I have just returned from one night in the mountains, a short drive from Calgary. Leaving a city under construction was a relief, even if it is for one night. I am curious about being deeply immersed in nature as I spend much of the year indoors due to cold weather- winter sometimes arrives in September with a heavy snowfall.
I am traveling with friend who is deeply spiritual and when we hike together our conversations fall on deep matters of the heart and spirit, sharing our appreciation for the remarkable beauty of alpine wildflowers. Often the symbolism of the lands bounty strikes both of us as spiritual lessons. For example, while walking on a horse trail with copious amounts of manure, we observed beautiful mushrooms growing from the fibrous mass. I shared that when living in BC in the fertile lands of the Fraser river where copious amounts of mushroom growers operated, the air stank of manure as this was the ground out of which these fun guys emerged. Out of the debris arises nourishment, when it is released and let go of. Nature uses everything to create where nothing is wasted, not even the animal excrement or the dead, fallen trees offering host to a multitude of organisms. I thought of the first law of thermodynamics, where energy cannot be created or destroyed, just as we witnessed in her magnificent forests, renewed after a cold winter into abundant and diverse flora and fauna.
The next day our plans to hike Powderface, a popular ridge hike with breath taking views, morphed into an adventure into the woods on a logging road. I misread the signs, looking for a hidden trailhead. Instead we discovered beautiful brooks and wildflower meadows in the quiet of the mountains as the rest of the hikers out that day were on the marked trail. We did not waste our energy bemoaning the error and instead transformed it into an adventure open to flowing with what was given, appreciating its remarkable beauty.
While on this adventure of sudden twists and turns organically unfolding, I ventured down into a valley where I could see a small waterfall. Curious I followed a trail that delivered me to the top of the falls. I basked in the glory of rushing water, jewelled glittering light reflected off the rapid waters. On the other side below the falls was a quiet pool with a small beach. To get there I needed to leap across the small chasm over the fall to get to the other side.
Suddenly fearful thoughts arose with the imagined scenarios of falling down the waterfall, breaking bones, and on and on it went! So the mind schemed, well I will retrace my steps to a stone bridge further back and cross over safely. My mind sped up with all these thoughts when suddenly the mind stopped, a chasm of quiet relief, and I leapt across effortlessly. It was a victory over the imagined broken bones, taking me to the other side where the land opened, and a safe haven where a quiet reflective pool awaited.
My spiritual friend shared a Buddhist practice, offering our waste, urine and feces, making them offerings to the elemental nature spirits, transforming them into jewels of blue, green and red. I thought this is what spiritual practice is, transforming the straw and waste into gold. I in that moment had transformed the low vibration of fear, into the higher vibration of courage, while leaping into mid air with no ground beneath me.
You can practice this in your own life as a student and city dweller. Get out into nature, change up your environment to challenge you in different ways, set up goals that are uncomfortable, i.e. that help you step out of your comfort zone. Find ways to transform fear, anger, frustration by bringing the opposite emotion in the moment, such as courage, peace, love. This will lift and transform the weighty and smelly debris into glittering jewels, rich with new life.