It happens every time, this invitation to wake up.
So, why do I jump back into the swirling river of busyness and the world of thinking, controlling, fixing…the world of trying to get to some impossible state of completion?
Really, why is this such a hard thing to assimilate? I come to Abruzzo. I gravitate to the unspoiled hills and mountains of this raw, breathtaking area. I don my hiking shoes and follow the trek of the shepherds with their flocks up the daunting, rugged hills of the Apennine Mountains. My spirit soars, thanking me that I have finally found a well at which I can drink and restore my soul. Yet, before I know it, I return to well-worn ruts, falling under the spell of pursuing a life of achievement.
I find rest. I begin to remember who I am.
On the mountain, the noise of everyday living and the noise of incessant thinking begin falling away. I watch the shepherds as they navigate the rocky terrain and guide the sheep and goats through pastures of pungent herbs that delight one’s senses with each footfall. The shepherds’ seemingly languid pace, their quiet journey in this expansive, panoramic space, almost devoid of modern man’s presence, beckons, saying, “Come back. Slow down. Live.”
I am here, now.
This beautiful face tells me this. There is no other time or place. Our minds kidnap us and keep us mired in the past or fixated in a state of preparedness for a future that doesn’t yet exist. On the mountain, I watch the endlessly fascinating and alert faces of goats and sheep. They’re here now while I’m struggling to find the way out of the prison of my mind. I envy them. I don’t buy into the beliefs that we humans are someone superior because we have such high levels of cerebral functioning. Maybe the joke is on us. Maybe these animals are dubious of us for good reason. Maybe they wonder why we make life so damn complicated, trying to get to some endlessly unreachable state of accomplishment and fulfillment.
Trust is a precious thing.
When I say that the mountain is my teacher, this is probably its most potent lesson. In the image above, this goat sought out my dear sister, who had accompanied me on this precious experience, and followed her as we progressed up the mountain. This goat also nuzzled me and let me know that she was willing to give me her trust, too. Meanwhile, most of the flock kept a timid distance.
As I contemplate these images, I ponder the possibility that a close cousin to trust might be surrender. I’m not so adept at letting go and letting the river take me. I’m all too often convinced that no one else is looking out for me so I’d better take it ALL on my self. I decide to hop into the director’s chair at control central and work furiously to make sure everything works out to my preconceived ideas of successful living. My God, that’s exhausting.
Might surrender paradoxically be the state that opens the gates of possibility?
I will keep returning.
Literally and metaphorically. I look forward to my next day on the mountain with the shepherds from La Porta dei Parchi, just above Anversa in Abruzzo. On this particular trip, I led a small group (under the watchful eyes of a mountain guide and two shepherds) up to views that can stun one’s mind into silence and to a profound absence of the noise of everyday life. We were there for two hours. When we descended the mountain for a cheese tasting and a scrumptious lunch, I did so with a bit of sadness. I wanted to rest my soul on that mountain. I wanted the vast unknown to restore a stronger sense of internal equilibrium.
Then, I remembered, I don’t have to physically stand in such a place to find internal rest. I can close my eyes. I can remember the sheep, the goats, the kind shepherds, and the unspoiled nature that is always ready to wrap its arms around me and lead me back home to my deepest, truest self.
If you’ve enjoyed this post, I invite you to see my previous posts about La Porta dei Parchi and my journey with the shepherds.