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  • Writer's pictureJacqueline Stilling

Nature is my drug of choice . . . what's yours?


Life has felt heavy over here lately. I've noticed my tried and true defenses or parts have relaxed over the years so I am feeling it all.

What do I mean by that?

I grew up in chaos, so I developed an internal system that felt safer in my head than in my gut or heart. Staying in my head allowed me to think through things, to analyze, to teach. I learned early on that feelings are not safe.

I've been know to say that therapy, healing circles, retreats, and other healing modalities should come with a disclaimer: "Your journey and growth will be Both/And". You will understand yourself and have a new freedom about this understanding, and you will make mindful choices based on this. That's more or less the good news. The bad news is the parts of you that kept you safe from feelings and decisions that are more messy, will now be incredibly messy and include lots of feelings!

This is where I am this beautiful Monday morning! Sitting on my porch watching the birds and feeling these pesky emotions.

I've been on this journey for a bit now, so I know - like absolutely know deep down in my soul - that I have to take care of myself when things get heavy (and even when they aren't). If I don't, I will be a walking feeling, which is not beneficial for me or anyone I encounter. This past weekend, I left home for 36 hours. I went to the mountains of Virginia on a "work trip." The work part got out of the way after a lovely tour of the property for future retreats. If I'm honest, during the tour, I was feeling quite overwhelmed. I was missing all the wow factors. I didn't have very much room to breathe or the space take in facts and details.

But then something magical happened. I drove 25 minutes into Shenandoah National Park. I put on my hiking boots, and voilà, peace came pouring into my heart, head, and gut. It really did feel like magic.

I'm not new to the fact that Nature is my happy place. That Nature is my self-care. That Nature opens up a spaciousness in me that allows me to breathe and feel peace, but I don't think it's ever happened in the same way: where the heaviness was so intense, right before putting on the hiking boots. So the release was palpable in a way that felt like a peaceful drug bathing my entire being. (Although I have never used a drug that felt THIS GOOD)!

It got me thinking, sometimes we don't know what we need until we just step into it. I didn't put on my boots to get this. It was a little more subtle. It was like I was on automatic pilot. But as soon as I put on those boots I felt grounded and was able to use my whole self: head, heart, gut to be truly present. I stopped trying to control things I can't control. I stopped overthinking the past. I stopped worrying about the future. I was just standing in my hiking boots. Just there with me, not trying to fix anything or do anything, just allowing myself to care for me.

Allowing the earth and Mother Nature to care for me.

Breathing in and out as I climbed the mountain.

Simply standing still in my hiking boots at the top of the mountain.

I enjoyed every step on the way down.

Even a nasty, hard fall I took. Even that felt incredibly real and grounded.

I felt like a bad ass walking down the mountain with my bloody leg!!!

That was then. Today is Monday. The magic didn't exactly last. It never will. We have to continue this journey of self-care. We have to figure out how to both live in the world with all its heartache, and create spaciousness inside of us to bathe our brains, hearts, and guts in something that truly feeds us and grounds us. We cannot, nor should we try or want to escape the heartache, but we can find peace within. What feeds you? What brings you peace in the midst of heartache. Do that today. I am heading out to put my hiking boots on.

Peace.








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