“Sit and listen to what the world has to say.” When I heard Buddhist teacher and author, Pema Chodron, say these words something deep inside me aligned.
In her meditation talks Pema suggests we sit quietly and try to create some space between our thoughts. Let our minds “soften” and become more “fluid.” Pema explains that though humans are hard-wired to think, thinking is not the only way to perceive or move through this life. We can feel, we can listen, we can be open. Rather than embracing “rock logic” we can embrace “water logic.” “There is so much more,” she encourages.
But we continue to interpret the world with only our minds. Regardless of humanity's amazing discoveries and inventions our thinking decisions continue to devastate our environment, exploit cultures, and incite wars. It seems especially crucial now that we open ourselves up to more compassionate ways in which to perceive and interact with our world.
But the technological overlay we have created has accelerated our lives. When time-management becomes a priority and the only way to get through our to-do list is to categorize, it’s hard to be aware of those broader aspects of our selves and to remain sensitive to others. In fact, it’s nearly impossible.
And that, my friends, is the very reason I love winter. My life slows down when the ground is covered with snow, the wood stove needs to be stoked every two hours, and I must scrape ice off my car as I warm it up. And then, of course, there's the endless shoveling!
The deliberateness of these tasks pulls me out of abstract thought and into physical reality. I become the mammal that I am – more in tune with my body and senses, more a part of each moment – and life feels simpler.
I have sought out nature my entire adult life. For me, it wasn't a choice, it was a necessity. I wintered with only canvas between me and the forest, a wood stove to warm me at night, and gathering wood with a bow saw to heat me during the day. After that I lived up a trail in a tiny cabin my former land partners and I built by hand. I heated and cooked with wood, had cold-running water and an outhouse. Now I live a more modern existence, so I need winter’s imposed simplicity even more.
When I heard Pema’s words, I realized that my urge to live on nature’s terms has been my attempt to “listen to what the world has to say.” To understand what life is and how to move through it. It has been the only way I knew how to do it. Nature’s rhythms atune me to the magic of life – to the spaces in between the lines of thought.
There are many ways to slow down and listen - being in nature is not a requirement nor is it an option for everyone. However we have to do it, my hope is that more of us will listen rather than think, and that in doing so we will figure out how to live on this planet with decency and an attitude of reciprocity.