All I need to feel at peace exists within me.

It wasn’t as warm as the weather report said it would be, but once I dropped down off the escarpment, the wind died down and it felt less frigid.

Though, I hadn’t quite planned for how cold it was. I’d worn my gloves and not my mitts and my fingers felt the chill. I walked and tucked my hands into my jacket pocket. For a moment, my mind wanted me to believe that I was stupid to not wear my mittens. I told it to be quiet. It had nothing to do with my intelligence and everything to do with not wanting to be disturbed by less than thinking interrupting my walk.

It didn’t matter what I wore. The sun was shining, the birds tweeting and twittering all around. The day was glorious.

I dropped by Ellie, The Wonder Pooch’s memory place in the woods, took a picture of her two hearts nestled amidst the trees and snow and text them to my daughters, “She’s always with us,” I wrote.

And it’s true. Over six months since the wonder pooch’s passing, and still I feel her presence. I also still miss her quiet padding along beside me, tugging at the leash, stopping to sniff at every leaf and branch upon the trail.

Walking without her does have its advantages though. I can sit on a bench for as long as I like and not have her nudging me to get going, get moving along! Which means, I can sit and enjoy the silence, close my eyes and breathe into the soundscape all around, mapping the sounds as I learned to do from Sherri Phibbs of the W.I.S.H. Studio.

I listened deeply to the world around me. I listened to the birds, the chittering of a squirrel, the grass rustling in the soft breeze that meandered through the creek bed. I listened to the silence of the snow hanging at the edges of a tree branch as it let go with a soft whoof and fell to the ground. I listened to the way the fir tree needles grate against one another when the squirrel who was stealing all the bird seed skittered back across their branches. And in the distance, I listened to the muffled sound of city traffic carried across the miles by the wind.

And I listened to the stories the wind had to tell me of the faraway places it had roamed, the sites it had seen, the wonders it had witnessed.

I listened and felt the awe of the moment descend around me and envelop me in the possibility of a world where each of us is doing more today than we did yesterday to create a world of peace, love, hope and joy all around us.

In the quiet of the woods, I sat and listened to the wind and felt my spirit softly settle within me.

Yes. There is war and hatred and intolerance and abuse and homelessness and disease and cruelty and distrust. They all exist in this world.

And so does love.

It exists along with peace and harmony and people getting along and helping one another. Love exists in tolerance and kindness and giving and cures for diseases and loving compassion. It is there in gentleness and trust and treating each other with respect. It is there in one person helping another to get up, in caring for those who have nothing, those who are sick, those who are feeling blue.

Love exists in giving up a seat on the subway so a mother and child can sit.

It exists in letting a driver merge, in not cutting someone off, in smiling at a stranger, in holding a door open.

In all the intolerance and anger and hurt and pain in this world, love exists.

It’s just sometimes, amidst all the noise we forget to stop and sit quietly listening to our heart beat, listening to the trees rustle, the birds tweet, the wind whispering stories through the trees.

I listened to the stories the wind had to tell me and remembered that in this moment right now, all I need to feel at peace exists within me.

I am grateful.

The answers lie within.

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Maybe you are searching among the branches
for what only appears in the roots.

~ Rumi ~

I am driving westward, towards the mountains. Behind me, the sun sears the horizon crimson and pink and gold. When I look into the rearview mirror, its light blinds my eyes.

Ahead, just to the right of me along the road embankment, the shadow of my car travels happily along, wheels spinning in the morning light.

A haiku writes itself in my head.

“Sun rises blindly / Shadow leads me into the west / The past falls behind.

I am off to a morning “Taste of EcoART” with Sherri Phibbs at the W.I.S.H. Studio an hours drive west then north of the city.

My critter mind has spent some time trying to talk me out of this foray into the mountains this morning. You’re too busy with wedding planning. You need to clean your office. Paint. Spend time with C.C.  Declutter the studio. Read that report. have all danced through my head, willing me from my path.

I stay the course. Pack up my car with ‘just in case’ winter clothing, a water bottle and my sunglasses. I turn on the tunes and drive.

“What’s the level of stress in your life?” Sherri asks me as we sit sipping tea beside the fire blazing merrily inside the yurt that is her studio/consulting space on the 10 acres she and her husband moved to a couple of years ago.

I laugh. It is my shadow laugh, I know. The laugh that would have me hide within it.

“Depends on the day and circumstances,” I reply. “Right now, practically non-existent. I’m sitting here with you in this beautiful space surrounded by nature. That’s pretty divine and not stress inducing at all.”

All the truth is, my stress can vary depending upon what I’m doing, or where I’m at. When I am avoiding doing the things that feed and nurture and support and enliven my spirit, my stress is high. This I know to be true.

Why then do I spend so much time avoiding doing the things that feed and nurture and support and enliven my spirit?

Good question.

A question worth living inside of, sitting with, breathing into.

I wander into the woods, find a clearing in the sun and sit at the base of a broken tree trunk. The mossy grass is dry and wintery. Snow covers the ground.

It feels safe and welcoming.

I clear a spot in the snow with my boots. The sun is warm and bright. I sit down, lean against the tree trunk and close my eyes.

I listen to the world around me. Deeply.

Before I left the yurt, Sherri provided me a drawing pad and pen and invited me to create a ‘sound map’ once I found my place in nature.

With my eyes still closed, I begin to map the sounds I hear on my drawing pad. A horse snuffling in a paddock to my left. A woodpecker drilling irratically into a tree. Far in the distance, a car hums along the main road. High above, a gentle breeze whispers through the uppermost branches. A dog barks. A bird tweets. Grass rustles.

I sit for awhile, breathing into the space, feeling, sensing, hearing, connecting with the world around me.

I stand up and wander further into the woods. A vision of a heart rock flits through my mind. I smile. What if I find one here in the woods? Dead branches, leaves, deer droppings and horse poop litter the forest floor. There are no stones.

I return to my sitting place where I have left my bag of writing and drawing supplies. As I approach, I spy something on the ground, right beside where I was sitting.

It is a heart rock.

I laugh out loud.

While I was searching in the woods, what I sought was lying right beside me, right where I was at.

Such is this journey called life. We go looking for happiness, success, wealth, fame, love, whatever it is we are seeking, out there, in other places when that which we seek is always right here, right where we’re at.

I breathe in and out, thanking nature for holding space around and within me.

The chiming of a Tibetan bowl ringing is calling me back to the studio.

I return and carry my experience within me.