Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Thinking outside the box

How much time do you spend outside every day? Some people don't venture out very often. They're busy or working or engaging in activities that can only take place inside. Some people have no idea what the weather is like because they go directly from a garage into a car into another garage and another indoor space.

I'm not blaming anyone for this way of life, but for those who don't purposely, purposefully, consciously and mindfully go outside every day, I feel very sad. An indoor life is limiting in many ways.

For almost all of human history, people spent most of their time outside, only entering caves to sleep at night. Later we made tipis and other portable structures which we used for cooking, meeting with others and sleeping. Now most of us in my society live in box shaped rooms.

A great teacher of mine used to say, We become the shapes we inhabit. Oh yeah.

Of course the boxes we inhabit must be Pythagorean in design, otherwise the buildings would not be stable. I'm amazed we can create these perfect cubes. But the effect of living in these boxes, over time, is limiting in scary ways. Anything slightly off plumb in terms of horizontal/vertical is very hard for people in my society to perceive and can seem "wrong" compared to the the neatly predictable rooms in which we dwell. Boxes convey the idea of order and precision which really has almost nothing to do with the way life unfolds. Living inside these boxes magnifies the urge to control everything, which, in most of us, is already exaggerated. The shape dampens creativity and curiosity, reinforces the idea that predictability is a good thing (is it?)

Fresh air is important. Having a look at the sky every day, as often as possible through the day and evening, is (ironically) grounding. "Tasting" the weather orients body and mind. We might look at the weather report before going out to understand how to dress or whether to take the umbrella, but the actual going out enables us to access, directly through the five senses, crucial, non-verbal messages about how to behave and respond. I think we should all get out there every day whether we think it's too hot, cold, rainy, windy, cloudy or whatever. Becoming physiologically aligned with the weather can make or break the rest of the day.

Have you been outside today? Had a look at the sky, taken in lungfuls of fresh air? If not - please, give it a go. You will be refreshed and inspired by the experience, even if the weather is not perfect, I promise. Believe me. (If you don't believe me, read The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett. It is one of my all-time favorite books.)



ellen abbott said...

Even during the hottest days of this brutal summer I would venture outside several times a day. My homes have to have lots of good sized windows and screen doors on all the doors.

One river trip was 10 days long. I took a tent but only used it once I think, being outside 24 hours a day. When I got back, the city was so intense. And I had a hard time staying indoors. Took about a week to acclimate back to the city and being inside for much of the time.

Kerry said...

I just came in from a 30-minute run in the woods with Ed and Reub. Dogs are so tuned to the outdoor environment, all of their senses on high alert, it's just amazing.

I have noticed how much you are outside, Reya, walking around and absorbing it, your thoughts falling into place. So cool.

The Secret Garden is a delight of a book, all about the restorative qualities of fresh air and the out-of-doors; I love it too.

jeanette from everton terrace said...

I hibernate all summer. I wait for winter so I can be outside again, so wonderful. I love taking naps outside, even have a bed on my little patio :)

Reya Mellicker said...

An outdoor nap? That's something we don't do here in DC. Well ... I don't anyway!

Ellen I remember coming home from witch camp every year and how weird it was to spend so much time indoors.

Kerry yes! And you do too.

Angela said...

As I have a dog, I am used to taking long walks every day, and i think I couldn`t live without them. I also love to take a nap on our terrace in the sun, and I walk barefot on our lawn when mowing it. I have even started climbing trees again, sitting up there for a while, looking down, and feeling close to the bark and the leaves. To me, life is full only outside, with all the smells and the birds`songs. I don`t even mind rain. The sound on my umbrella, just lovely!

Reya Mellicker said...

Angela I am so happy you climb trees!! Well done, you.