I had already collected bits of plastic, remnants of coffee cups and now this. “Why can’t people respect mother earth,” I pondered. Reaching down to collect it, my touch instantly relayed my mistake as I liberated a wooden stick from the earth.
The walk was part of an exercise during our Free to Be Me retreat. My intention was to gain clarity on the role of fear in creating resistance and holding us back and to recognizing shadows that distort our perception of reality. I realized as soon as I touched the stick that my preconceived thoughts had created a negative thought environment – all based on misinformation
We do this all the time, often going away without ever knowing we were wrong. Here’s how to catch ourselves and enjoy the beauty of present moment:
- Keep an open mind. Understand our thoughts, which are the result of engrained belief patterns, filter what we see, hear and feel. When we can recognize these are perceptions, not reality, we clear the way and open ourselves up to endless opportunity.
- Recognize that shadows are just places with low light. The darkness of the wood had camouflaged its identity. We need not fear shadows, rather embrace them for the lessons they teach us about ourselves.
- Confirm current reality before arriving at a conclusion. Based on finding what my mind perceived as trash, I could have gone on being critical of litter bugs and disrespectful people. Aside from letting the actions of others influence my thinking, my mind had fabricated a story which wasn’t true. How quickly it had jumped from a tranquil state to negative thoughts. Touching the stick highlighted the reality – and my folly.
It was a small albeit vivid reminder of how our perceptions can influence our thoughts and actions. Unrecognized and uncorrected, these opinions can take us off track. They influence the quality of our relationships, our effectiveness and our thoughts about ourselves. When we base critical responses on them, such as when we’re riding a motorcycle, being wrong can have dire consequences.
I finished my walk full of gratitude for a simple lesson reminding me that often, things are not as they seem. Click to Tweet quote. Yes, there were other bits of litter I gathered and I don’t know how they got there. I only know that the woods were cleaner for me having walked there, and I was stronger for having been there.