Did you know that nature talks to us?
Well, in my own experience it is more of a whisper. When I slow down, create space, get outdoors and tune in, that quiet voice that speaks to my soul is unmistakable.
Yesterday, I left the kids to school then went for a walk. A bright, crisp Autumn morning. Perfect for a dander around Stormont Estate to get some fresh air and exercise. Stormont Estate is home to the Northern Ireland government buildings and despite the lack of work going on behind the doors, outside, the grounds are pretty special and rich for exploration. During the Autumn months the long boulevard of trees is especially striking as the leaves turn to orange, red and gold and all year round the woodland walk is perfect for a Sunday afternoon stroll without having to leave the city.
I decided to walk along the tree-lined avenue that ascends up the hill, the crisp carpet of leaves crunching underfoot as I went. There were few other folks around so recalling my childhood days playing outside with my siblings I kicked up the leaves and did a little dance as leaves continued to fall like confetti all around me.
It’s no secret that getting outdoors, breathing in fresh air, getting some exercise and appreciating nature is good for the mind, body and soul. The multitude of benefits are well documented but although I spend as much time as possible in the great outdoors with my family, it always comes as surprise, the feelings of joy and contentment that arise the moment I step outside! As I wander along, enjoying the sun’s warmth on my back I do a little mindful body check…my shoulders are tight and I realize that this manifestation in my body is a symptom of a mind that is carrying stresses and burdens. Anxiety, from daily life – work, study, parenting and so forth had risen up and were causing me some pain and stiffness. Isn’t it amazing how our bodies are so affected by what it going on in the deepest recesses of our minds? I never cease to be amazed how an ache in my body quite often correlates with troubles going on in my thoughts. How many worries we seem to carry with us through life, often unnecessarily too!
I walk on up the slope towards parliament buildings, knowing that the walking motion will help to uncoil the anxiety in my mind and also loosen up the stiffness in my neck and shoulders. As I go, I breathe deeply and quietly listen. The leaves fall around me…I hear the words, ‘Let it go…’ Immediately I think of Anna and Elsa from Frozen. They would love playing in the colourful blanket of leaves wouldn’t they? But then the truth of those words, spoken through the natural process of the trees shedding their leaves for winter impresses upon me. Three simple words. Let it go. Yet, behind those words is so much truth and life and vitality just waiting for me to tap into. Why do we hold onto hurts and pains, get anxious over the small and insignificant? Sure, there are times in life when struggles are real, when hurts are so raw they make us crumple up inside, when words sting, when actions devalue, when choices are wrong, when illness takes hold, when indecision causes frustration, when we feel lost, lonely, without direction or purpose…but is it possible amid the trials and tribulations of life to simply let it go…to allow ourselves to be free of worry and anxiety? Easier said than done, right?
As I reach the top of the hill I ponder more on the tree/leaf-shedding analogy. Perhaps there is a correct time and place to let go; a season for all things. Throughout the months of Winter, the tree stands strong and rooted without its display of leaves. Rains come and nourish the tree, storms rage, perhaps causing some damage to the branches, sometimes causing the tree to uproot. Sometimes in life we can feel battered by the storms and pressures of life, but how important it is to develop resilience, in the midst of chaos and tumult to stay rooted, stay focused, stay loyal and hopeful and true, to stay kind and loving, considerate and courteous when the going gets tough. There are times in life, when battles rage so fiercely they tip our world upside down, when we feel ripped apart at the seams and savagely uprooted. We all have times of suffering in this world, and yes, some people seem to get it so so tough – my heart aches for them so badly. But often, the people who seem to be hurting the most are the ones who stay rooted, who hold onto hope, who are thrust by crisis into a place of change, positivity, action and gratitude. These are the people who understand that the different seasons hold many things, and with them many lessons. These are the people I look up to. The ones that inspire me on this wild journey of life. For it is often in the darkest hours, in the depths of winter that true strength is found.
As I make my way back downhill, I feel the benefit of my free time spent outdoors. My stiff joints are freer, my mind more content after just one hour of walking. I leave my worries at the gates of Stormont as I make my way back home. For weeks I had been feeling unsure of myself, lacking focus and direction. I had been struggling with my purpose. Feeling on the fringes. Sidelined. Uncertain. Scared. I had been feeling useless as a Mum. Frustrated in my work. Questioning so many things. Fatigue had consumed me. I let it all go. I allowed myself space to breathe and explore and was feeling all the better for it. I love it when nature responds with its gentle and invigorating voice of wisdom.