Welcome to my Wilderness Journal

You may enjoy my September 2012 blog: Sharing Experiences of Great Mystery, which describes the purpose of this wilderness log, photo-art gallery, and poetry corner. In Peace, Bob

Monday, October 8, 2012

Yosemite: Being in Sacred Space and Time

In Wildness is the preservation of the world
—Henry David Thoreau

Sunset over Budd Lake Pass © Bob Hare 2012

The fundamental question for the human individual is "what is my relation to my universe-world-culture and how do I live my brief time in it?" Humans have known for millennia that we need to separate ourselves occasionally from the domination of our cultural influences and turn inward to find our own direction, center, and strength. Many American Indian tribes have a long tradition of solo vision quests carried out in the wilderness to find personal guidance and strength for themselves and for the community. The Israelites wandered for forty years in the wilderness before they were prepared to enter the Promised Land. Christ spent forty days in the wilderness in retreat after his baptism in the Jordan River and before he began his teachings. The Buddha meditated alone in the deep forests of India before he became the Awakened One who could show others the Path to Enlightenment. John Muir prepared for his worldly work in the wilderness of his Range of Light.

One can enter the wilderness to experience a fine outer adventure. Or we can enter the wilderness as a pilgrimage, a retreat, or a circumambulation of a sacred peak and have a fine inner-outer adventure. After some days on such an adventure, particularly if solo, you may find the boundaries between your inner and outer life thinning to a fine veil or falling away completely for a blissful eternal moment. You may find yourself in sacred space and time. 

Sacred space is not a special place nor is sacred time a special time. Sacred space and time are everywhere at all times but we're not usually in the right frame of mind to notice this greater reality. Wilderness experience vitalizes the body, sharpens our senses, stills our minds, and opens our hearts and souls to directly perceive the reality that we are all inter-related changing expressions of the same conscious energy. Call this conscious energy what you will. Not knowing what It is, I call It Great Mystery.

In sacred space and time all things are indeed enlightened—every pebble, insect, mountain, and cloud sings their perfection as a complete Buddha Paradise-Mandala. Everything radiates the fullness of Being and the simultaneous Non-Being/Emptiness of continual change. 

East end of Budd Lake © Bob Hare 2012

In sacred space-time everything is so present there is nothing more to seek. All is revealed in the smallest thing. You look down at your hiking boots standing in the intricate mosaic of greenery and you look at the fleeting clouds and soaring granite pinnacles and there is no separation. All boundaries and categories and concepts blow away as so much chaff. What is left is simple and eternal Being and you realize This unconditioned Being is all that is real and is all that I am! How could This Pure Awareness ever die?  

This realization, this awakening, frees us for the moment from the tyranny and suffering of our everyday idea of ourselves as small, isolated beings struggling against an overwhelming and threatening world. When our Eye of the Heart is awakened we experience Environment-Body-Mind-Spirit as a seamless whole. This Universe-Earth is my greater Body. Twenty-nine year-old John Muir had this revelation on his 1867 Thousand-Mile Walk to the Gulf of Mexico as evidenced by the inscription he put on the inside cover of his journal, “John Muir, Earth-planet, Universe.” From this humbling and empowering realization Muir changed the world by inspiring the international system of national parks and launching the environmental movement.

In sacred space-time the apparent opposites and contradictions of our word-ideas about the world are transcended. We realize that our word-maps that try to describe reality are not the actual non-dual terrain of reality. We upgrade to a "both-and" integral consciousness that can can use "either-or" words without getting ensnared by them. Liberated from such contradiction and conflict we experience the Peace “that surpasses all understanding.” 

Budd Lake and Pass with Cathedral Peak © Bob Hare 2012

Awareness of our participation in the conscious-energy field of Great Mystery is usually blinded by the ordinary dualistic chatter of our self-centered thoughts focused on being right, looking good, getting what I want, and avoiding what I don’t want. But occasionally this self-serving cycle of striving and suffering is stunned by Great Beauty, arrested by Great Suffering, or annihilated by some experience of the Sublime. Our world stops, the doors to our ego-prison are flung open and we find ourselves living in a new Heaven and on a new Earth. The ever-present peace and unity of “Suchness” is revealed as one’s immortal True Face as  Beauty-Love-Awareness. Fleeting time flees to reveal the Eternal Now.

I had such a blessing, an opening of the Eye of the Heart, in September of 2005. I was leaving Yosemite's Budd Lake as dusk was settling in after a full day of soaking in the beauty of the glacial lake basin. I had just crossed Budd Creek on the jumbled logs at the lake outlet and was hurriedly approaching the climb over Budd Lake Pass to my camp at Upper Cathedral Lake.  Suddenly, I was stopped in my tracks by a most unusual sight, really an instantaneous shift in perception. Everything appeared perfect, as if nothing could ever be out of place. As I looked around in amazement and awe in this wordless panoramic awareness every stone, leaf, watercourse, peak, cloud, myself…all things were one living Bodhimandala—One Thing. Not a collection of things knocking about but one integrated alive becoming process. 

Budd Lake subalpine plant mosaic © Bob Hare 2012

I stood there immobilized for what seemed an eternity, as if I had sprouted and grown up as one of the plant people in this intricate subalpine garden. From the beginning my gaze was transfixed on a scrawny three-foot snow-twisted lodgepole pine sapling. This little tree sang such a glory of Being that I welled up and overflowed with love. The humble sapling’s Beauty was a terrible Beauty. It was an overwhelming Radiance I could hardly bear. My only possible response was absolute surrender. But such sweet surrender--trade ignorance for awareness, conflict for harmony, and duality for unity. Without climbing we are on the summit of awareness. You’re already there. No effort. Open heart, vital body, still mind, natural full breath is Heaven come to Earth.

Here is the poem I wrote to try to express in words a wordless experience: 

And this is Always So 

Sunset baptism in Budd Lake
Shivering on with my clothes
Thin air suddenly chilled
Shadowed by Cathedral Peak

Hopping the logs where the lake births the creek

Heading for camp through the scrub willows

Waxing moon hanging above alpenglowing Echo Peaks

Up towards the darkening pass

Suddenly frozen in mid-stride
A scrawny lodgepole pine
Stops this world
And steals my breath

Unspeakably beautiful light illumines the deep shade
The humble tree is lit from within
Every needle and branch strangely precise and perfect
As is everything else I witness all around

Mind suspended feet unseen self forgotten
One with mountain moon and tree
And this is always so
And this is always so

Young Lodgepole Pine at Young Lakes © Bob Hare 2012

Nothing has to do anything to reach perfection. Perfection is and always was and always will be despite appearances. Luminous, crystalline awareness radiates as the essence of all things and all things reside in this sacred perfection of the ever new ever dying now.

By my watch's fleeting time, I was probably seeing with the Eye of the Heart-Soul for no more than fifteen minutes. At some point I looked around at the growing darkness, took a deep breath, and blissfully, but carefully, climbed and descended the pass to my tent. There I was confronted with the down-to-earth problem of finding in the dark the bear-proof food cannister that I'd hidden a bit too well under some not very glorious scrawny lodgepole saplings and then fixing my dinner under the stars.

The next morning I emerged from my tent cocoon into a crystalline world. The frigid fall night had left a delicate hoar frost on the dry grass heads which were glistening in the light of the sun just rising above the pass I had crossed the night before. As I packed out from my last camp of the season to drive to my Central Valley home for the winter, I hiked through a field of a million scintillating gems of irised light. Emeralds, rubies, garnets, amethysts, citrines, and sapphires. I could see the frozen night breath of the still sleeping burrowing animals sparkling with colors around the entrances to their earthy homes. I suddenly knew the meaning of the Navajo Beautyway Chant, “May you walk in Beauty. May you walk in Beauty.”

May you walk in Beauty!
In Peace, Bob Hare

Note: Unless attributed to other sources all text, poems, photographs and artwork in this blog and other blogs entitled "Wilderness Adventures with Bob Hare" are copyrighted © 2012 by Bob Hare. The phrase "Wilderness Adventures with Bob Hare" is a trademark of Bob Hare.