I love it when simple exercises have significant impact. You know, the kind that seem almost silly because they are so simple. That seem like a distraction from the “real work.” Silly they aren’t, so often. And often, they are just the right kind of real.
Last week I got to do one of those with my friends at Soultime, while on Bowen Island. Dave Waugh was the one that offered it, a twenty minute bare foot walk in the forest. I don’t want to over describe my experience with too much rational thinking brain to flesh out the “why.” For me it was enough to encounter the world through different senses, and to disrupt the normal goto habits.
Off the twelve of us went. In silence. And with invitation to pay attention. Some carried a question. For me, it was just an intent that I realize is a super important operating system for me. Mostly looking down at the ground and taking slow, short steps (that was the invitation) I decided that I wanted to pay attention to what surprised me and to what felt beautiful.
First thing that caught my attention (because this is less about strategizing an outcome) was a simple piece of a branch that was about the size and length of my index finger. It had been splintered in roughly half. Dried bark on the outside. A couple of oval layers of tan and brown on the inside. The surprise and beauty that I immediately wondered about was about the story of this little branch. Was it broken from chopping wood. Was it splintered from falling off of a tree? Was it carried and dropped by a bird? It was intriguing to me that there was story to this little branch, as there is story to pretty much everything. The story has always been the interesting part of the encounter.
I walked further. Slow steps. Again mostly looking down. It was a sunny day which made all of this very easy. I was loving the silence. I was loving the simplicity as I began to feel the ground with my feet. As if they were my hands. The soft green moss. Even the crunchy dried branches part — it was good to feel what I normally wouldn’t when wearing shoes. I loved walking on a fallen log. Different textures. Different feels. More surprise and more beauty — I suppose these are always there if we are willing to give them attention.
As I continued to walk, still mostly looking down, I decided to look up through the trees. Again, simple as it sounds, the contrast of experience from such deliberate looking down, well that was delicious. The blue sky through the tree tops. The suddenly extended range beyond 6 feet to the height of the trees and the infinity of the sky. I loved it. And then, a gust of wind rushed through the trees.
Look down. Look up. Listen. That’s what I came up with.
And then the bell rang to signal return for the twelve of us to the yurt to share what we noticed.
Look for surprise and beauty. Look down. Look up. Listen.
It was just a simple exercise. Oh ya, a simple exercise that woke something up in me. Thanks Dave. Thanks Soultime.