Walk It Off   Leave a comment

When I pull on my tennis shoes, my two dogs begin to dance, spinning and hopping backwards down the hallway in front of me in anticipation of our walk.  I love their joy and it’s good exercise for me, but I mostly take to the road for the sake of my soul.  In 3 to 4 miles the calm of woods and field settles into my spirit, and I always come back more at peace than when I set out.  Why is nature so deeply healing for us?  That has always been a mystery to me.

Then I read these words last week: “True solitude is found in the wild places, where one is without human obligation.”  A single incisive sentence can silhouette a truth that otherwise blends into the commonness of life.  The idea had been niggling at the edges of my thoughts this year as I felt my spirit relax around each graveled curve and then suddenly cramp again at the sight of a dilapidated house, reminding me of my own languishing projects, or a solid stone wall that scolded me for my broken one.  Every touch with others, or even thought of it, brings some weight of obligation, especially for those of us who are duty sponges.  Certainly there is joy and comfort, insight and stimulation in our friendships, but there is always a trade-off, a compromise, a curtailing of ourselves and our desires.  Relationships are both pleasure and obligation.

We sense others’ expectations and shape ourselves to meet them, tempering our words and ideas, hiding what feels unsafe to share.  Even with those closest to us we are inhibited because we don’t want to hurt or anger or sadden them or be hurt by them as they respond to our true selves.  Every human interaction comes with a large or small box of “shoulds”.  Even if we have enjoyed the evening with you, our guests, we feel ourselves relax when you leave and give a sigh of relief as we settle back, kick off our shoes, and flick on a mindless sit-com.  When I am by myself, I am most free to be myself, understand myself, drop the self-defenses and peer deep into the pool of my being.  And in becoming truer to myself, more self-accepting, I am able to offer myself more genuinely to others.

True solitude is found in the wild places, where one is without human obligation.
One’s inner voices become audible.
One feels the attraction of one’s most intimate sources.
In consequence, one responds more clearly to other lives.
The more coherent one becomes within oneself as a creature,
the more fully one enters into the communion of all creatures.
–Wendell Berry

The tensions we feel in connection to others are natural, a part of being imperfect humans in relationship.  If we respond to them in healthy ways, they become resources for insight and growth, both personally and relationally.  However, part of a healthy response includes the solitude that offers duty-free reflection, and for those like me with an over-wrought sense of should, that’s best done “in the wild,” far from human detritus.  When we take time away from being who we should be, we discover who we are.  It is only as we know ourselves that we can share ourselves.

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Posted December 30, 2014 by janathangrace in thoughts

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