From Sorting the Pieces of Your Life: A Woman’s Guide to Simplicity, Order, Renewal, and Trust
“In any weather, at any hour of the day or night, I have been anxious to improve the nick of time and notch it on my stick too; to stand on the meeting of two eternities, the past and future, which is precisely the present moment . . .”
–Henry David Thoreau, Walden
Life is complicated.
This morning I woke up with the luxury of a wide expanse of time before me . . . or so I thought. I had my plans. I would weave my week of ruminating and studying into the fabric of this chapter. I would go on a bike ride. I would pot the new primroses I purchased yesterday.
But life had other plans for me . . . an urgent call from a grandson needing some help, a trip back to the store I had been to yesterday for an essential item I’d forgotten, some financial housekeeping that needed our attention today . . . you get the drift, because it happens to all of us.
I am a person who says no. But I am also flexible and can recognize a priority when I see one. And I am guilty of heeding the call of numerous distractions.
As we envision living life from a place of simplicity and order; as we imagine experiencing renewal in our lives and being able to trust life’s process more fully; questions arise.
How do our lives become unduly complicated and how to we contribute to that process?
How do our lives get so chaotic at times and what is our part in that?
As we consider renewal we can contemplate: What holds me back in life?
As we think about the possibility of trusting more we can ponder the power fear has over us. What might happen if we trusted more and feared less?
Considering these questions, it became clear that to create more simplicity, order, renewal, and trust we need a secure base from which we launch.
Henry David Thoreau, who lived from 1817 to 1862, was a Harvard graduate, an American author, poet, philosopher, teacher, and transcendentalist, among many other roles. He is best known for his book Walden, a reflection on simple living in natural surroundings.
Thoreau embarked on his two-year experiment in simple living on July 4, 1845, when he moved to a small, self-built house on land owned by Ralph Waldo Emerson, one of his mentors, in a forest on Walden Pond. He began this bold venture to sort out the pieces of his life after some disheartening experiences, and to spend more time writing.
I have my own longings for retreat, but like many of us, my retreat is found in the brief spaces of every day life. I read the quote at the top of this chapter early one morning a few days ago as I was eating a bowl of oatmeal and blueberries, quietly considering my own conundrums in life. His words felt as still as Walden upon my soul. I was, for those few minutes, completely present to my experience.
Thoreau reminded me that our power, transformation, and fulfillment in life is found right here, right now. Staying present to each moment offers us a secure base. The past no longer exists; the future has yet to arrive. Our true experience is the present. And yet, we are often mentally tromping around in the past and longing for or agonizing about the future.
Today when I returned to my original agenda after the flurry of activity created by circumstance, I felt an energetic rush swelling in me for my writing. To my surprise all my swirling thoughts from the past week about this book now seemed to circumscribe into one great whole.
With no poster board in the house, I unfurled a roll of Christmas wrapping paper, white side up, on the dining room table and began to write. Through the window I noticed a quartet of red-winged blackbirds perched on our multi-layer bird feeder for a feast. My feast was found in the form of my ideas written in a rainbow of colors and a plethora of shapes, arrows, and stars.
As I looked at it, I realized that the call of life’s agenda for me, had given my brain the exact retreat it needed to organize its own thoughts!
As we travel this journey together, our secure base can be full presence to our experience. As many times as we are distracted or as priorities change we can return to the foundation of this moment.
Walden said of his retreat, “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life.”