Saturday, August 29, 2009

Life Hike

“Me thinks that the moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow.”Henry David Thoreau


I love to hike. Each is different yet familiar. However, I believe that whatever you look at long enough, a message breaks through beyond the obvious. Often it’s because things are familiar, we really never get to know them. There exists a deeper reality beyond the reality we see. He who is unseen enables us to connect with a deeper reality on an ever-deepening level and ultimately with all that is, with all creation.

“Generally, the familiar, precisely because it is familiar, it is unknown,” Hagel writes. I felt a certain sadness when I first read that quotation. How often do we take what is familiar for granted? When we take something for granted we do not show it much respect, reverence. It appears to have no value for us.

This taken-for-granted attitude deprives us of the wonder-fullness of all that is, in our everyday life. I believe what St. Francis says, “there is nothing profane for him/her who knows how to see.” Gerald Manley Hopkins expresses this so well when he tells us that all of creation is charged with the grandeur of God. More than 60 million people hike in America. This multitude immerse themselves in the grandeur of the cathedral we call the great outdoors. With what result?

Speaking for myself, there have been very few times I have come off a hike without being in some way changed. When I encounter another part of creation, something is different. Creation meets creation in this encounter. The presence of the Creator dwelling within each of us reaches out and connects in a mysterious way. This encounter always leaves us aware there is something more in us and we want to connect with it. This “something more,” this Other, cannot be explained, defined or communicated with through the medium of words. Words are limited. What we want to communicate is our encounter with mystery. We can never understand or explain mystery neither can we ever exhaust its meaning. All we can do is have reverence. In the reverencing, we allow mystery to speak to us. It speaks, speaks, speaks and never exhausts itself.

With no offense to M. Scott Peck, life is not a road to be travelled, rather it is a hike to be taken. With each part of a hike completed, I become more aware of the deep connection between what I have just experienced and my ongoing understanding of the spiritual life. When you hike a trail, it offers many twists and turns. It will have ups and downs. On the trail, you will meet all sorts of stones. Some are little, some are big – we call those rocks. Some are flat and a comfort to your feet. Others are sharp and pointy, they threaten the comfort of your feet. These latter ones awaken you to the need to be more careful, more particular about where you step. Some of the larger rocks must be navigated either up or over or around with care. You are always making a decision about which is the right way to go. Which is the way that is not too risky or too dangerous? A decision is made with each step we take. Which is the way that is healthy and good for us? A spiritual life is ever and always about the present. It does not matter what has happened in the past. It is over. What does matter is how we attend to now. That is why there is that great similarity between hiking and a spiritual life. In both, all we have is this moment, this step. There is no other way to make progress along the trail, except through taking this one step. In the spiritual journey, all we have is the here and now. There is NO other way of meeting God, of encountering the mystery, except by our attention to the right now.

The dreamer’s journey continues…