holding me back, I didn’t understand what was stopping me from just living my life. I didn’t understand how confused I was or what I was confused about. I couldn’t discern the different issues I had, because it was all just a dark blob of problems that pulsed like a nebula of hurt and pain and confusion. When I think about how things are now — with so much light and so much more possibility… it amazes me.

There are answers out there, if we look… if we know to ask. There are solutions out there, if we take the time to be clear about what the issues truly are. There is hope out there, when we are willing to take a chance, have some courage, and move on — move on.

As the days lengthen and we roll towards the spring (I know, winter is just now beginning, officially)… as we take this holiday season to step away from the everyday grind and do something different with ourselves… as we try to imagine what else is out there for us… let’s all remember that as dark as it gets sometimes, the night does pass. There is always dawn and a new day, just around the corner.

Yes, let there be light.

Bonus – More exercise, more energy, more time

View from the top – my load was lighter

Yesterday was a good day. Went out to the beach and spent a lot of time running in the sand. I was a little concerned that I might overdo it, as I have in the past. But I didn’t run myself into the ground – just enjoyed myself and had a great time running to/from waves. By the end of the day, I was bushed, so my spouse drove home while I rested. I didn’t get much sleep last night, but I figured I’d make it up today.

I knew I was going to have a long nap this afternoon, and I also knew that I wasn’t going to get much exercise tomorrow, so today I figured I’d push the envelope a little bit. I had a good workout this morning, then around noon I put 20 lbs of books and an (unopened) bag of birdseed in my backpack and headed out into the woods for a hike. I’ve been wanting to do that for some time — either get a weighted vest or find a way to walk/hike/exercise with some extra weight. Feeling the heft of my backpack yesterday inspired me, so I decided to go for it today — add 20 pounds and march up to the top of a nearby hill, and back down again. I figured it wouldn’t be so much that it would bog me down, but it would be enough that I’d feel it after a little while… and when I finally got the pack off at the end, I’d have more of a spring in my step.

I was right. It was a good thing to do. The added weight not only kept the hike challenging, but it also forced me to pay closer attention to my feet and my posture, so I wouldn’t pull something. I thought it might weigh me down too much, but I honestly didn’t feel too terrible throughout the hike. It definitely got heavy towards the end, but it wasn’t and impossible load. I’ve backpacked before, years ago, and it felt familiar. 20 pounds wasn’t too much, but it was definitely noticeable by the end of the hike.

And when I got back and took off the pack, sure enough, I did feel a lot lighter on my feet. Good stuff.

So, after my hike, I took care of some chores, took a hot shower, and lay down for my nap. I did some of my body scanning before going to sleep… where I relax and “check in” with my body to see how it’s feeling, and I fell to sleep pretty promptly. I slept a little over an hour, and I woke up feeling really good. Still a little tired, but clear. Very clear.

I had a lot of good energy, too. Really good energy. A relaxed state that feels both mellow and alert. And all the stuff that’s ahead of me this week, starting at 6 a.m. tomorrow morning, feels a lot less burdensome than it did just 24 hours ago. It actually feels manageable. I feel manageable. Which is pretty amazing, considering the funk that I’ve been in, for the past month or so.

So yeah, exercise. Serious exercise. None of this namby-pamby stuff where I take it easy and coast through. In order to get something out of it, I really have to put a lot into it. Or it makes no difference at all. I started really pushing myself a few days back, and I feel 100% better already. I’m going to keep it up, too — including giving myself plenty of time to rest and recover afterwards, as well as eating more protein and less empty carbs to keep up my strength. It’s just too good to let go.

The wild thing about a lot of this is that the more I pushed myself and the more I wore myself out, the more of “me” I actually had to work with. I feel like “more of me” is back in action, and as a result, I’ve got more energy — and I feel like I have more time. I am less stressed out about little things, and I am better at planning things out — like looking at my calendar and realizing that I’m probably not going to get much exercise tomorrow, so I’d better do something extra today.

I’m also less stressed about the idea of resting and recovering. I get so locked into the idea of going-going-going, that the idea of stopping freaks me out. Not today, though. I put in my extra work, and I’m looking ahead to tomorrow. And beyond.

Funny how that works — you put more in, and you get more out. But maybe that’s how it always works.

Time to get strong. And be smart. And enjoy life — really enjoy it. I haven’t been doing much of that lately. Time to change that around.

Building up my stamina

I had a heck of a weekend. Lots of activity, and not nearly as much rest as I needed. And this morning, I’m really feeling it. I’m fuzzy and slow and not nearly as sharp as I need to be on Monday morning. I’m fumbling and bumbling and it’s taking me a while to get my act together.

But, I had a great weekend doing things I haven’t done properly in what feels like forever, which is huge progress for me. I also figure I’m in roughly the same shape as someone who partied all weekend… but I’m not hungover, I didn’t kill brain cells (I probably added some, actually) and I was doing things that were really, really good for me, so I can cut myself some slack.

Plus, I have my list of things I need to do today, and I’m clear on what I need to accomplish, and how I’m going to do it, so I’ve got structure in place to let me succeed. And I plan to succeed. There’s no reason why I shouldn’t.

The main ingredient of my planned success today?

Not taking on too much to do, focusing on what I need to get done, and doing it to the best of my ability.

My plan for how to make it all happen?

If I get stuck (and there’s a good chance I may), pause to take a deep breath, focus on my breathing for a few minutes, calm my system down, and consult my notes to see where I’m at, and what I still need to do.

I am constantly amazed at how large a factor anxiety and agitation is with me, when it comes to getting things done. I get so charged up, so revved, that I become anxious and scattered, and then I cannot follow through on what I’m doing. But when I pay attention to what’s going on with me, and I center in on what I want to go on around me, it gets me back on track and helps me start anew.

Starting anew is a hugely important activity for me. It takes me out of a frame of mind that is STUCK and gets me back in the swing of things. If I think of getting stuck as pulling into the crew pit during a stock car race, I can accept it better, than if I think about it as a sign that I’m failing. I have a pretty powerful engine, and I run high and hot a lot. So, of course I’m going to need to pull over, now and then, to change my tires and fuel up again. I just can’t stay in the crew pit.

Anyway, the weekend was awesome — very social and very active. I caught up with people I haven’t seen in many months, and I discovered a new locale to hike in. I also got to know someone better who is a friend of a friend and has a lot of shared interests and has been looking for a hiking buddy — just as I have. We both have similar styles in the wild — be smart about your choices, dress properly, don’t take chances, but still be open to exploration and don’t shy away from mud and water and the un-beaten path.

I am physically bushed from all the work I did and all the movement.  But it’s a good kind of bushed, and it frees me up to eat well to replenish my energy stores. I messed up and had a bunch of junk food yesterday, but today is a new day, and I know what I need to do, to get myself back on track.

And so I shall. Because this newfound activity of mine — this renewal of my once-active life, the return of my energy, slowly but surely, has been a long time coming. I struggled so terribly with anxiety and agitation for so many years, that I had it in my head that I was consciously choosing to stay away from people and social situations. I was so freaked out by open spaces and unpredictable circumstances, that I designed a life for myself that was indoors, controlled, and quite limited in scope. Of course, I told myself, I was studying and learning and working online, so I didn’t have time to be out and about. But truly, I was excusing myself and my limitations and imagining them to be deliberate choices in favor of something good, rather than handy excuses for not doing something better.

When I look back on so many of my projects of the past years, I see that for the most part, they were designed to alleviate stress and anxiety, and give me a way to channel all my nervous energy into a controlled activity. The goal was not to do something useful and meaningful, but to relieve stress and chill out my tweaked system. Now I see that I can do the same thing, by getting out in the world and hiking up a mountain with a trusted co-traveler. I can do the same thing by working out in the morning. I can do the same thing I once did in sedentary solitude, by doing something social that’s physical as well.

And the great thing about social physical activity is that the more I do it, the more I enjoy it, and the better at it I become. Unlike solitary sedentary life, it builds me up and strengthens my system, and it helps me go even farther, each time. Plus, it helps me sleep like nothing else. I was up twice last night, but I was able to get back to sleep almost immediately, which rarely happens when I’m sedentary.

I’m tired, yes, but I am building up my stamina. One weekend at a time, one experience at a time… It sounds so rudimentary to me, to say it. And I feel like I should already know this. But truthfully, it’s been a long time coming. And I’m just glad it’s here now.

Out and about

Good day today. I spent the afternoon hiking in the mountains with a newfound friend who has a lot in common with me.

We’re both pretty keen on getting out in nature on a regular basis, as well as doing meaningful work in life that adds purpose to our lives.

What’s more, this newfound friend had a go-round with typhoid fever in 2004. Totally lost all ability to deal with anything. Had to send the cats and dogs to a family member’s house, because they couldn’t handle the sound of them walking around. Kept the house dark and silent. Couldn’t remember things from one minute to the next. Would totally lose info in the space of 15 minutes.

Crazy.

And familiar.

It was a good hike. And I’m bushed. I may have gotten too much sun… but I don’t care. It was a good day, and I got out into it with everything I had.

And it’s good.

And what a beautiful walk it was

Back from my walk out in the woods. Getting towards sundown… birds settling in for the night, tiny creatures singing out of sight, and the breeze on my face, cooling me after my brisk hike into the woods.

I am struck by the amazing beauty of it all, the simple power of something as basic as new life emerging from the earth, once again. Green, new, hopeful life without a reason to be cynical or self-destructive.

And I am struck by the impact that conscious breathing has had with me. Spending just a few moments breathing steadily, slowly, focusing my attention on a single point — a pine cone, a fallen branch, water in a little stream flowing over glistening rocks…

In all my years of hiking these woods — although I’ve been away from them for the past 3-4 years, as my last fall made it very difficult for me to be outside and in wide open, uncontrolled spaces — I have rarely (if ever) had the kind of presence in that place I had this evening. I usually returned to my home somewhat tense and shut-down. I would start out wide open and ready for a good walk. But when I got home, I would be a far sight less relaxed than I expected/wanted to be.

For years, I knew something was amiss with me, when I would go out on my walks. I would walk for about 15-20 minutes and everything would be fine. Then I would start to shut down, would start to ruminate about this, that, or another thing. I’d get stuck in my head and wouldn’t actually see very much on my walks, even though I’d cover miles of ground in beautiful, healthy woods.

I always knew something was wrong, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. Now, I think it’s because I would get tense, being out in the woods, I would start to feel uptight about something, and I wouldn’t breathe properly. The lack of deep, measured breath would give rise to more tension and add to my agitation, and then I’d ruminate even more… A self-fulfilling cycle that I could never seem to break.

Somehow, I’d always get trapped in my head. And my walks would turn into traveling psychodramas.

But today, I took my time, made a point of stopping to breathe, periodically. And I just let it all in. Whereas before, I would start to wall myself off and shut down, today, I let myself stay open to what came across my path. No social anxiety, when I happened across a landscaper loading a backhoe onto his trailer. No drama when cars would pass me closer than I liked. No shutting off and getting stuck in my head the whole time.

Today was different.

Because I breathed. On purpose. Measured, mindful, enjoyable breaths. Good breaths. With awareness and purpose.

Today was good.