Epiphany- the mountain
By Tony DeLorger © 2010
The mountain air was crisp and the morning brought the hope of a new day, a fresh beginning. The path before me was steep but not too difficult, every step taking me closer to the summit. Beads of perspiration trickled down my face as the sun slowly ascended into the sky and the morning shadows began to disappear.
I have always felt a sense of freedom communing with nature, the smells and especially the silence was always rejuvenating. But that particular day I was troubled, and the trek was more about desperation and frustration, than freedom. The shackles and limitations that we place on ourselves sometimes bring us to our knees, and we clumsily search for that one defining moment or point of change, and this was mine.
The last few metres were difficult, almost straight up a rocky outcrop with little to grasp but the coarse stone and the occasional exposed root. As I heaved myself over the last of it, a small dirt clearing appeared, fringed by small bushes and one old gnarled tree, disfigured from years of wind and weathering. It seemed as though it was growing out of the rocks themselves, its twisted roots searching desperately for sustenance. I stretched out, dusted myself off and sat down on the rock, taking a well-deserved swig from my water bottle. The sun seemed suddenly higher in the sky and I felt its sting on my wet skin. Wiping my brow with a handkerchief, I stiffly got up and moved over to the tree to sit in the shade. The wind occasionally growled, its intermittent foray chilling my face and gently cooling me from the climb.
From this vantage point, the world seemed small, and of no consequence. I had pounded all the way up here with my troubles, and now I could hardly remember what they were. I guess life can often seem oppressive, just too much. It’s not just one thing that gets you down, but many, seemingly all on top of one another. There’s just no answer to it.
I’ve often thought of myself as adaptable and able to withstand all that life could throw at me. But of course I was wrong. Experience has a cumulative affect on all of us, both with the good and the bad. Experience can colour our lives, and I for one hadn’t counted on that fact. My problem was that I had changed, and I didn’t know how or why. What I did know was that I felt lost.
As high as I was, everything felt softer somehow. The distant hills were infused with a gentle blue mist, etched out in a rolling line against the azure sky. Wafting pristine clouds broke the starkness, vaporising and reforming over and over in the endless landscape. It was peaceful here, no confusion, no noise, just the lull of nature. As I sat, it was nature itself that was speaking to me. And I listened.
I felt the breeze gently brush my face and hair. Its soft caress was calming me, making me feel safe. My thoughts began to wander, to find their own way, something that was unusual. I’d always been an analytical person, my thinking ordered and regimented. Now it seemed to be freeing itself, without my decision. I thought about the wind that was tantalising me and how it was in reality such a fickle element. I pondered how its gentleness could turn to rage and in a certain circumstance, snap me like a twig. Nature was foreboding. It had the power to calm, but could also destroy and create havoc. My mind began to look at this from another perspective. I began to see the winds itself did not destroy, nor was it aware of its impact. It suddenly seemed to me the wind was akin to a thought of nature, its reality was that it was wind- nothing more, nothing less. The wind itself didn’t consider anything, its being, its existence was its only reality.
My thoughts became deeper and I pursued this realisation. The storm must ‘become’ because of other circumstances, not through any choice of the wind. Then a metaphor unveiled itself within my suddenly clear mind. Our own thoughts are like the wind. They can caress or destroy, love or hate, succeed or fail. Yet they alone will not ‘become’. Thoughts need circumstance. ‘The seed is planted, the earth nourishes and the rain makes it grow.’ I realised that our thoughts must be clothed in circumstance and intention, for them to ‘become’ or manifest. If we clothe our thoughts with negative intentions we will surely create a storm, that has the ability to destroy and create havoc. If we clothe our thoughts with good and positive intentions and circumstances, we will create harmony and peace, not just for us, but for all those around us.
Nature exists in perfect balance, in a constant cycle of cause and affect. There are no rights and wrongs, simply change and movement. In many ways our lives mirror these cycles of nature. We may not see it but we live governed by the same universal laws and existing in the same state of perfect balance. The pendulum swings with life’s ups and downs, but balance is an indisputable law. We alone cause the movement, and our thoughts determine the results. Our choices in life determine how things around us are affected. Harmony or chaos, it is our choice always. But here’s where the metaphor fails- there is no blame in nature, just cause and affect. We human beings not only refuse to see the truth, but blame everything else for our ignorance and failure. What was coming out of my mind was a little disconcerting. It was as if I had nothing to do with it, no control over my thought process. But the results were interesting, so I just relaxed and let it go.
A shadow suddenly crossed the earth at my feet and as I looked upward, a large hawk eclipsed the sun, its wings outstretched in full flight, gliding silently on the up draught over the cliffs. It was an elegant bird, and as it circled I realised just how effortless was its flight. It seemed one with the wind, at times almost motionless, anticipating each motion and change. I longed to feel what this creature was feeling and wondered if it was experiencing the joy of flight and the freedom and perfect harmony that it appeared to be achieving. My thoughts began to form.
This beautiful creature knew the wind- its every move and mood. It did not need to consider anything else. Driven by its circumstance, it used the air and the wind. It respected it but did not fear it in any way. This creature had power over its domain, an understanding and a sharing with the elements of its world. The bird would never question or doubt this relationship, it simply knew that it could be one with the wind whenever it was required.
The hawk, as if to answer my pondering, cried, the sound echoing across the cliff face. The bird spiralled down closer and closer and at last, with a flurry of movement, landed and perched itself on one of the outstretched branches of the tree above. For a long moment its cool dark eyes were fixed on me and seemed somehow to expect my enquiry. Its long sharp talons gripped the textured bark to steady itself in the breeze, the tiny feathers around its neck, flapping back and forth. The hawk’s soft white and grey feathers shimmered across its sleek form as it remained, seemingly comfortable and completely at ease in my presence.
“You are beautiful,” I whispered, as I slowly pulled myself up to take a better look.
“What have you to tell me, bird?” I thought, rather melodramatically. It whistled loudly, as if in response, and I startled.
My first impression of the creature was one of great strength. It had an air of power and confidence. It was obvious that it was at ease with what it was and moved forward, living within the laws of nature, bound only by the natural limits of its domain. When it was hungry, it would kill and feed. It did not consider or judge its behaviour, it simply accepted its own true nature and purpose. Nature endowed this creature with all its physical attributes and instincts so it could live in harmony and balance in its own unique way.
This beautiful bird in its simplicity was revealing that we must know our true nature. If we do not understand ourselves, how then are we to understand anything else and move forward? Nature has endowed us all with attributes and talents, yet if we do not accept and realise them, how can we progress? Just as the hawk, we must abide by the laws of nature and seek to master our domains, and try to live with harmony and in balance.
This feeling that I had brought to the mountain, was now coming into focus. This lost emptiness was merely my lack of understanding. A loss of strength and confidence had put me out of balance and now in this rather strange way, I was realising why.
A sudden gust of windswept across the clearing and in the blink of an eye, the hawk was gone. A few feathers taunted by the wind, spiralled downward toward the clearing, the only evidence of its visit. Then a lonely mournful cry echoed in the far distance. After that, silence.
It struck me how nature presented itself, always in honesty, open but often appearing unforgiving. Yet, unforgiving now seemed a misunderstanding. Our judgements can often be rash and hardly based on reality. We often judge things out of fear, or ignorance. The hawk in some way had shown me that I too must know and accept myself, understand my true nature. I must know my hunger, my needs and live my life with an understanding of my domain. This elegant bird had shown me, by its own inherent nature, not to judge, but to simply ‘be’.
I then thought of my earlier question- ‘Does this creature know of the joy of flight?’ The answer then flowed from me. The hawk didn’t consider flight as a means of joy- at least not the way humans seek gratification. The hawk in flight was ‘joy,’ and that subtle difference is not an easy lesson to learn. The lesson is to not seek gratification, but simply to ‘be’, now, of joy. We, in our arrogance, and with the reckless belief that we are superior to all other creatures on this planet, so easily miss this important concept. Living in the ‘now’ is natures way. The hawk does not need to consider any of this. Consideration as we see it, implies doubt or struggle in some way. The hawk doesn’t understand this concept, it resides in the ‘now’ and is in a constant state of ‘flowing’, when movement is a natural progression rather than a decision. I thought that perhaps we should all understand this thinking and the stops and starts, and the trouble caused by our complex reasoning and justifications would suddenly cease to be, if we truly lived in the moment.
As the sun seared its way across the blue, the shadows in the clearing changed and time dissipated without meaning. Hours just flew by. Small birds darted in and out of the bushes, chirping excitedly and chasing one another with tremendous speed and agility. The earth beneath my feet slowly cooled in the afternoon shadows, the occasional chirp and buzzing of insects the only noticeable sounds. This was nature’s sombre mood, a time of rest and solitude. It was as if in meditation, quietly in balance and at peace.
I felt compelled to now abandon my thoughts to keep a watchful eye on what was around me. I was looking at things from a different perspective, and I felt I needed to be there, entirely. I tried to use all of my senses to absorb this blissful solitude. The stillness seemed rejuvenating and I suddenly became aware of my own energy. I could feel the blood surging through my veins, and I could feel it bring life to every cell in my body, the constant hum of it, loud in my ears. The air was sweet and with every breath it energised me, made my awareness more and more acute. What I first thought was silence was now a symphony. The wind rustled the leaves into a crescendo, then subsided into a soft whisper. Grains of earth were whisked away in different directions with each gust. I noticed the tree’s branches, deeply textured with coarse, fibrous bark, sway with the rhythm of nature. Before my eyes this symphony of sight and sound melded into one perfect thing. Completely alive in every aspect, yet separate within its infinite complexity. Each small grain, leaf and life intertwined into one living and moving landscape. Each single thing had a scent, a texture, a sound and energy, individual in itself but an integral part of the whole picture. My senses were melding into one, as I observed and sensed each aspect of life around me. Simple things that I had never even bothered to notice were being revealed to me, in the most spectacular fashion. A certain hue or smell or movement that normally would have passed me by, now seemed outstanding.
At that moment, the impact of what I was experiencing hit me. I realised that I was a part of this life, as was everything. Before, I thought of myself as an observer, an entity living a life quite separate from my environment. It was now clear that I was so wrong. This understanding was an epiphany. Each plant, stone or grain of sand was as I was a living thing, made of the same matter and existing as part of the other. I had been living a life quite removed from the world, but now I’m finding that this world is all I will ever need to know and understand. To know that is to know yourself and that you are a part of it all.
The answers to my questions seemed now to be answered before I could ask them, the power of reason and deduction strangely taken from me. But I felt knowledge deep within my soul that felt overpowering- yet comforting.
With new eyes I looked out amid this communion and could strangely see energies and the life in all things around me. I was shaking with excitement as I was being awakened to a new reality, the joy of which had previously escaped me. My powers of observation seemed so acute and I had a profound sense of being a fountain of knowledge, feeling free, with an openness that I had never experienced before.
Now, my physical body was pulsing and swaying with energy, my being more alive than ever. Yet nothing in essence had changed, only my perception of it. I felt a strange relief, as if a burden had been lifted from me. The guilt and blame that I had stupidly stored within me during my life was crumbling amidst this revelation. All those negative feelings had no place or purpose within this new state of being, and they suddenly seemed absurd.
I realised that we all carry these burdens, this negative energy that accumulates and then affects our lives. Holding on to the past for any reason, suddenly seemed irrational. I saw now that I'm not the same person now as I was then, so what relevance did those memories have? I felt strangely in control now, I felt that I could be the master of my destiny and not simply a victim. I realised that I had to let go of all that had done me wrong, with all the blame and the guilt from my past. I felt now that I could forgive others and myself for the past, and with faith and understanding live in the moment and develop a sense of kindness for all things. I now believed that this would set me free and relinquish the chains of my past.
As these thoughts slowly drifted from my consciousness the humming and swaying of the energy inside me began to wane, and I felt a gentle calmness enter my body. The clearing seemed more vibrant that ever, more alive with colour and movement. I felt completely in tune with it and the feeling of emptiness was now gone. I tried to fathom what had transpired and how a few hours on top of a mountain had done something to me, something wonderful. This lesson I vowed to hold on to. This experience had revealed to me in a simple way, my place and meaning within this vast landscape of life and with this knowledge I felt confident that my questions now would always be answered. I had only to practice this communion with life and not let the negatives overpower my sense of truth
I guess we get lost sometimes, that is simply part of the human experience. Sometimes we just need a little solitude and time to review and replenish. The Mountain was a special experience. When we make this type of connection, life suddenly takes on a new light, a renewed vigour. When we look at life as an adventure we make ourselves open to discovery. Life itself I believe is only bound by the limitations we place on it, and after this experience I felt that at least I was in control. It’s always up to each one of us what we do in life and how we respond, but after this experience life did change- and for the better.