“I am fascinated by tiny, incremental changes, almost imperceptible shifts in how people orient themselves in the world, because those are in some ways the most hopeful.” – Leni Zumas
Three or four times a week I take my dogs for a run in the woods. We take the same path each time. My husband once asked me if the dogs would ever get bored going to the same place and running through the same terrain. I laughed and said I didn’t think boredom would ever occur to our two furry friends when they were doing the thing that gives them the most joy. He looked at me and revised his question. “Do you think we’ll ever get bored taking the same hike?”
I wondered about that enough to pay attention for a few weeks while I walked our walk in the woods. I have come to the conclusion that, though I have walked the same path dozens of times, I have yet to take the same hike. When my husband posed his question, the woods were frozen and sleepy. My dogs were able to skid to a stop to slurp at “snow cones.” The landscape was a palette of whites, grays and soft browns. The creek was dark and somewhat still.
As I’ve walked, I’ve watched life return to the woods. It was subtle at first – a few green shoots amongst the undergrowth. The creek was waking up, beginning to burble along at a merry clip. The birds returned from their winter travels to tease the dogs with their songs as they zipped up and down the hills. As the snow cones disappeared, my “boys” discovered the joy of leaping into the water to splash and drink. (One also discovered the rich, black mud in a boggy area. Thankfully a splash in the creek is usually enough to clean him up.)
If I hadn’t been there nearly every day, I would have thought the trees and bushes leafed out overnight. Instead, I got to watch the slow motion unfurling of the leaves. I witnessed tiny green pips transform into full, beautiful skunk cabbage. Where I knelt down to get a closer look at fiddle heads the day before, I now brush through patches of waving ferns. I’ve smiled as I’ve glimpsed hard to spot trilliums in bloom. I watched May Apples shoot up and bloom over the course of a handful of days. I’m waiting eagerly for the honeysuckle blooms to open and turn the words into a fragrant haven. Any day now …
There’s simply no way to be bored in the face of life’s unfolding glory. To watch these tiny, incremental changes is a joy. To see “our” woods fully transformed is nothing short of a miracle.
As I’ve paid such close attention to the almost imperceptible shifts and growth on my walks, I’ve finally stumbled across the answer to a yoga question I hear a great deal. “Do you ever get bored of your yoga practice?”
You see, I practice Ashtanga yoga. Ashtanga is a set series of postures that you move through six days a week. A part of me understands how you might imagine doing the same thing over and over again could get dull. I think it’s the same part of me that took my husband’s question about our hike to heart. But, upon reflection, my experience on my yoga mat has been precisely the same as my experience in the woods. While my practice might travel the same path every day, it never feels like the same journey.
Over the last 15 years, my body has changed as dramatically and as completely as the woods have changed in the last eight weeks. It has done so by the same accumulation of tiny, almost imperceptible changes. While, if I hadn’t been paying attention (and in the early years I was still learning to pay attention, to notice, to witness… ), it could seem that I achieved new postures overnight. But I know better. I know I didn’t wake up one morning to palm the floor in a standing forward fold. I know over months of practice that my fingertips crept down my shins, spent weeks within a hairsbreadth of my feet, and finally brushed the floor.
I know that change feels slow unless you’re keenly paying attention, watching closely for the tiny shifts along the way. Then, change feels miraculously immediate and your potential seems limitless. This never gets boring.
And this secret is true for the whole wide world. Take a look around at life’s unfolding glory. Watch as the world around you is transformed. And know – beyond a shadow of a doubt – that you are changing and growing and unfolding, too. Change like this is nothing short of a miracle that we get to witness every single day.