In order to grow spiritually, you have to go into the woods. Shakespeare takes people into the Forest of Arden. Fairy tales take children and fair maidens into the woods where they meet strange and wondrous creatures. And, poets like Frost and Wendell Berry celebrate the unknown mysteries that lurk in the forest. Forest is the opposite of civilization. It's where "the wild things are."
Of course, we must go into the Forest. When was the last time you were actually in the woods? I grew up on the edge of a woods. There were two main trails that went into the deep woods, one on each end of our property. The first one was a well trodden path that meandered through a leafy, oddly open forest arena with the green cathedral of branches linking high, high above and sudden clearings of buttercups here and there. It took you eventually to the creek (that's another story). The other path opened at the edge of a lumber mill and truly was a wild place. It was dark and damp, home of tall ferns and mushrooms. The trail was barely visible and I often got lost there. It too took you eventually to the creek but you would be covered with burrs and scratches by the time you got there.
This is a pretty good depiction of the spiritual journies into the darkness of the soul. Sometimes we wander along the easier path, distracted by the sensual beauties of the hard-packed forest floor, the wildflowers, and birdsong. The journey itself is heavenly in that case and we are in no rush to get to the creek. When we find ourselves on the harder trail, we are afraid and anxious to reach the creek, a landmark that will lead us back to the happy trail if we follow it. We are not happy with that journey--too many branches slapping us in the face, logs to be tripped over, prickly nettle to make us itch, mosquitoes and bugs to plague us. It's a more exciting trail but not for the faint of heart.
We don't always get to choose our spiritual trail, but we all have to go into the woods. When we meditate, we often go into the woods. We penetrate the darkness of our own minds at times. The swirling judgments, frantic thought, the restlessness. If we persist, we might emerge at the water's edge where the current flows purely and you can see to the bottom. Beyond thought, WE are still while life's energies bear us along.
There is another light that comes at the end of meditation. When you close your eyes or dull them for long periods of time, you literally "see" ordinary things in a different way when you open them.
So, yes, as hard as it is to find the time to choose to meditate and enter the woods, the alternative is to be thrown into the woods by life's circumstances. The woods ARE lovely, dark and deep. It's the next line of Frost's poem that gets in the way of our darkly exotic soul work--it's the "promises" that we want to keep and the "miles to go" before we sleep. Life's duties call us away from our souls sometimes.
When that happened to me recently, the Big Dude told me to make a list of what I want to accomplish this day. He told me to include meditation, physical activity, something outdoors, something that should be done once a month, and something that needs order evey day. Really, he was that specific. It's noon and I've been in and out of the woods several times, always on the more airy, happy path. I've also done the dishes, folded the clothes, dusted my bedroom, meditated, worked on my class, watered the flowers, and cleaned my workspace.
I'm thinking it's not either the woods or the duties of life. It's thinking in those opposites that maybe led to Frost's and our desolation. Maybe life's duties mesh with the path through the woods to the creek. We walk it day after day, completing life's duties along the way. Roxie
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