Making Friends with the Earth
When I was 26 years old I took my first backpacking trip into the Southern Sierra Nevada Mountains to a place called Kings Canyon National Park. Everything about this trip was prophetic, in terms of the direction my life would take.
Learning to put 45 pounds on my back and walk on rugged rocky trails up steep mountain paths literally took my breath away as I felt I might pass out with each elevation gain. Needing to stop and regulate my breathing about every 15-20 minutes took away any tendency towards rushing to get where we were going. Symbolically, as I scaled each vista “my breath was taken away’ by the snow filled passes and awe inspiring panoramas I met as we crossed over and dropped into “Dusy Meadows”. This landscape was filled with rocky outcroppings and blanketed by beds of colorful wildflowers. I could not believe my eyes as the high vibrational air, crystalline running stream beds, and wondrous gothic-like spires and towers appeared before me. My thoughts were filled with dream like fantasies and the closest to real life fairy tales.
In this wonderland of sorts I had my first experience meditating. Each morning when we awoke we got some tea together, water, a small propane stove and ambled up the boulders backgrounding our encampment and sat next to towering trees and cascading water and falls. It was here that I learned to be still, like an animal, be alert to all my senses, not speak for several hours and close my eyes to listen to the sounds of flying birds, rushing waters and the fragrance of plants, woodlands and wind. This was my introduction and initiation into the power and forces of nature and meditation.
Gary Snyder a famous ‘Beat style’ poet wrote ”The true source of compassion and ethical behavior is paradoxically none other than one’s own realization of the insubstantial and ephemeral nature of everything”.
It was this place, this habitat, when I first awakened to nature as friend, guardian and teacher. These learnings have remained with me since, although now I am more limited in my abilities with backpacking and hiking, the memories live on secure in my heart and locked in my soul.
“Reflection – The next time you walk outside, you might try an experiment. When a living being draws your attention- a dog, cat, mouse, squirrel, insect, bird, tree, flower- pause and say to yourself gently and sincerely ‘We are friends.’ Notice if your heart opens to the truth of your connectedness.“ By Tara Brach.