Typically, I am not an early riser. I’ve come to dread the 7am sunlight that never fails to find its way through my charcoal colored curtains every morning. I feel especially frustrated with the sunrise on this Saturday as it selfishly disrupts the darkness that I’ve come to feel so safe in. I spend fifteen minutes watching my ceiling fan spiral above me until I finally admit defeat and get out of bed. Mornings are difficult for me. While most wake up feeling refreshed, I find this is when my thoughts are the most overbearing. In an effort to avoid the noise inside my head, I get dressed, make myself tea, grab my yoga mat and head out the door. Little did I know upon leaving my apartment that today would be the day I learn to fall in love with mornings again. I have my sanctuary to thank for that.
The climate is different here today. The earth is wet beneath my feet as the sun works hard to melt away the excess moisture across the landscape. I remove the same wool-knit scarf I wore on my previous visit as small droplets of sweat take shape on the back of my neck-mother nature’s way of saying it is her responsibility to keep me warm today. I hear her message, and along with my scarf, decide to remove my bean boots and socks before perching myself on my yoga mat. Breathing in the quiet, lukewarm air I felt at peace. However, as I sip my tea and float around into positions that are gentle on my body, I can’t help but notice that my environment seems to match that of my thoughts-loud, chaotic, and somewhat overwhelming. The chirping of two different birds competes against one another, each of their songs louder than the last as they ricochet off the naked trees. Every few minutes, I hear the sharp crack of the sun’s rays melting away the ice that coats the reservoir. Lately, stress and anxiety have felt heavy as ever, which only becomes more apparent as my emotional turmoil leaks from my mind and poisons the environment around me. Feeling discouraged, I force myself to focus on my breathing and posture. I close my eyes, catch my breath, and try to target gentler noises and images. I watch the water form ripples along the shoreline as different critters come and go. I again listen to the bird songs that now seem to be harmonizing with one another rather than competing. My uneasiness slowly begins to fade as I reset my rhythm and allow tranquility to dance beneath my skin.
A Tibetan Buddhist by the name of Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche once said, “Ultimately happiness comes down to choosing between the discomfort of becoming aware of your mental afflictions and the discomfort of being ruled by them.” With this in mind, it is abundantly clear that how I perceive myself is the same lens I use to perceive the world around me. The earth is merely a reflection of myself. Even a place like my sanctuary can be seen as wild, untamed, and unruly if I allow it. However, today, I have learned that nature is full of order, balance, structure, and above all, the power to ground me.
In Robin Wall Kimmerer’s text of Braiding Sweet Grass, she tells a story of sitting with a Sitka Spruce tree in an effort to think and states, “I am not from around here, just a stranger who comes with gratitude and respect and questions of how it is we come to belong to a place. And yet she makes me welcome, just as we are told the big trees of the west kindly looked after Nanabozho.” Kimmerer’s intimate relationship with this tree highlights the idea that nature is always ready to nurture and welcome us home, regardless of who we are and where we come from. There is much to be learned from mother earth if we allow her to be our teacher. And in this case, I am allowing her to be mine. Like her, I too must be unapologetic of my seasons. I must be honest of my dry valleys while being ready to embrace a blooming and plentiful harvest that is promised to come. I must not shy away from deepening my roots as it is essential for growth in the season to follow. I walked into my sanctuary feeling over stimulated and under nourished by the good things in life. However, as I roll up my yoga mat and treat myself to the last sip of green tea left in my travel mug, one thing is for sure. And that is for the first time in a long time, I am eager for the 7am sunrise that awaits me tomorrow.