The day after Labor day was one that was filled with stress for me. Over the course of the past few months, I managed to schedule 8 library talks for the month of September (the culmination of 8 months worth of work: four months to make my slideshow and then compose my talk, and four months of slowly building up courage, writing a proposal, looking up contact information, and sending (and re-sending) my letter out to 109 libraries, two Appalachian Mountain Club locations, and 6 high schools and colleges). I was lucky that the projectors at the five places I have presented at so far have have an HDMI connection. However, seven of my eight upcoming talks only have a VGA connection. I have been EXTREMELY worried about this because of my experience at the library in July in which I could not get my iMovie slideshow to play due to a resolution error with this type of connection. In the past few weeks, I have spent countless hours communicating with various library directors, trustees, and IT departments, as well as visiting Best Buy and Apple stores. On Monday, it seemed as though I was going to have to buy my own projector, which would be a huge expense for me, as well as a lot of time researching models and hoping it would arrive before Tuesday!
I also just discovered that I did not receive dental or vision benefits when I applied for MassHealth insurance earlier this year, and with a dentist appointment scheduled on Tuesday and the need for more contacts around the corner, I knew I was going to have to find several hours to start the application process with them again. I also had to drive all the way to Cambridge only to have no one show up for the class I was scheduled to teach yet again, which never makes me feel good. And in general, I am still feeling stress about how I will be able to make a living during these upcoming months.
Although I have finally managed to work my way up from teaching one yoga class a week for the past couple of years to five beginning in June and now 7 in September, in combination with my eight presentations this month, I still need to make 2-2.5 times more income per month in order to cover my basic living expenses, pay taxes, have a couple of dollars of spending money, and then finally begin to save a few.
I was happy that by the evening, I had managed to subdue my stressful feelings and feel thankful for the challenge in front of me- because really, that is all that it is- a challenge. This summer, I learned that there are many people in the town I live that have never had to work a day in their lives because of the money they inherited from their families. This fact astounds me. It is something that I can’t even fathom. I wondered for a moment what I would do if my life was like that and I quickly became grateful for the challenges and opportunities to grow that I have been faced with in not having this kind of security. I am starting to learn and remind myself that there is no limit to what I can offer and that the harder I work and the more confidence that I build within myself, the more I will receive back.
Late that night, my friend Amanda posted the following on Facebook:
“I cry at the illusion of it all to awaken to the preciousness of each moment .
I was meditating tonight after a particularly challenging end to the day. With my husband pursuing his business and our savings dwindling, we are faced with tough choices. I was allowing all my feelings to bubble and one that was coming out strongly was rage. I meditated on this and saw coming into my vision the tiniest particles we as humans are made up of. Protons, neutrons, etc These particles I understood are the same particles that make up the trees, the air, the stars the universe – this great expanse called life. I felt rage around the understanding of how all we hold onto is an illusion. All our masks, our judgment, differentiation of this and that. I felt how similar and yes insignificant we all are yet at the same time how brilliant that makes all of us. I cried at the pain of so many humans mistaking their brilliance.”
I almost couldn’t believe how parallel her expression was to my day and its ending! It is so important to keep reminding ourselves not to close in around fear. The more we can remain soft, open, and trusting, the more we can allow into our lives. Her meditation experience reminded me of the one time that I sat in meditation in my living room for an hour a couple of years ago. It was the first and only time that I have sat that long. Whenever my legs began to fall asleep or become painful, I would remind myself that it was only temporary and that I could sit through it. My mind kept wanting to attach to particular thoughts, but I would keep gently reminding myself to return to the focus on my breath each time I noticed that happening. After 45-50 minutes, something changed. It was like a thick, dark velvet curtain was drawn over the front of my brain, after which, whenever my thoughts tried to wander, they were immediately stopped. I COULDN’T think about anything! If my mind tried, it received a message that was similar to- “Wendy, your little problems don’t matter.” Instead, I felt part of an incredible vastness. It was a very peaceful, very connected to the entire expanse of the universe feeling.
It’s a process to remember to take a step back whenever we are feeling stress. We often bring more suffering to ourselves than is necessary. Because what will happen in the future can not be known, most of the energy spent worrying about how things will play out is really just wasted energy. When we bring our awareness back to our breath, back to the present moment, and understand that everything in life contains a mixture of good and bad, we can return to a calmer, more peaceful state very quickly.
Just found your site and will be at the Amesbury Library Tuesday to see the talk. I love the spirit of your life and hope it continues. The path of connecting with nature and using the arts to express the experience I think is a very powerful satisfying quest. Financial and loneliness problems can be daunting in a materialistic financially oriented culture. I think the financial is more serious. Friendship does not have to cost money. I worked as a bellhop all of my life in a fancy hotel. I am 70 and now have financial problems, but life in senior housing which helps.
The financial is the most fearful part for me. My life has been exploring nature mostly by sea kayak in Maine and the Atlantic Provinces, and composing music. These activities are my life, and bring meaning and joy while work and financial matters mostly grief. Nature to me is our World, the entire universe and whatever lies beyond. The meaningless nature of most work because of economics and greed
controlling most of the system causes hopelessness and stress, loneliness and depression.
We only need a small amount of material goods to survive. To experience the natural world and use our imaginations to dream, enhance the experience and use meditation and similar pursuits to gel go inward is a path that will bring a deeply satisfying life. But having time for the explorations, because of work or other commitments and of course climate has to be worked out. Improved modes of transportation i one can afford them and more access to wilderness areas help in this regard.
I think your writing is very good and natural. Your journeys also seem very successful. None of this is easy, but I believe a satisfying life is difficult but worth it. Much of the world is involved in acquiring wealth and development without regard to the natural world. There seem to be more people turning to other pursuits, often within the natural world, using science, art and spiritualism, and meditation, and trying to connect with others in a meaningful way. There is hope for our World here. I hope you do not give up your quest, with nature and writing.
I follow many sites on the web, mostly in the realm of connecting with wilderness and nature.
One I like very much, especially the photography is: Zack Kruzins from BC. He has a web site, Facebook page and a Flickr site with 11000 photos, most of sea kayaking. To find the site, go to the web site and scroll down to later photos, click on one and it will connect withe the Flickr site.
I am reading the entire PCT log. It is unbelievable what Wendy did, especially with the health problem. This was truly a magnificent backpacking accomplishment and from the log I feel as though I am there all the way being able to understand the joy, pain, loneliness, companionship, overcoming difficult fear and obstacles. This is experiencing life in nature in the most meaningful way.
Thank you SO much, Bill, for all of your kind, heartfelt words and encouragement!! (So few people have read my PCT journal!). Your support means a lot to me! I look forward to meeting you in Amesbury! You’ll definitely have a lot more insight into what my journey entailed than most of my audience, as in the time I have to present, I can only convey a small portion of my journey! All the best to you!!