A forest flows like a river. Its current moves slowly, but its motion is undeniable. Every time I step into the forest, it is remarkably different. Old trees fall in decay, returning to the humus from which they sprang, while fresh growth emerges everywhere. Each season, nature undergoes drastic changes, but the forest is also noticeably different from day to day. It never looks the same; it is never the same forest.
Heraclitus, the Ancient Greek philosopher, wrote, “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” I think about this quote each time I enter the old forest on my property. I frequent a particular trail head that is marked by the tall arch of a bowed tree, creating a type of doorway into the mysterious. Each time I pass under the arch, I feel like I’m stepping into a portal away from modern life, back into the home of my origin where our species began.
When I enter the forest, I make a quiet promise to enter one person and leave another. I vow to come out with new knowledge, or with some new perspective about myself, others, or the environment.
Sometimes, I walk into the woods carrying the stress of my work, and try to exit without that weight. I leave it in the forest by leaving a piece of myself there, too. As Bruce Lee, the famed martial arts teacher, once said, “The height of cultivation leads to simplicity; it is not daily increase, but daily decrease.” And daily, I try to leave more of myself, more of my ego, in the woods.
One day, I hope to leave every negative part of me, so that only stillness remains. That is why I step into Heraclitus’ river each day, so that the man who walks into the woods is the man I no longer wish to be, and the man that emerges is better than who he was before.
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