I’m sitting there on the trail with snow and mud covering my legs. The thick mittens on my hands did little to brace me once I lost my balance. Adrenalin from my fall is still prickling my temples and the skin on my forearms. My dog is looking back at me with a mixture of concern and irritation from me half dragging him back down the hill once I slipped. I sigh exaggeratedly and watch my breath become a cloud in the cold winter air. Just for a moment I allow myself to entertain that thought again. The reason why I even do it. The reason why I run in the snow.
Working as a mental health therapist I once had a wise supervisor who taught me a little about the importance of process. I had expressed my frustrations to her about a client who created art in therapy sessions. Beautiful, telling, healing art that revealed his feelings, thoughts, perhaps even subconscious desires only to then destroy it, dismiss it, throw it away reporting it wasn’t good enough.
My supervisor had said, “It’s about the process, the journey that takes him there. What do you think his process is telling you?”
I began to realize that this so called “destruction” of the art was just as much a part of the art as the piece itself. A part of his process. And I began to wonder if a part of this process was also his testing me to see if I was strong enough. Maybe he was seeing if I as his therapist was strong enough to even bare witness to and accept him in the midst of the “not so beautiful” parts of his life. The pain, the mistakes, the attempts we all have to “start over.”
And it wasn’t until I realized that. Until I rested in the mindful acceptance of what was, that I could finally let go. I began to realize that letting go, while remaining present and strong enough to hold that healing space for him while accepting all of him, was the single most important thing I could offer.
And when I run, I am my own therapist, in the sense that I bear witness to all that that I am. And when the sun is shining and my stamina is at its peak, all is well with the world. It’s then that the so called good things about me begin to appear like puffy, white clouds riding into my consciousness. Bravery. Resilience. Accomplishments. My free spirited strength.
But as my heart rate rises and the blood is pumping harder through my veins, I become more raw. Closer to that primal part nestled somewhere inside us all. The not-so-beautiful parts of who I am begin to surface, as if washed ashore with the rushing and rising of my pulse. And there they are, the mistakes, the anxiety, the selfish ambition, the jealousy, the thoughts that even though no one can see, shame me all the same. It is then that I am forced to acknowledge and accept all of me, just as I am. And in those moments of running, for some reason, I feel strong enough to do that.
I’m still sitting there on that snowy trail, thinking about all of this as I watch my dog’s breath, an endlessly appearing and fading cloud in the winter air. The rush of adrenalin in my skin has started to fade and it is then that I notice the sound of the snow falling in the forest around me. The softest patting sound that has the amazing capacity to consume all other noise and even one’s thoughts. I watch as the snow begins to rest softly on my dogs thick fur and the tips of his ears.
It is then that I am suddenly, awesomely aware of my own breath again, of my pounding heart and the fullness of my pulse. And in that moment I am completely present with just how alive I am. I slowly find my footing and decide that perhaps today falling was just a part of my process. We all have a process that leads us to face something, to overcome something, to heal from something, to remind us of something, and (despite it all) to find the strength to stand back up again.
And I decide today my process was running, running in the snow.