Every morning, as I enjoy my dark roasted coffee and sit in the soft light of dawn, I read an enlightening passage from The Book of Awakening by Mark Nepo. This gem of a book is a daily dose of wisdom and I am always amazed at how vividly his descriptive manner brings his simple, yet eloquent words to life.
Recently, he wrote a few passages on shedding: the ability to let go of what we are carrying that is no longer alive and casting off our dead skin. Here in the Midwest, the winter has been relentless and as I paddle on this spring afternoon as the ice is melting, I think about this season of change and the shedding of winter.
The majestic bald eagle certainly enjoys this time of year, keeping a close eye on the open, icy waters emerging from their frozen tomb. The warming temperatures are releasing their grip on this frozen lake, and the fish are abundant. The eagle realizes this shift, and adjusts his own patterns to the rhythm of this new cycle.
We, too, shift within ourselves as the seasons change. Winter has been a time of hunkering down and perhaps allowing some things to percolate within. Spring is the time of releasing, letting go of things that have been harboring in the deep dark of our inner world. Mark Nepo says, “The way to stay close to the pulse of life is to change whatever has ceased to function in us. To shed whatever we are carrying that is no longer alive. To cast off our dead skin because dead skin can’t feel. Dead eyes can’t see. Dead ears can’t hear. And without feeling, there is no chance of wholeness.”
We start out on the icy tundra and gently nudge ourselves into the newly created water. It is a form of renewal, dropping from the edge of the ice on to the lake, a rite of passage. Renewal, for me, is all about stepping into the flow of wholeness. Mark Nepo says “when we cease to shed what’s dead in us in order to soothe the fear of others, we remain partial.” I certainly don’t want to live a fragmented life, and yet being on the water today reminds me of many things that I still need to shed.
I recently found myself needing time alone and some solitude. A busy work pace had been scraping away at the silence of my soul, my edginess a barometer that I needed to step away. Simultaneously, I was also being pulled to spend time with significant people in my life, and I faced a choice. Do something for myself that I knew I needed, or share the gift of time with those I loved. I chose to be with others, the time was well spent and fun, yet I knew I had done myself a disservice. Two days later I found myself working really hard to shed the frustration I felt, because I knew that I had compromised a piece of myself with that decision. The barometer of edginess was still guiding my day. To continue with Mark Nepo’s words, “often we give up our right to renewal to accommodate the anxiety of those around us.”
Life seems to be a continual stream of shedding, of letting go of what no longer serves us and even letting go of the mediocrity of the familiar. Often times, it is the very little things that still seem to hold on, keeping us captive in our comfort zone and holding us back from taking the next step. The tiny pieces of ice still clinging to winter reminded me that releasing elements in our lives and in our hearts does not have to be a major task. Every small step we can take in the direction of renewal opens a space inside to embrace the new.
With every seasonal shift, nature teaches us the importance of renewal. Effortlessly, she moves from one season to the next, releasing the outlived and embracing the new. As I passed a feather floating on the water, the birds shedding their last coat of winter, it reminded me of an angel’s wing, floating on the water as though suspended in air. I felt lighter and freer and thought about how that same feeling occurs when we let go of a slice of stagnation in our lives.
As the sun sets on this glorious paddling day, shimmering over open water and ice, I think about the way nature has so many lessons to teach us, if we are willing to listen. The transformation of one season to the next, the sunset of the evening and the sunrise of the new day, the ice melting and the water flowing. Nature is not afraid to change, to shed, to open the way for the new. Why are we?
My friend and Red Kayak Institute Board Member, Josette, taught us a song that we sing before every paddle. It is an appropriate closing for this reflection on shedding.
“I step into the flow, and then I let go, I open my mind my heart and my soul,
I step into the flow, and then I let go, I open my mind my heart and my soul,
I surrender, I surrender.
I open my mind my heart and my soul.”
The questions for this reflection come from The Book of Awakenings. I hope in your day today, you can find some time to reflect.
What are you carrying that is dead skin for you?
What are you being called to shed, to put to rest, in order to gain greater access to the hidden wholeness of life?
What voices are asking you to keep your old skin and not to change?