15 July 2012

Spirit Walking

I've always felt most at peace in the comfort of the Great Outdoors. I spent hours as a girl, digging up toads, hunting snakes and chasing wild barn cats. I got grounded for playing in the tall prairie grasses behind our house, because Mom didn't particularly appreciate the job of removing ticks that had found their way onto my skin as I made "snow angels" in the weeds.

So why my longing for the city? Well, with my addiction for adventure, I also wanted to explore what else was out there. There were only so many trees to climb and animals to admire, so after I turned 18, I moved to the city. And though I love my lifestyle and am constantly bemused by all that surrounds me in this beach city, the great outdoors is where I still seek comfort, inspiration, and most importantly, some much-needed OCD therapy. Here are some of the ways that I continue to keep the earth's natural abundance in my life while I'm far away from my farmland upbringing.

I try to spend several minutes in every day, connecting to the air outside even if I don't have time to indulge in an outdoor activity; even if that means just stepping onto my outdoor patio to breath in the scent of the blossoms from my citrus trees.

I also take bi-weekly 5-mile walks with my friend and neighbor (Joni Oldfield - who founded the county's leading personal pet care business: http://www.animalamour.com/.) Our form of walking meditation is great exercise, but more than that, it has become trading-stories soul therapy. We both adore animals, so when I interrupt our walking conversations to point out a cotton tail or a cute dog or a plant I want in my yard, she understands. Our morning strolls create that sense of calm from the outside in as I imagine the natives might have felt when journeying through a spirit walk. I try to imagine myself in that space even though I'm still surrounded by so much white noise.

A giant bird landing in the Back Bay where we walk.
One dewy morning we witnessed a female coyote and her pup playing amidst the grasses of the Back Bay. We stopped at the fence and just stared ... taking in the beauty of that moment in nature we happened to come across. You can't plan or control an occurrence like that, and I think that's what is so soothing to my OCDite mind. It instantly curbs the madness.

Another morning we decided to change our route and explore an area I'd always wanted to see, but stayed away because it was marked "PRIVATE." Braver with the support of each other, we ventured down the hill and discovered a serenely private lake! A tropical paradise in its sounds and smells - it was almost eerie - as if we'd stepped through a magical curtain to another world. We both looked at each other, like, "where are we?" And then we heard the cries of some very large birds - almost prehistoric looking. They were perched in a nest high up in the tallest trees, resting in the sky with their babies. It was breathtaking, majestic. It was one of those moments where you imagine hearing orchestral music in the background, because it couldn't be real. 

I've also recently taken up paddle boarding. It really isn't as hard as it looks, and is another fantastic reason to be outdoors. I highly recommend it even to those of my readers who aren't near the ocean - a lake location is perfecting for paddling. Gliding across the bay with only a board separating you from the jumping fish in the water and the flocks of birds landing beside you ... these are the kinds of experiences that ground me and bring me out of my daily OCD mind.

The view from my paddle board ...

So, my OCDites, I advise you to take a few moments everyday - especially now that summer has officially arrived - to step outside and breathe. Walk. Jog. Swim. Boat. Paddle Board. Kayak. Camp. Garden. Ride your Bike. Whatever you choose, try to notice the difference in your demeanor (or don't and just enjoy), but try to carry that feeling with you throughout the rest of your day and the rest of your week. We are meant to connect rather than separate ourselves from nature. We become so wrapped up in making homes for ourselves that we forget that the clarity we seek might just be outside. So get outside, my OCDite friends, and enjoy the beauty of Summer!

***Back Bay photos courtesy of my paddle buddy Jay Ryu