Recent months have been a fascinating reminder that the world we live in is no more than a reflection of what goes on inside of us; as above so below, as without so within.
The longer lockdown went on, the more new paths appeared in our little woods; paths cutting through undergrowth that was once so thick it was all-but impenetrable to anyone except the deer and the most determined (signs of kids making dens, with swing ropes hung from branches, would occasionally appear off to the sides, but they all ended in cul-de-sac).
Amazing how, in very quick time, these new routes became distinct winding paths through the woods, from A to B, as though they had always been there, their surfaces brown and hard with footfall as distinct from the rickety woodland floor or boggy and boot-marked when it had rained. Over winter, we enjoyed a rambling network of these new routes, their edges moss-carpeted and magical and, in early spring, by bluebells so that, by the end of that era, which by now felt like it had been “forever”, we would have felt it boring to go back to our old-straight routes. It was one of the pluses of lockdown, just so long as I got to walk there at a time of day when there were far less people around!
Now, most of those people have gone back to their “normal” lives and their busyness; I have to navigate past them queuing for buses, dashing to shops, on the main road to get to the start-proper of my walk, where the old track past Oak Cottage begins, but very few venture off route into the woods any more. For many, through choice or necessity, those new pathways were only a temporary venture.
So now, well, I’m noticing how some of these new paths are beginning to disappear, as though they were never there in the first place; returned to “the mystery”, to the birds and woodland creatures that had them before. One of my newer routes into the woods, attempted in reverse the other day, was so hard to find, its entrance having grown over with thick grasses and nettles, that I almost walked on past and had to push my way through to reach the clearing on the other side. I hadn’t been there since the bluebells were still thickly in bloom in that spot, a few weeks ago yes…but really not that long. It takes Nature no more than the blink of an eye to take away what she giveth; unless we indicate, quite clearly, just how much we are really interested in keeping it, how much we appreciate what we have “in care” from her bounty…only then does she relent. Oh how we need to be reminded of this, before its too late.
And yes, I want to keep these new routes with all of my heart, having harvested the benefit of them for months, appreciating a whole other depth to what these commonplace woods of twenty year’s history have to offer. I don’t want to swop the quiet places, my winding honeysuckle-scented way led between pools of waters and moss covered tree-fall, its edges threaded with dog roses, serenaded by the thrush, squirrels playing chase round-and-around up above, perhaps the blue-edged dart of a jay high in the branches, to places where the ever elusive wren is encouraged to linger close by and the glimpse of a deer just a few feet away, watching me back, is a bonus. I don’t want to return to the long-straight paths strewn with litter, where people shout-talk into phones and the wildlife keeps away. So I walk those paths, daily, as a gratitude practice that makes my mornings, sets the tone, reminds me what’s most important…to me.
The same goes with our own neurology; that wildly branching forest of synapses that spark us into action, into thoughts and behaviours. So, if we want to keep the trait or ability, the positive line of thought, we have to use it, regularly…don’t leave it to accident or forget all about it. No point at all lamenting that thing you once used to be able to do; if you want it back again, use the skill, practice it, build it into your routines, make the time. The same with something you’ve never tried before; just do it, and do it, and do it again and, with time, however out of reach it may feel to begin with, you will find it comes naturally so that, after a surprisingly short time, you will suddenly find yourself doing it with ease and without even having to think about it, having chosen its path and kept it wide open with the footfall of your habits.
By the same token (you can use this to advantage) if there’s a habit or thought pattern you don’t want, that always trips you up, makes you feel unwell, sticks you in loop-mode, then cease the habit, stop walking its path, stop putting your attention there, just don’t go there at all anymore. Notice when and how it happens, what impulse makes you start walking that way… and break that trend, interrupt it with what you do want, choose a different route, one that feels much better, for you. It really is as simple as that.
Before you know it, nature will have filled-in that old pathway, growing over its entrance, covering its well-trodden earth with overgrowth and moss, as though it was never even there in the first place. Its a truth I demonstrate daily on my limbic retraining course and which is, slowly but surely, resculpting the landscape of my life to look more how I want it to be, spent in places full of mystery and magic, quietude and calm, a lesser-trodden path, a honeyed path, my kind of a path yet a valid and traversable path nontheless…and, in choosing it, repeatedly, I make it so.