Sunday, February 3, 2019

Permeability of the Spirit By Brad A. Martell

“Permeability, porousness, works both ways.  You are allowed to move through the woods with new eyes and ears when you let go of your little annoyances and anxieties.”           – Gary Snyder, A Place in Space, 198.

Trudging along the trail, head down staring at only a few feet in front of each boot step, I was weighted down with more than what was in my backpack.  It was raining, cold, and dark in the Pisgah National Forest in North Carolina.  Encased in my Omni-Tech raingear I was armored against the elements.  And encased in my acerbity I was trying to armor myself against the annoyances and anxieties I was carrying in my emotional and spiritual backpack.   
Lori and I were in our first semester of our master’s in environmental education.  I was having an extremely difficult time understanding the experiential learning model at the core of the program.  I was experiencing lots of confusion and struggle as I was not letting myself be open to a new way of learning.  I wanted the same kind of experience I had in college – give me the syllabus, tell me what to read, write, and what will be on the test.  Before my master’s I understood (and was quite happy with) education that fit a certain structure and process.  It was predictable with clearly defined boundaries.  But when I boarded “The Bus” (Audubon Expedition Institute master’s program) I found my footing precarious.  I had not yet grasped the understanding that education was not just “book learning” but it was every encounter, relationship, and experience in my life. 
Going into the backpack, I was so frustrated and anxious about when I was going to get my “assignments” completed that I was fighting against being present, porous, and paying attention to this particular experience with my community, engaged in wholistic learning and being mindful of the woods.  I was wearing a literal and metaphorical shell to protect me from the physical, emotional, and spiritual “elements.”  However, as much as I fought against the moment, there was something that began to soak in and bring me out of my protective shell. 
Wild natural places are where I feel closest to the Spirit.  After a few days I was able to discard the worries and anger I “packed in.”  I was able to sink in place and be present, porous, and paying attention to the wonders of the woods, the fellowship with my community, the peace of the Spirit.  My anxieties diminished and my agitation was soothed.
The day we hiked out there was a light rain, but I didn’t put on my raingear.  The warm rain felt refreshing falling on the bare skin of my face, arms, and legs.  I was practicing permeability, porousness to allow the flow of the Spirit to soak into me.  In that spiritual soaking I was made new. 
What is holding you back from being permeable to the Spirit?