One morning just before dawn, wrapped in a bed sheet, I climbed onto the roof to watch the sunrise. I was looking for a spiritual practice; I was looking for “connection.” I’d been reading about all sorts of mystical traditions and trying to find something that “felt right.” I was an idealistic 12-year-old spending the summer in San Antonio Texas visiting my mother and her husband. I sat on the roof in near darkness and waited. Soon the sun peaked over the horizon. The air was already warm, and there was a slight breeze.
That was not the first time, and certainly wouldn’t be the last, that I went searching for the elusive “spiritual connection.” It’s much like someone searching for their glasses, and realizing they are perched on their head. The connection is closer than your nose, but how often do you notice it without a mirror? I was fortunate to grow up in what was then a somewhat remote area in Alaska. My mother and father parked their airstream trailer atop a forested hill overlooking an expansive lake. My father was an engineer, and he moved to Alaska to be “away from people,” and to take a job with the state highway department. Not so my gregarious, misplaced mother. We had no running water or electricity until I was 7. My mom had left us before I turned 8, overwhelmed with the isolation. I was suddenly in an ever quieter world than before. My father was ill-equipped to provide emotional support to a young girl child. I felt wretched and shell-shocked.
My days were spent in the woods, hour upon hour. I didn’t carry a backpack with snacks, which would have been a fabulous idea; I drank from streams and ate berries. The thing is, I was “connected” despite being alone. I couldn’t have expressed that then, of course, but I could feel it. I was so tuned into the weather, the time of day, and the animals that I was a part of everything without the thought “I am a part of everything.” I say I was fortunate because meditation isn’t something we do, it’s a state of being at rest, not-doing. It is part of our very fabric. It is connection.
Stillness is a big part of who I am. I once stood stock-still for over an hour in a thick patch of trees in a swampy area just before dusk. I was watching a muskrat dive into the water and work on his nest. He was very close, and I was fascinated. At first I wondered if maybe it was a beaver, but realized its tail wasn’t quite right. I came away with nearly 100 mosquito bites, but I felt incredibly alive! My affinity for the wilderness and stillness has instilled in me a kind of radar for what is real.
Spiritual practice is about connection, or you could use the word alignment. It’s about becoming a conduit, a vessel through which consciousness moves. For me, being in the woods was that practice. I was part of all that is. The “me” disappeared. So when I climbed onto the roof in Texas I was looking for ‘something to happen’ based on some book I had read. I was idealizing a romantic notion, overlooking what was already there.
If you want peace and connection, first look at what comes naturally to you. Look to what calms you and brings you joy. It could be knitting, swimming, horses or underwater basket-weaving. If you become so engrossed that you lose the sense of “I,” it’s a good place to start.
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