“Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult-once we truly understand and accept it-then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.” By Scott Peck in the Road Less Traveled
This book was one of my favourites as a young woman. I reflect on it from time to time, especially on this quote.
While my knees are less painful this morning, I decide to take a short walk outside on this crisp gray fall morning. I feel slight jabs of pain as I walk when my foot hits the ground with some of my steps. I refocus by using my senses. I hear moments of silence as the traffic in the distance goes quiet in between vehicles. My body sinks into these moments. I stop; I listen to the seconds of stillness; I slowly inhale and exhale; I feel my feet on the gravel road. The invigorating salty scent of the distant ocean is still in the air. I close my eyes; I hear the slight rustling sound of the wind as it goes through the almost bare brush beside me. In the distance, I hear the soft chirping sound of the winter birds that remain. I feel my whole body grounding in place. I am so calm, so peaceful. I open my eyes, and they go right to one of my favourite trees, tamarack or hackmatack, as many of us call them here. They stand tall as guardians scattered along the road where I walk. I am in awe of their presence.
This very unusual tree is an oxymoron. It is both a coniferous (a tree that changes colour and loses its leaves in the winter) and a deciduous tree (an evergreen that grows needles and has cones for reproduction.) Some say it is both hard and softwood.
My thoughts float back to spring when I took pictures of this same tree, rejuvenated and ready for new growth from its winter slumber. It had cones just budding that looked like dainty pink rosebuds.
Today I see it has lost most of its needles, and the cones are now brown and dry; it is going dormant for the winter again.
There are seasons of joy and grief, abundance and loss in our lives. At 60, I have had my share of these seasons. With waining health issues, my thoughts start to wander back, reminiscing about my younger years when I was stronger walking this same road. My knees and muscular legs walked for miles up and down these large hills. I remember how it felt as my thighs strained to climb and the feeling of exhilaration as I went down on the other side. Once again, I pull myself back to the present walk and refocus.
The hackmatack tree is strong and tender simultaneously, its needles are soft, and the strong wood grows tall and robust as it reaches for the sky.
The human journey is about learning to lean into the vulnerability of “what is.” This delicate balance of strength and softness, much like the tamarack. I have learned that surrendering to “what is” brings me much sooner to the next season. I feel the new growth of spring in my soul again, even as the cold winter beckons outside in nature. I have come to love the winter solstice. The longer days of darkness invite me into a deeper reflection of life. I am in a good place. It has come from a year of the bitter-sweet exploration of my inner life. I have learned a lot in my life, and my prayer is that I continue to stay open to new possibilities for growth for my time on this earth. I relish the silence of my days. I feel so much gratitude for the new and old friendships with fellow inner journey warriors. There is a time for emotional strength with fortitude, but sometimes some of us get stuck here, I did for a while. Life will always bring difficulties; sometimes, emotional strength becomes hardness and it takes over and stays too long. Accepting is the soft side of strength. This is where I land more these days, thank G_d!
This incredibly adaptable tree reminds me of the many seasons of life and how important it is to lean into them. I am thankful for these reminders in nature.
I walk slow and attentively once again, one step at a time. The pain is less now. My slower pace sees things I would have missed as a young woman. I walked briskly then, as time demanded more of me.
I only walk a small distance, 15 maybe 20 minutes on a good day. These tiny slivers of grounding in nature up close and personal have become a treasure, maybe even more than before.
I have shared that I still have days that I struggle and resist, but I find I can “be still” more often and like the hackmatack tree, I have found strength in the soft side of surrender, and days like today feels good inside.
In the 12-step program’s there is a prayer that I love, and so many of us know that says this beautifully. In OA, we have an extended version that I will add on.
G_d grant me the SERENITY to accept the things I cannot change, COURAGE to change the things I can, and the WISDOM to know the difference.
Grant me patience for the changes that take time, an appreciation for all that I have, Tolerance for those with different struggles and the strength to get up and try again, one day at a time.
This lesson was also given to us by the 13th-century mystic poet Rumi long ago in one of my favourite poems of his.
Translated by Coleman Barks
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honourably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.