What would you bring with you into the woods? Reflection questions on your own fire, the art of creation, the necessity of destruction, and your intrinsic value.

Central Park - Autumn - New York City

Central Park by Vivienne Gucwa on NY Through The Lens.

Reflection, rejuvenation, and three questions.

This weekend, I left the city to join one hundred other entrepreneurs, creatives, and innovators to shake off some digital dust and retreat in the Poconos Mountains of Eastern Pennsylvania.

In addition to the typical packing instructions -- sleeping bag, flashlight, yoga clothes, comfy fleece, warm sweaters, s'mores -- we were also instructed to bring the following three things with us into the woods:

  • Something you'd like to burn (something you'd like to leave behind);
  • Something to improve somebody else's experience;
  • Something that symbolizes who you are and what you're passionate about.

Something to burn.

What can you burn, destroy, or get rid of? We all carry things with us--in our hearts, minds, ideas, thoughts, notes, and the physical stuff we carry. My fellow writers are ablaze with instructions towards destruction: it seems to be a theme in many minds. Goddess Kali encourages us to set ablaze what's holding us back, writes Danielle LaPorte, encouraging us to welcome destruction as part of the act of creation. The theme is beautifully captured in Joseph Campbell's work on The Hero's Journey:

Joseph Campbell, on breaking, destruction, and letting go:

The old skin has to be shed before the new one can come.
If we fix on the old, we get stuck. when we hang onto any form, we are in danger of putrefaction. Hell is life drying up. The Hoarder, the one in us that wants to keep, to hold on, must be killed. If we are hanging onto the form now, we're not going to have the form next.
You can't make an omelet without breaking eggs.
Destruction before creation.
Out of perfection nothing can be made. Every process involves breaking something up. The earth must be broken to bring forth new life. If the seed does not die, there is no plant.
Bread results from the death of wheat. Life lives on lives. Our own life lives on the acts of other people.If you are lifeworthy, you can take it. What we are really living for is the experience of life, both the pain and the pleasure.
The world is a match for us. We are a match for the world. Opportunities to find deeper powers within ourselves come when life seems most challenging. Negativism to the pain and ferocity of life is negativism to life.

What will I bring? I've got a few ideas, but the first that leapt to mind was the "busy" badge I often wear. Busy isn't good, and not managing my time well isn't a mode of operation. I want to burn the busy badge, and make time for long lunches, for ample yoga, for walking. The work can take the space and time and shape it takes, and there will be an ebb and flow to it--but busy is not a means to an end.

What about you? What can you destroy, leave behind, or eliminate as we head into Fall and the season of darkness, replenishment, and restoration?

Something to improve someone's experience.

What do you bring? What do you have to offer? What are the gifts that you bring to share with the world?

I'm packing my yoga mat and my massage hands to help heal and restore. The power of movement, stillness, awakening and connection through our physical bodies is healing.

Something that symbolizes who you are.

How would you characterize who you are? What objects, ideas, or processes encapsulate who you are--or who you're working to be?

This one's trickier. I have several ideas, but I'm still mulling it over.

What would you bring if you were headed to the woods and had to bring these three things?

Leave a note in the comments with your answers.

Signing off the internet for a short bit,

sarah signature


I send fun things by email (including secret discounts). Sign up here to get essays by email, and more.


2 Responses to What would you bring with you into the woods? Reflection questions on your own fire, the art of creation, the necessity of destruction, and your intrinsic value.

  1. merry cox says:

    I am going on a trip and I am leaving behind pre-conceived notions that will color the newness of experience. Cancel all judgement.

    With me I will take my good sense of awareness and my skill of observation.

    Lastly to compose myself, I will turn to my enthusiasm for learning.

  2. Jeanette Giska says:

    On my trip I will take my awareness of the moment and a childlike quality of discovery. I will burn my criticism and focus on each sensation, emotion and thought completely and then let them go. Each fresh breath will comfort me like the ebb and flow of the tide.
    Recommended reading ‘Living Originally’ Ten Spiritual Practices to Transform Your Life by Robert Brumet