As my carpool filled with kids this morning, I realized that I had an agenda. I wanted the kids to feel happy. With this realization, I suddenly became aware of all of the agendas in my life. I want this person to understand me, this person to like me, this person to listen to me. Etc.
That sure is a lot of needs to be met by other people. Agendas for other people.
And, every person I interact with is also running their own agendas. Their own needs to be met. Not all of the agendas relate to me, but certainly some do. Plus the greater cultural agendas of marketing, advertising, likes, social chits.
That is a lot of conflicting agendas, at any point in time, swirling around.
When I have an agenda for another person, I am actually seeking to control them. I’m using my brain to present myself or my information in the most compelling way; to think, manage, control the interaction or exchange, so that I achieve my goal. I’m manipulating and using them, in a sense, to get my needs met. Deep inside I am laser focused on how to achieve my goal.
And when I am seeking to control another, I have tunnel vision. All of this behavior makes me a bit like a predator.
I’ve only become aware of this “predator” behavior because I’ve been oscillating with its opposite in the woods, that of being “prey.” Or, as I’ve come to think of it, “pray.”
In contrast, I am my best self in the woods; deeply alive, deeply human, deeply belonging, interconnected to life around me. In the woods, my gaze softens and expands to include everything. A wider horizon. When this happens I am experiencing life through my heart, not my head. This state feels interconnected with all of life, and I can feel my place in all of it. Not above or below, better or worse, simply belonging to it all.
This time in the woods is the truest thing in my life. I become interconnected with the woods at a cellular level. This peace is everything I want to feel. It feels like the meaning of life.
John the Evangelist says that our truth is holy, and that our deepest truths are the holiest things about us. These feelings, of bliss and of peace, feel true and holy.
The contrast is growing more and more clear.
When I am in the predator state, I cannot feel connected to the whole. I am deeply aware of my own individuation and needs. Alone. So very alone. So very needy.
I cannot find my true compass, or my truth, in all of the noise of the culture, all of the agendas. I lose myself trying. When I am in the culture, I feel judged – whether by myself or my others – and I am acutely aware of perceived inadequacies. I feel steeped in judgment and other people‘s agendas.
And so I return the woods, over and over and over, for this precious counter-perspective that feel so nourishing, nurturing, whole, complete. Belonging.
Nature is a church, a temple filled with the holiest cell-infusing peace.
I get none of these feelings from participating in the culture.
It’s ironic, really: spending time alone in the woods makes me feel more human, more in touch with my heart and humanity, and spending time with people in the culture makes me feel less human.
It feels like it is time to grow beyond being a predator, to being a pray. Yes, I use that spelling intentionally. Because life feels like a holy prayer in the woods.
So there it is. This path from head to heart leads away from from the culture, from “life,” and back into the woods. And so, I return to the woods, to sit, to breathe, to lose myself in a belonging so complete that I cease to exist. To recharge and fill my cells with holy life.
And, when I feel this holy on the inside, I treat all of life as holy on the outside. In this way, this path of peace heals in rippling circles out from my life.
From control to peace, predator to pray.
Norma Van Horn