If you've followed me anywhere for any length of time, you've most likely heard me say (at least once) that I firmly believe that what we do with every other area of our lives directly affects how creative (and how happy) we will be.
I could go on and on about this, recommending books and videos to supplement this idea I've only quickly mentioned here, but I'll try to get right to the point: happiness comes first. With anything. With creating, with life, with careers, and relationships. Every time we try to look for fulfillment from these things themselves, we turn up empty-handed. We can't find fulfillment in those things alone. Fulfillment comes from within and that is where we truly find happiness.
Now as to how we do this exactly - finding happiness and fulfillment within our beings - I am not an authority, but I am a student. My wildly scribbled field notes suggest that gratitude has a lot to do with it. (I'll list a couple of videos at the bottom of this post, which I highly recommend you watch after reading for more on this concept.)
Finding gratitude...for me, I have to quiet down. I have to unplug from what noise there may be in my life - noise like the beeps and pings of phones and computers, social media, or tv. These are distractions; "hey look at me!" that's all they have to say, and yet, how much value have these things sincerely added to our lives?
My phone lives in my satchel, charged and turned off, ready to be used in case I need to get in touch with family when I go out. My laptop is set-up not to receive any distracting notifications during the day. I have no social media apps, and update social media mindfully through a planner, checking up on friends through messages and emails instead of scrolling through a cluttered feed.
Certainly not trying to "toot my own horn" here, I am just trying to make a point: we live in a world that wants YOUR WORLD, your personal world, to be a cluttered one by default. We have to choose clarity and quiet with robust intention.
I believe that it's within that quiet, that absence of clutter and noise that we find peace and stillness: what is real. What connects us to gratitude - what I mean is simply being quiet and open enough to even notice how much we have to be grateful for. Including that breath you just took.
For me, this helpful process does not end with unplugging, just as stopping a bad habit doesn't automatically start us on a new, good habit. I can't just unplug from something without actively connecting to something else.
Yesterday I was thinking about this as I trekked through the woods; quiet footsteps beneath canopies of sunlit birches and pines. It was so quiet out there...at least, we call it quiet. What we mean is, all of our noises aren't there: the clicks and beeps. Really, the forest is teeming with a chorus that my words can hardly contain here: the chirrup of crickets, the twitter of the cardinals, wrens, and chickadees, the hushed trickling of a mountain stream tumbling into a pond cupped in the palm of the valley below. The wind whispering "shhhhh" to our minds, our hearts.
I stood beside a cluster of conifers, touching their soft branches with my fingertips, standing there in silence for a moment. I could actually feel their presence - the space they took up, the energy they emulated. It was incredible.
Everything has a presence, nature is filled with it. And I've found that being out in it connects me not only to the earth, but to something much deeper and more profound in myself. Something I want to explore more, and become more aligned with.
I don't like to try to pin down these feelings and experiences in words, but I think that it's all an invitation - a declaration that there is so much more here than we realized. That so much is waiting to be explored inside of us. That there is something so real lying just below the surface of all the noise and clutter we've created. Just like plunging into a quiet mountain lake - everything silences to stillness...serenity. And it invites us to truly listen.
I hope you had a chance to get out into nature this weekend, my friend. And if not, I hope you'll enjoy the video offerings below that delve into some of these topics a little more. May they offer you a breath of fresh air today!
On unplugging & getting into nature:
Do you enjoy unplugging and getting out into nature? Where do you feel most at home in nature? What speaks to you? I would love to hear about your personal practice and experiences below if you would like to share. 🙏💛🌿