Monday, July 1, 2013

Being Present

Happy Places

   I was laughing at myself on mile 4.9 of the hike to Gregory Bald in the Smokey mountains. I had just written a blog on taking it easy in life and not pushing so hard all the time – to relax into a pose vs. forcing it. And, here I am on a vacation doing an 11-mile hike to the top of a bald, dripping sweat and praying for a plateau on a trail that only knows up. 
   Approaching a level portion and a signpost that says .6 miles left, I sigh with relief until I look to the side. The trail takes a pitch that seems to ascend to heaven. My hiking partner ignores my whining and keeps trekking, but I pause, irritated and tired. I’m done with going up. I get a yell to pick up the pace, and swallow back my first two responses, managing to smile instead and keep walking. It was my brilliant idea after all, my bucket-list item. To do this trail in June when the bald is chocked full of fire-red azaleas had been on my must-do list about a decade. I had just never made it here the right season.

   This was it. My chance. We trudge on, sweating, finally reaching the top to explore a maze of azaleas. We nestle in the tall grass overlooking Cades Cove and keep our eye on a deer trying to steal food. There’s an air of celebration at the top among the surviving hikers. We all watch the sky go from clear blue to thick mists and huddle through a rainstorm that clears with misty sweeps of the wind, the scene changing as only mountain weather can.

    Why am I here and was it worth it? I find myself asking as hikers warn each other about a sleeping rattlesnake near a shrub. A cool mist wraps around me, and I watch for flashes of red azaleas in the fog. I stow the memory into a “happy places” file in my head, a collection of special places, places that make my heart glad that they exist on Earth. When June rolls around, I’ll remember there’s a place like this, abuzz with bees and happy hikers.
   And, I know there’s a day I won’t be able to hike that trial. But it’s not today.


"It is living in the naked now, the "sacrament of the present moment" that will teach us how to actually experience our experiences,whether good, bad, or ugly, and how to let them transform us.  Words by themselves will invariably divide the moment; pure presence lets it be what it is, as it is."
- Richard Rohr in his book The Naked Now

I've been trying to heed Rohr's advice in the last couple of weeks and to just experience my experiences - both good and bad.  Yes, we're in Bali - which most people view as paradise - but the reality is that Bali is also a third world developing country with all the struggles and growing pains that go along with that.  We've had beautiful moments with sunsets, friends and Hindu ceremonies. I've watched the moon rise over the beach and biked along ocean cliffs in the spray of enormous waves.   But we've also battled insane traffic with cars,  buses, motorbikes and bicycles fighting for the same small space. Our house has been broken into and robbed.  Sometimes it truly felt like I was in the very naked now - but it sure didn't feel like a sacrament.  But it is the experience of life - both good, bad and ugly - that Rohr is talking about.  It's being present for your life in all its beauty and its messiness.  Wherever you go, pay attention. 


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