I never spent very much time outside. I became a "city girl", preferring to wander through book stores or tuck myself away in coffee shops. Nick used to protest, dragging me outside every summer to camp. Yes, with the worms and no restrooms in sight. Ugh.
My last camping experience in the summer heat of Austin was miserable. Let's just say it involved lots of giant bugs, persistent, hungry raccoons who weren't afraid of humans in the least, and punctured, blow-up air mattresses. (But that's a story for another blog post.)
Lately, I've had some personal struggles, some problems I couldn't seem to wrap my head around. I was feeling a bit blue as we humans tend to do every once in awhile. Vanilla cupcakes with rainbow sprinkles just weren't cutting it anymore. My mother suggested hiking. She says that "nature cures all". I decided I would humor her and give it a try.
The first time up the mountain was o.k. It was a bit toasty. I was out of shape, and I forgot to bring water, but aside from the dehydration and the beads of sweat dripping into my eyes every now and then, I actually didn't have a terrible time.
Since that first day, I've hiked almost every morning. I even started meditating once I made it to my special spot at the top of the mountain. I settle my backpack on the ground and sit up with my hands pressed into my knees. I don't close my eyes like one is supposed to, because the trees, and the flowers, and the mountains, and the clouds are too pretty not to look at. I focus on my breathe. My mind wanders. I bring it back.
Meditation that got me out of my funk. My saving grace didn't have anything to do with the floating clouds or the pretty flowers or even the friendly hikers and their dogs who I've grown rather fond of.
My big epiphany came from an ant.
A few days ago, I reached the top of the mountain and sat in my usual position. I began to focus on my breath, but before my battle with my thoughts, I happened to look down and see an army of ants busy building their home in the dirt by my feet.
I noticed one ant in particular carrying a single blade of dry grass across the dirt to the ant hill. This blade of grass must have been at least nine times the length of the ant. As I watched it struggle, I tried to imagine myself carrying an object nine times the height of my body.
Tommy carried the blade of grass a good twelve inches or so before it encountered an obstacle, a low hanging stick in the ground. (Oh, right. I named the ant Tommy at this point of my observation, because that's what I do.)
If I were a nicer person, I would have simply moved the stick for Tommy and made his life a whole lot easier, but out of curiosity, I didn't want to touch it. I watched Tommy hem and haw and struggle this way and that way. Tommy walked in one direction and the stick blocked it, so he walked another way, and again he just couldn't make any progress. He turned and sped up and slowed down. He wasn't getting even the slightest bit closer to that ant hill, but never once did he stop trying.
I can't know for sure, but I'm quite certain the thoughts in Tommy's head weren't anything like:
- " I'm just not any good."
- " What if the other ants are noticing how stupid I look right now?"
- " I'm going to be late! I'll never make it in time."
- " This is impossible. Why even bother!"
- " I should just quit. This will never work."
I'm pretty sure the only thought going through Tommy's head was: grass. ant hill. grass. ant hill.
In that instant, I realized that my negative thoughts weren't productive. They weren't helping me in anyway, so I might as well just get on with it without all the fuss. And yes, I know that we all know this truth, but it took an ant at the top of a mountain to remind me and bring clarity back.
I made this "Rise Again" necklace to remind us to "try again", "rise again", to never stop trying, to stop worrying how close we are to our goal, because it really doesn't matter just as long as we don't stop.
Visit my CTR SHOP to order.
So the moral to this is: if you you ever find yourself in doubt or in troubled waters, don't meditate, simply find yourself an ant hill to observe quietly for a few minutes.
P.S. I made mountains instead of an aunt as a necklace, because it just seemed like a better idea, ya know?
P.P.S. This is a Limited Edition item. I'm not sure how long I'm going to keep it on my site, but not for long...