“Stop what you’re doing and pay attention to me.” – the woods

When you truly stop and take a break from life and head to the woods. It will teach you something new about yourself every time. It asks only one thing from you; “stop what you’re doing and pay attention to me.”

As I looked at the mountain peak across the valley I thought about what it would be like to hike to the top and see the valley from the other side. But then I thought, why pursue the mountaintop before the valley?

It’s easy to want the mountaintop experiences without going through the valley. And today it seems everyone wants to pursue the mountaintop without going through the valley. But it’s in the valley on our way to the mountaintop where we learn who we are. But we have this idea, driven by digital images that call us through envy to chase after grand views with an epic outcome.

But not every adventure needs to have a grand view, a complicated agenda, or an epic outcome. Some adventures involve being in the moment and doing what makes you happy. And what makes you happy is your choice. Not anyone else.

Sometimes it just takes a different view to see who and what matters in life and makes you happy. But no one is going to do it for you. It takes moving and changing your position to get the right view. And sometimes it takes moving far away from your current position (whether negative people or social media) that is completely blocking the right view.

Take the view of a sunrise for example. Recently during an overnight camping trip in the backcountry, I woke early to make some coffee and watch the sunrise. A sunrise can tend to go unnoticed. The daily drive to hustle and succeed the way culture defines it distracts us. We scroll through our feeds to gaze and click what we think is the perfect sunrise. All the while it’s staring us in the face beckoning for our attention.

These days I find the “little” things in life are no longer little. A sunrise or sunset, a campfire, and a cold beer while laughing it up with a group of friends, and a deep conversation are not little anymore. They have become profound. They are the things that matter most. They no longer beckon for my attention. They require it. And it’s these little things that make me happy.

The second morning of our adventure we were awakened to rain beating on our tarps. I thought about how we tend to complain about the weather. But when the comforts of modern life are stripped and all we have are the essentials, our attitudes tend to shift. Rain becomes peaceful as it beads down on the canopy of green above. And fog seems to become soothing as it closes in around you creating a barrier between you and the outside world.

As I climbed out of my hammock my thoughts were turned to making coffee, but that first required building a fire. It’s just a cup of coffee right? No big deal. But as the rain beat down on my tarp I thought about the process of making coffee in the woods. No Keurig out here. I have to rely on the natural materials around me to get even a small fire going in my stove. And on this morning with pouring rain that meant using what I’ve learned over the years to find dry material.

From searching to collecting, to processing it requires time, patience and knowledge. From lighting the material and letting it breathe into a full fire. And then keeping it going while waiting for the coffee to come to a full boil requires time and patience. It requires my time and attention. No one else’s.

But today we want everything right now and our way without going through the process because that’s what makes us happy. Or we seek out someone else’s life to follow in hopes of finding happiness through them. Out here the woods has taught me to not only enjoy the process but to appreciate it, and to realize it’s my process.

Maybe what we need more of in life actually requires us to have less and to go through the process in order to be happy. Then maybe we’d come to appreciate the little things more.

The next time you head to the woods for an adventure listen. Because it’s saying, “stop what you’re doing and pay attention to me.” Pursue that mountaintop, but take time to walk through the valley. Appreciate the little things and go through the process. Be yourself and don’t become a follower. Because in a technology-driven, influencer motivating world, that’s telling you to do what everyone else is doing in order to succeed, be happy, and gain followers. It’s better to be a lone wolf who’s happy being yourself then a sheep following the herd.

 

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