A recent walk in the woods reminded me how quickly we can lose touch with our inner peace. As I trudged forward, lifting heavy boots through deep unrelenting snow while my thighs ached and screamed at me to turn back, I thought, “what am I doing here? This is torture, not fun!” Those simple words brought me out of my haze of inattention and I realized I was looking at this journey all wrong. My focus was all wrong. I was focused on my mental chatter, telling myself that I was out here for the sake of exercise.

With each scream from my muscles and gasp from my lungs my mind was magnifying the perception of this trip into nature as a necessary ordeal. With each step the wonder of nature passed me by without so much as a glance or acknowledgement on my part. Instead, I paid attention to my internal dialogue which rambled through the issues of the week, grumbled about my need to get out and essentially lost track of the present moment.

This is how easily we can get lost and succumb to the stresses of everyday life. We simply forget to be present in what it is we are doing. We do not engage; instead we disengage and journey into either past or future thinking thoughts which cause feelings of worry, regret, fear, anger or depression. The more we’re aware of the mind-body connection the more we can target our moods, change our focus and become more present and peaceful.

As I stopped there in the woods, gasping for breath as the icy cold air scratched at my now burning lungs, I lifted my head and looked at where I was. It was instantaneous. Suddenly I was small, insignificant it seemed, and all around me, despite the cold, biting wind, there was life. The sun poked through the thick tangle of evergreen boughs and glinted off the snow in a dazzling display of dancing light. The wind, though cold, made a low calming murmur as it wound its way through the lush interwoven needles that seemingly cradled me in a warm embrace. I breathed in deeply and closed my eyes, lifting my head to the sky, feeling the peace I had forgotten run through my body like a wave of soft electricity. I was present and I had forgotten how peaceful it was.

The rest of that day, my muscles made no complaint, the cries of my lungs abated and my husband and I wandered fully engaged in our surroundings; having lunch in the middle of the forest surrounded by winter birds, the last of fall’s leaves clinging unyieldingly to dormant branches and the warmth of the sun’s rays competing with the chill of the cold against our skin.

Sometimes when we have lost our way, all it takes to get back on track is a trip into the woods to allow yourself to get lost… in the present moment.