Surrendering to what is

From city girl to cow farmer, Shreve Stockton is a flag-bearer for putting your fate in the hands of the universe

City girl Shreve Stockton was on a road trip across America, from San Francisco to New York, riding through the dramatic scenery on her trusty Vespa. When she passed through the incredible landscape of Wyoming, she was struck by a profound sense of never wanting to leave. Within months, she moved out of her New York apartment and found herself in a remote cabin, flanked by wild meadows and soaring mountains, with no other humans for miles around. The nearest shop was a 30 minute drive away.

‘I was just going off intuition,’ she marvels. ‘I had no job. I didn’t know anyone in the entire state. But there was this piece of me that knew it was right, even if it wasn’t logical.’

Today, Stockton lives with a coyote she rescued as a cub, and a menagerie of animals she calls her ‘farmily’, and raises meadow-grazing beef cattle, with a focus on ethical, humane treatment. Living and working amid a rich natural wilderness has given Stockton a perspective on life that she shares in her beautiful new memoir Meditation with Cows. A connection with nature has taught her that change is inevitable, and that surrendering to the path ahead, whatever it may look like, is freeing and powerful. ‘I spend a lot of time with Mother Nature,’ Stockton says. ‘She shows me, over and over, that life is about joy. And it’s also about living in a way that supports and contributes to the multitude of lives around us. That’s when life becomes a dance, a circle, an expansion.’

Can you identify the point when you decided to make a change?

The biggest turning point began with waking up to my greatest childhood fear. My apartment building was on fire in the middle of the night and I had to run barefoot past a wall of flames to get out. Suddenly my neighbours and I were homeless. It set off the most unexpected and remarkable chain of events, both internal and external. I don’t know that I would have found my way to Wyoming – my truest home and the life I love – if not for that fire.

Then that moment in Wyoming was completely unexpected. It was a visceral sense that this is where I needed to be. I was halfway through my trip, but I stopped in Wyoming, went to the library and looked in the classifieds for jobs and apartments. I really needed to stay. But I wasn’t ready to be done with the trip. So I thought, ‘Well, I can go on, and I can always turn around.’ So I kept going. And when I got to New York, I turned around and came back.

Does listening to intuition take practice?

I think everyone hears the voice, but it takes practice to hear the voice. I needed the practice of going with the voice, and seeing it work out, to trust it with something of such magnitude.

It’s about not feeling uncertain, even if I can’t see what’s going to happen. I have learned that the step that I can’t see will appear, if I go with my gut. So it doesn’t feel completely uncertain. If the feeling is there, I know I’m going in the right direction.

How does that translate to your experiences in the natural world?

Nature is such a teacher. It can be intense and brutal and scary. But it has been such a teacher, because humans cannot control nature, as much as we try to. We never completely have the upper hand.

Moving into the cabin in Wyoming was a crash course in surrendering to the moment – because it is the moment as defined by nature. In modern society, we’ve created false environments for ourselves, where our needs are fulfilled by manmade interventions. We’ve got out of practice of going with the flow and dealing with things that might not be what we want. And it’s this point of surrender that is so important.

Being in Wyoming and having life so tied into being outside, and working with animals and nature – the grass, the rain, the things we have no control over – has taught me to be flexible and to be in a relationship with nature. Especially when I am scared or confused, that relationship is a touchstone because it reminds me that it’s not just about me. I’m not the centre of the universe. If I focus on what I can give, what I can contribute, I enjoy life more.

How has this surrender helped you to follow your dreams?
The daily practice of believing in myself so completely has been hard: to lay myself bare on the page, hour after hour, every day, for a year – my past, my research, my dreams for our collective future on this planet. I knew what I wanted the book to be, but I didn’t know if I was capable of doing it. Trusting myself, and believing that my thoughts and perspectives are valuable and worth sharing, was unbelievably hard. I had to reckon with my conditioning, with my self-worth, with the ways I define myself.

While it was excruciating, I’m glad I had the opportunity to do that work of excavating the cobwebby corners of my psyche and exorcising my demons. Doing the thing you thought you might not be capable of doing is the most incredible feeling in the world. When we set out to do something new, there’s a delicious blend of terror and trust. I’m kind of addicted to that risk.

Is  change is something anyone can learn to cope with?

Change is terrifying and exhilarating. Life is one big guessing game, but it’s easy to forget that when I’m in the flow of routine. Change reminds us that we don’t know what’s around the corner of the next year or month or week or day or minute. That can feel unnerving or exciting. My life has maybe has more wild cards in it than someone with a nine to five office job, just because every day is different and you never know what’s gonna happen with the animals or the weather. It’s something I’ve accepted.

That’s not to say that change is always easy. Change is uncomfortable, but it’s also really exciting. But if we trust ourselves to be resilient, and trust the potential for things to be even better than they are, change can be something to run towards.

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