The Presence Practice

“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.” –Lao Tzu

My new friend Nicole and I walked along the path towards the mountains along Coyote Ridge Trail, watching the prairie dogs scurry across the dusty ground searching for munchies. Silent and focused, they wrinkled their noses, chomped down their meals and rushed back into their underground homes. We talked along the way to the top, pausing to notice the flowers, the smell of fresh herbs and the animals that crossed our paths.

“The Devil is in the past and the future, but God is in the now,” I said, as I grabbed a handful of sagebrush. I gave it to my friend to inhale, and she softened as her body relaxed.

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“How long do you want to feel hurt about the events of the past?” Forgiveness is a process and it’s not easy. Every wound is healed as we acknowledge each layer of pain, grieve it and let it go. As the past melts away, a new understanding surfaces and another layer is revealed. As Nicole and I shared our stories, nature continued to demonstrate its splendor, bringing us back to the present moment. The sunset around us, displaying orange and pink lined clouds across the skyline.

“We need to try to enjoy the journey,” Nicole said and she looked out into the horizon and into the valley. A doe and her tiny new baby cautiously poked their heads out from behind a boulder. They sauntered along the ridge below us followed by a father deer with beautiful fuzzy antlers, protecting them as they enjoyed their evening walk.

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Why do we worry so much about the future? And why do we let the past steal the joy that awaits us in the present moment? I am training my mind to adapt to the simplicity of my surrounding, like a bug in a flower or a prairie dog focused on eating, sleeping and cuddling.

Prairie dogs in North Boulder county in Boulder, Colorado.

We make life so complicated. Why can’t we be more like prairie dogs, enjoying the sun, huddling up with our friends in burrows when its cold, dining together and experiencing the peace of the present moment? That is my new life mission. To embody the prairie dog. When they eat, they stick their little buts out and wrinkle up their noses, savoring every bite, not complaining or asking the waiter if there is gluten in their meal… they just go about their business without grumbling and accept each moment as it comes.

After a busy couple of weeks at work, I set out for a hike on Friday to enjoy the air in Lory State Park. Even though my mind was busy all day figuring out, putting pieces together, solving problems, thinking about the past and future, it all became still once I set foot on the trail.

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Nature reminds me that I can trust the earth. When I look at the flowers bursting with color and notice the petals as they fall away, I am reminded of the sequence of life and death that not even the plants can escape. It’s just life. And as we grow, some parts of ourselves fall away and other aspects of ourselves flourish. Focus on what you want to see grow. Remember that growth takes time.

I love sunsets. The sky evolves so quickly before the darkness takes over. I love seeing the moon glows over the trail when I explore into the night hours. Thoughts come and go. Memories try to suck me backward, but I can come back to the present by simply paying attention and allowing everything to just be as it is.

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