The Mountain is My Teacher

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.

Reflective © Jed Smith

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 © Jed Smith

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 © Jed Smith

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?


Responsibility © Jed Smith

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.

La Transumanza – Take the Shepherd’s Journey

In the Face of a Sheep

My Day with Shepherds in Abruzzo





By |2019-09-04T22:09:39+02:00September 4th, 2019|Abruzzo, Black & White, Personal musings|8 Comments

About the Author:

I’m an American expat living in Italy!


  1. lynn cureton February 21, 2020 at 6:40 pm - Reply

    Oh Jed, how beautiful! We should all be so fortunate to have these wonderful experiences you write about!!! Keep inspiring me!

    • Jed February 21, 2020 at 7:37 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Lynn! I’ll keep doing my best. I hope all is well! xoxox Jed

  2. Kevin September 5, 2019 at 8:48 pm - Reply

    Thoroughly enjoyed it Jed…sounds like heaven on earth. Also, laughed at the joke is on us comment…I’ve often thought that about animals…and even other people that are laid back, low stress and not in a hurry to get anywhere. We gotta get back to the hustle…later! 🙂

    • Jed September 6, 2019 at 11:49 pm - Reply

      I’m glad you enjoyed, Kevin! I’m gravitating towards throttling down, more and more. I’m glad I have some furry friends to help guide me.

  3. Michele September 5, 2019 at 4:48 pm - Reply

    Your experience with the mountain and nature felt to me like a forming of a guided meditation. A safe place that you can always go back to in your mind to bring you serenity. Last evening was the first night of a 5 part workshop I am attending Experiential Exercise and Guided Meditation.
    We will be discussing and experiencing together the concepts of:
    The Art of Deep Listening
    The Science of Reality Creation- The Double Split and The Entanglement Theory- harness how you can use these quantum theories every day in your life. We are nonlocal and create our own and the collective’s experiences, breath by breath, in each heartbeat.
    The Death of the Identified Self- our addiction to Story- Finding Freedom in our Formlessness- our True Nature
    Reality Creation; Creating from No- thing
    Collective Reality Creation: Creating from Everything. I do not at this time understand everything we will be experiencing but all I know the first night I wanted to run away but at the end I did not want to go home,.It was that transforming.
    I have also started to learn YIN yoga which is very restorative and healing.
    Just thought I would share since you have shared so much about your self and your journey.
    Warm Regards,

    • Jed September 6, 2019 at 11:54 pm - Reply

      Thank you, Michele, for the incredibly thoughtful reply. The world around us invites into meditation in so many different ways. Sometimes, the most powerful mediations don’t involve a cushion. The workshop you’re attending sounds awesome. I especially harken to “The Art of Deep Listening.” Oh, to be in an open and receptive mode instead constantly doing battle with my own thoughts. “The Death of the Identified Self” also intrigues me, as does the shedding away of old, sick skins. I so appreciate you sharing about your experience. I hope it all goes well!

  4. Sue September 5, 2019 at 3:50 pm - Reply

    Jed………written from your soul. Perfection.

    • Jed September 6, 2019 at 11:50 pm - Reply

      Grazie mille, Sue!

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