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Finding Zen

 article about Finding Zen
                               

 

     All week I look out paned glass windows.  A prisoner to cubical shaped hours, endless mazes leading here and there- always on a predetermined schedule booked months in advance. Time is money-money is time. It is from this endless haze of coming and going that I long for the solitude of the Chugiak Mountains, which present themselves, almost within reach it seems, through the barriers of school, work, and day- to- day life in the city. Lush mountaintops stand majestically above the drone of thousands, project a yearning to my soul unspoken.  I am trapped in a catacomb of self-expectation. I am ensnared in the urgency that the city places upon its occupants, the urgency to be and to do everything in the mere twenty -four hours that is comes with each rising sun.

 

Everyday the world changes a little bit more. What I had planned for myself only yesterday seems outdated today. Each day I try to pack twenty-six solid hours of activity into a twenty-four hour day. There is never enough time. Everyday seems as if life is a circusm and I am the juggler. I add one thing after another in the name of accomplishment, telling myself there will be time to relax later. Appointments, meetings, Lets do lunch, all swirl together in rapid succession, sending my mind reeling with the never ending problems of time management dilemmas, always eating up any spare second I might possibly have. Every day I fall a little more behind. Days fly by as if they are minutes, leaving me to scramble for the bits of time here and there completely my own.

 

 My life rotates at a mind-bending speed until I am hanging on to dear life by the small crescents of what is left of my thumbnails. Constantly racing, trying to keep up with the pace that society has set, always on the edge of falling into the oblivion of life with one small breeze. A hamster on speed, gathering momentum adding one thing after another knowing that any minute I could drop one thing, upsetting the delicate timing that Ive honed to be as precise as a stiletto.

 

I long to be separate from this life, to be above it all. In a rare moment of spare time, I am able to close my eyes, only for a moments time. Daydreaming, drifting into a valley that calls my name and stirs my soul. It is here that my spirit flies, and I am able to find myself once again. In this stolen solitude, I began to picture myself on the serene alpine terrain of Arctic valley, a place where I can retreat into myself, no cells phones blasting in my ear, no deadlines to make, no one to talk to. Just me, separate, uninhibited, ready to go wherever my spirit and Mazda truck take me -- a place outside my scheduled agenda.

 

It is time. I can no longer live with the compression that responsibility has laid on my soul. Escape, it is time to break free from the routine that binds me to this self-styled servitude. No longer can I stand to see paradise though hazy squares of glass. I crave a freedom that cannot be bought, sold or traded with mere mortal coinage. My longing can no longer be contained as I travel past jobs, past the university, past the traffic light out of Anchorage. Strip malls and convenience stores all become flashes of vivid color in my rear view mirror. Anxiety ebbs into harmony with every rotation of my tires. As I reach my destination, I feel the stale air of contagious capitalism fade from my consciousness, replenishing itself with the fresh air of freedom. I park my truck.

 

It is on that sun-kissed emerald ground that I point my face to the sun and forget all existence of life below the mountain. Rapture. At last I am away from the drone of traffic, the sadness of the homeless, and the bitterness of the masses.   A fire- contact - instant euphoria. Languorously I begin to rise. I am no longer earthbound to my everyday troubles. I have become above it all. My mind is clear. My eyes are focused. A Tool song plays somewhere in the back of my mind -- a haunting base riff gives my feet cadence as I pick up my pack and begin to hike. The realization that up here I am no longer prey to the demands of society soothes my psyche; an irrepressible sigh emerges from my entire being-relaxation at last. 

 

Through an eagle's eye I stare into the abyss of a deep blue sky. I am transported to a higher state of being with every passing moment. A gentle kiss from the west wind directs my feet where to journey. I have no destination in mind. I never do up here. My feet follow a path of their own; slowly I begin to drift from the well-worn trail that I have used to get this far in my journey. My eyes scan the horizon for the path of least resistance. I long to slip naked into the balmy atmosphere. enveloped by the tranquil blanket of mother earth. I pick up a rock and examine the intricate detail that a power greater than myself has created. I am mystified at the delicate curves painted a radiant white against a backdrop of granite-like grayness. In that one moment I hold hundreds of years in the palm of my hand.  I am immortal.

 

 Up here- on this mountain I am free. Free to roam.  A warrior spirit caresses my soul with a southbound breeze. I long for the celestial beat of my Choctaw ancestors. I ache for the freedom to wander the plains, unrestrained and wild. My mind wonders in speculation of ancient times and past lives. In my mind's eye I can almost see the tribes hunting, happy, and connected to their surroundings, giving thanks for the bounty that the earth has provided. 

 

I daydream of cultures and traditions that have disappeared like sand in a storm, victims of a plastic world called progress, the world that took over and turned them towards the Trail of Tears.  I mourn the modern constraints that have caused humankind to forever be separate from nature, never fully understanding the endurance that is shown to our species nor the lack of respect that we give in return.

 

Ground squirrels give Morse code as I step past their complex underground community. I try to imagine what could turn such a heated discussion in the land of the underground squirrels. Perhaps they are talking about the monstrous creature that just stepped past a neighbors den. Perhaps they are planning a small revolution to run off all humans. A chirp to my left gets response from a location somewhere to my right. Chirps fly past me in supersonic speed; I am completely surrounded by an unseen symphony.

 

It is a perfect day for flying. Overhead the twin engines of a Cessna blend a perfunctory contribution into the merger of mechanical and animal. That shrill whine is a reminder that I will never truly be separated from the world below, a reminder that the moments that I am one with nature are precious. 

 

My mind is no longer connected to my feet. I have paid no attention to where the minutes have taken me. I need water. I sit on the cool soft tundra, springy beneath my bottom. I lean back, head on my pack, staring at the sky. My eyes close, and I tune in to the silence around me. I melt a little further into the embrace of sun and ground. I set in motion thoughts awash in an unmarked radiance. Floral infused air whispers soft longing into my ears with the passion of a lonely lover. Another breeze comes and caresses every secret place that is me. In ecstasy I become one with nature, uninhibited from my hiding place beyond society alone to do as I please and for the moment no longer separate from nature.

Suddenly I am plunged back into myself. Out of my daydream and back to reality. I sit up and search the valley below. Hikers, at least five or more, are heading in my direction. Society has found my hiding place; I begin my descent to my truck. I fill with dread with every step towards descent, because with every step I am closer to looking at my freedom out windows and through headlights once again. With every step I am closer to being prey to my own life. A link in the food chain of society, constantly fearing the possibility of being consumed by my own self-imposed needs that at one time I could live without. From time to time, I take a small moment to remember that life, the life without deadlines, appointments, and unending responsibilities, constantly wondering where it is all going to take me and forever asking the age-old questions, why am I here, what is my purpose?  I arrive at the end of the trail 

 

            I am grateful for the day. My eyes scan the mountainside from left to right, attempting to relish every image, to file them all away for later use. In living color my mind's eye snaps thousands of pictures as I attempt to capture the beauty of the mountain. I am trying to covet a small space for myself, a place where I can go when I can longer accept the feeling of being separate from nature, a space where I can travel on sheer concentration alone.

 

             As I reach my truck, I begin to feel the rejuvenation that nature has bestowed on me. I am relieved of the tension of everyday life that has stored up throughout the week - I am relaxed. I stare at the mountain in a moment of silence giving thanks for another afternoon of hiding me away from it all

 

Who will tell whether one happy moment of love or the joy of breathing or walking on a bright morning and smelling the fresh air, is not worth all the suffering and effort which life implies...                 --Erich Fromm

 

                                             The End

 

                                          



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