Wisdom from the Woods

Mark and I spent three nights in a rustic cabin in Hiawatha National Forest, just after a fresh snowfall. Our tiny cabin had no running water or heat. We relied on a trusty wood-burning stove and camping equipment.

Getting to the cabin entailed a 1-mile snowshoe, carrying everything on our backs and a sled. Carry in, carry out. The forest was calm, quiet, and welcoming, both in sun and moonlight.

Daily, I try to live a mindful life, paying attention to what's most important. Yet at the cabin I realized busyness still fills my days. In the woods, I slowly made coffee, savored a cup, watched the fire, and eventually cleaned dishes. No rush. No calling to do anything except what's right in front of me. I brought books to read, but they were unnecessary. I didn't need distraction. Hours went by without boredom. (Such a contrast to my typical day filled with doing.)

We snowshoed each afternoon. It felt good to move our bodies yet have no goal or expected result. When snow fell from the trees or birds flew overhead, we paused. We walked in silence; we walked in deep conversation. We returned to the cabin whenever it felt right. And our return was met not with email, phone, or text messages, but with quiet and simplicity. Being unplugged brought freedom.

On the third morning, I awoke with craving mind: I want to go home, sleep in my own bed, and be warm. But there are important lessons in being uncomfortable. Being uncomfortable allows me to see new parts of myself. It lets me see I'm capable of far more than I realize. So I got out of bed, made coffee, and let go into rustic-ness. That day—one day past my comfort zone—was our most satisfying. I want to remember this as regular practice: become more comfortable with being uncomfortable.