For thousands of generations, human beings have evolved with the natural world. The light/dark cycles, the turning of the seasons, the very pulsing of the earth’s electromagnetic field. It has held us. It has grown us. It is imprinted in our DNA. It is what we pass on to our offspring. It is what we historically not only leaned into, but fully embodied, knowing without a shred of a doubt where it was that we came from, were inseparably a part of, could count on, and would, ultimately, return to.
I recently spent two weeks outside in the deserts of New Mexico. I slept outside on the ground each night. I ate all of my meals outdoors. I did my morning practice outside. And I gathered, shared, and communed with a circle of women under the expanse of a southwestern sky each day. So, perhaps, in some deep cellular memory kind of a way, it is not surprising then, though it has been to me, how much of a transition it has been to go back to living more inside, than out. It is as though I was returned to something I did not even know had gone missing in me, and I am fiercely, as well as worriedly, reluctant to lose track of it again.
It is strange to be feeling this way as much of the experience of being outside during that time was most definitely, not comfortable. Whether it was spending time under a tarp with the relentless heat or winds of the desert, day after day. Or the efforts to eat; whether to keep food alive in a cooler that sat in 90 degree weather, or what it took to keep a camp stove lit in the wind. Or how it was to climb out of a tent in the middle of the night to pee; careful to not startle a rattle snake or step on a scorpion. Or all of the additional calisthenics it took to do yoga and meditate while in a fleece coat, hat, and gloves, still being chilly, with bats circling over head, at the start of each day.
As I write this, it sounds like nothing I would want to be a part of. Yet, I was; “comfortably” and gratefully so. Why is that? And why would I be missing all of that “discomfort” so deep in my bones that it sometimes hurts just to think about it? And why is it that every day since getting back, I am left wondering how it is that I can keep from closing myself back in?
Despite any “inconveniences,” what I miss is how naturally in tune I was moment by moment with my entire being; sights, smells, and sounds sharpened to the point of animal knowing. I miss the relentless simplicity of living without unnecessary distractions or senseless activities. I miss the ease and the straightforwardness of living that arose from tending only to real needs; leaving me intoxicated with the Source of that experience.
I miss how as sure as day followed night, the intense heat would give way after sundown, gifting us and the land with the much needed and yearned for coolness. And I miss equally how the morning cold would be transformed into a brief, momentary warmth that would leave you grateful for the heat, despite the fact that in a few short hours, you would curse that very same heat.
I miss all of the actions and the routines that had to be established to make it through a day; ones that were so vital, necessary, and attuned to keeping a human being alive and in community. And not one thing more.
I miss the truths offered up each day by the environment that had absolutely nothing to do with me. Nothing to do with my plans, needs, wants, or inclinations. It left me with an unexpected ease around how much bigger, wilder, and wiser Nature is than my own personal agenda; allowing for a kind of natural surrender, liberating me from all of the managing, hoping, and anticipating that normally goes on in my modern day mind.
In the end, I went from a visitor on the earth to an inhabitant. I deeply, deeply miss that way of being, and am left wondering how it is that short of moving out of my home and into the woods, or experiencing some apocalyptic disaster, that I can live closer to what I discovered in the desert. One thing that I have brought home and am experimenting with is the choice to be outside without agenda. Time spent in nature that is not goal-oriented like going for a run in the woods, tending to the garden, gathering herbs, or feeding the chickens.
Instead, and of the utmost importance in returning to the truth of my nature, time to just be. And not one thing more.