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  • Writer's pictureKristy Johnsson

The fruits of our resting

The other day I woke up from a 3 hour nap not knowing what day it was, reeling from a dream in which I was convinced some wise ancestors were poking fun at my immaturity and adolescent demands. In the dream I was totally out of line, taking turns way too fast when I was driving, throwing things on the floor when my family wouldn't get their act together so we could go swimming at the beach already. Despite all of my impatience and childish behavior, I wasn't getting what I wanted.

I got up groggily, recalling the dream, chuckling to myself as I made some food. Okay, point taken. Maybe I could chill out a little. Let the next steps reveal themselves and relax. I knew this wasn't about the way I was treating others, but the pressure I had been putting on myself, frustrated that parts of me weren't getting in line how and when I wanted.

I looked outside and noticed the clear blue sky behind the mountains and knew I needed to get out after all the smoke we'd been inundated with this summer. So I gathered myself together with my dog and made my way to a trailhead down the road.

The golden evening light was beginning to take over as I made my way up a deeply rutted trail, climbing alongside an aspen forest towards a mountain top. Still a bit drowsy, I stopped occasionally when I saw plump serviceberries the color of deep indigo, calling me to grab a few and shovel them into my mouth.

As I continued up, I then noticed perfectly ripe Oregon Grapes, more periwinkle in color, clustered in rows close to the ground under their trailing, holly-like leaves. Oregon Grapes aren't especially sweet, but I had never seen so many at once, at several points leaving me standing next to the trail gawking at seemingly countless untouched, juicy bunches scattered among rocky outcrops, begging to be gathered. As I climbed, I saw patch after patch.

I imagined making my very first Oregon Grape jam, sweetened maybe with honey or maple syrup, and decided to pick some on the way down.

There's a joy and gratitude, a connection to the greater landscape with the experience of foraging, especially when coming upon an unexpected bounty like this. It's like a kind of intimacy with the land, a way in which you are more than just emotionally nourished, but literally physically so. And it draws you out of your compulsive thinking and associated emotional ups and downs into your senses, including a broader awareness of a community of beings in which we always belong, whether or not we consciously remember or feel it.

As it began to get cooler, I decided to hike up to one of the big, wind-battered Douglas Fir trees towering alone next to the stunted aspen groves, a place to sit and look back down on the valley below and take it all in.

I made it to my tree, ducking under the branches to find a perfect spot among the roots surrounded by brush and saplings, almost as if someone had come in here before to find shelter themselves, perhaps human or four-legged.

As I sat under the tree, gazing out upon the valley and the mountains in the distance, I felt a bit of agitation.

Wasn't I supposed to be having some big insight?

Some epiphany?

A spiritual experience?

A great dawning of clarity about some aspect of my life?

I remembered my dream, the way I was taking corners too fast and putting myself in dangerous situations, yelling at people around me because I had places to go, things to do, and they needed to get on board with it.

I looked around at the trees, feeling their subtle but undeniably patient and gentle presence. They were rooted into the earth, content there as they were. I felt my own rootedness, the sensations in my legs and lower body, a growing sense of ease and awareness of my surroundings, shifting my attention away from fixating on my thoughts.

The agitation was more noticeable now within this context: not necessarily more intense, but easier to see in my attention. The urgency in the thoughts, the sense that my survival was at stake if I didn't make a plan and make it happen, right now, the pressure to "figure it all out." What if rent went up? What if the cost of living kept increasing overall? What if I missed out on certain opportunities? What if this thing went wrong, what if I didn't get what I wanted?

I watched it, the tension in my upper body slowly dropping down, becoming sensations in my legs. I felt this rootedness akin to the trees around me growing.

And a thought came through the silence of the background: What if you just... enjoy this?

It was so simple, such a gentle invitation, like the land itself telling me to lean back into it, that I could trust it, the next steps would reveal themselves in due time. There was a beautiful opportunity here, now, to feel the gracious pleasure that was so clearly available to me and that I longed for.

I accepted. I felt myself settling and deepening into the wide, quiet, still but so very alive embrace of the whole land around me, the trees and plants and insects and birds and a whole host of others seen and unseen, all part of this community. Like a nectar for my spirit; this is what we are so often ultimately striving for, and yet ironically is so often closer than we realize.

I remembered, too, earlier points in my life when I tried to do this and it was much more difficult. There was a lot of pain and chaos lodged in my body-mind, clamoring for my attention, for resolution. Those experiences, too, were real, and that this capacity to both notice and enjoy for a longer stretch of time this kind of peace was the fruit of many years of psychospiritual-somatic practice.

And then, just like that, I could feel the coolness of evening coming in and I decided to head down the side of the mountain, remembering those luscious Oregon Grapes.

As I stopped multiple times on the way down to forage, I felt like a little kid, excited with every new bunch I found, while being mindful to not pick them all (though it was tempting!). Because they surprised me, I had to improvise with a container and I ended up with two dog-poop bags (sans poop, don't worry) half full. I was very pleased with myself, and grateful for the land in its abundance.

More than anything, the bounty of the grapes felt like a mirroring of the insight that was nestling more deeply into my system: that the fruits that reveal themselves in our lives may be as much the fruits of our rest and ease as they are of our labors. In a society that prizes productivity and action, often vilifying rest and stillness as laziness, this is a hard one for us to grasp after many years of conditioning that says incessant hard work is the only route to finally reap the good things in life, including, funnily enough, relaxation.

And while it was true that I climbed that hill to find those berries and enjoy my tree spot - definitely breaking a sweat on the way up - I also had taken that epic 3 hour nap beforehand and rested with the trees after the climb. There was a balance and a dance between the two here: rest and movement, yin and yang, being and doing, exploring my unconscious underworld and conscious planning and intentions.

More and more, I see the importance of incorporating intentional awareness not just to our problems, but the moments of peace and ease, not just to our agitated thoughts, but the gentle presencing space that holds them, not just plans and practices, but rest and receptivity. Learning to not just step up to mold our lives, but to settle down into the lower parts of our bodies and learn to trust we'll get exactly what we need.

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