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alone on a moutain top black and white with taglineBuddha stated “you cannot travel the path until you become the path itself.”

These thoughts from Buddha were in my mind a few weeks ago. I felt in a rut, restless, and a busy mind as if life was winning. I felt defeated in many ways, I was resisting and I was tired. I’ve always found solace traveling, typically by myself, and driving for long periods of time. I enjoy the simplicity of driving, one singular action, a physical mantra that allows the non action part of my brain to dream, to explore, to sort things out. When we are in the middle of the forest and consumed by the busyness of life our subconscious aches to get out, to resolve the challenges we face. Driving is my cathartic action to purge this suffering that had crept within me, this clinging to past people and events and any hopes for the future. Driving and traveling force me to be in the present, like a curious child where everything is new.

For two weeks I drove over 4000 miles with no itinerary. I drove when I felt like it, I ate when I needed to and slept when I was tired, just like the Zen proverb ‘when hungry eat, when tired sleep.’ On some days I drove for over 12 hours at a time, and on other days I stopped and visited family or explored. I hiked into canyons, and immersed myself in nature’s museum where the silence and magnitude of beauty ignited pure happiness. The kind of happiness you don’t think about, it rises from the depths of your soul and you find yourself smiling, smiling because you are a witness to the grace and beauty of the universe, to that of some greater power beyond yourself, beyond those superficial concerns that held you so tightly before. It is here, in this classroom of the universe that I learn so much. It is here that I see the beauty in every moment, that my concerns and frustrations in life are self-induced, illusions of suffering that I’m clinging to in the midst of such wonder and beauty around me. For two weeks I experienced…

  • Exploring life with a close family member, taking each day as an adventure with no plans, just a commitment to exploring and fun. I met amazing people and laughed….really laughed. Life is filled with laughter if you are open to it.
  • An initial awe in seeing the Arizona fires from the freeway where I looked in wonder at the raging flames, in their sheer power and glowing lights only to hear moments later they had just taken the lives of 19 fireman. I saw a veil of sadness cover Sedona, a black haze, that clung to the landscape reminding me of how precious life was in every moment.
  • I hiked into a remote canyon in Sedona, a vortex of energy that you can feel in every step. I had left the car this day tired, tense and hot. I couldn’t shake the haze within myself or the haze from the fire. I stopped in the hike and closed my eyes on top of a boulder. I needed to reconnect with nature, with the universe, with the root of my inner being. I breathed, and cleared my mind. The noise in my mind stopped, and the wind answered me, announcing its presence. The dark clouds followed as if on cue to purge my sadness and the sadness of the lost lives. I opened my eyes and found a hummingbird next to me, the whir of its wings loud and intentionally sucking the nectar out of a flower. A row of ants marched next to me bringing life back to their home. I looked through the trees and saw two deer staring at me, not frightened but curious, wanting to know more. I felt alive again, refreshed, connected. I hiked back in a thunder and lightning storm, the booms and flashes danced above me as the rain washed away the sadness and clinging I was carrying on my bare back. I was reminded that I was that deer, and hummingbird, and flash of lightning, I was all of it. We are one in this symphony of life and death, a cycle of connectedness. The only moment we have is right now.
  • I slept in my car and bathed in rivers. I met people with the curiosity of a newborn seeing them for the first time. I hiked under nature’s arches and canyon lands. I found the joy in the simplest things, a glass of cold water after a long hike, the surprise of seeing something unexpected, the laugh of a child. I watched and listened, not as an observer but as a participant in my own play, the creator of my own existence. In suffering I’m not a participant I’m an observer, looking at my life as a victim with no responsibility for my own creation. In the shadow of the moon and the stars I could no longer make this claim, it was clear that my life was a reflection of my own context and creation. I had no where else to look but in the mirror.
  • I traveled north of San Francisco and went to sleep with the sunset over the ocean, and woke to a bed of fog. I met a new friend, connected long ago but never met in person, had an amazing conversation and became clear that our connections in life are intentional. There is a reason why people are in our lives. His kindness amazed me as he offered me his open apartment to stay for a night, even though he just met me. I trained in martial arts with a new club, they opened their arms to me and again I was reminded of the power of the human heart. I realized that life happens and it is through our lens in life, our view in how we perceive it. I saw kindness and love. This was the world that I was seeing.
  • I traveled north to Mt. Shasta. I wanted to climb a mountain on my birthday. A solo, single day climb, a final purge of my attachment, a final cleanse in connecting to all that is in this universe. I left at 9 pm at night as I was told it would be 12 hours to the summit and another 6-7 hours down. I hiked for 3-4 miles in the dark of night, and the trail became faint and steep. It was clear that I was not on the trail any longer. In the darkness of the mountain I could only see 20 feet or so in front of me with my headlight. Initially I was frustrated and wondering what to do as I was by myself. Instead I took out my sleeping bag in my pack and sat on a flat rock. I turned off my headlight and sat in the grandness of the moment. I was sitting around 8000 feet on a mountain, far from any city, darkness consumed me, yet above was the glory of the universe spread out like I had never seen before. The milky way twisted above wrapping the billions of stars in a comforting blanket. I was a speck in the vastness of life itself. A drop from a vast ocean of love. If I hadn’t become lost, I would have missed this moment having been intent on my next step up the mountain, just as in life itself. Yet, in stopping and turning my light off, I saw it all. I sat for an hour breathing in this moment until I saw four headlights come up the trail. I quickly packed and joined my new group and off we went up the mountain. Many hours later and high up the mountain I saw the break of the sun, a long orange curve far off on the horizon. A beautiful red and orange slice of light breaking the extreme darkness, like a drop of water to a man in the desert. I kept going, hour after hour up that hill until finally I sat on top and looked down to the valley below, thousands upon thousands of feet below. In announcing I was on top of the mountain a friend posted, TC 1…Mt. Shasta zero. I smiled in this thought. Sir Edmund Hillary stated ‘it is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.’ I did not conquer a mountain that day, in fact I am still dealing with messed up feet having paid my price for a 19 hour hike. What I did conquer or come to the realization of was that I myself control my life. I myself can accomplish anything, through any pain or suffering, as I just need to keep moving forward, keep stepping, keep breathing. This is life isn’t it? Life brings whatever it brings to us, and removing our reminiscing of the past and our hope of some expected future, we realize life is beautiful right now. When we turn off our headlight, and sit on a rock we see the grandiose of life itself. It is there in front of us, it is created by each and every one of us. Life can be angry and cruel or it can be filled with love and beauty, it is all in our context. It is all created by us. We alone are responsible.

As Buddha stated we cannot travel the path until we become the path itself. I set out on this trip to find something only to realize my path is within me and I am already on it. The path is beautiful, it is filled with love and compassion and happiness. It is all right in front of me. All I need is presence and curiosity and a willingness to be in these moments.

A Zen proverb states that when you get to the top of the mountain to keep climbing. This is life. One step, one breath, always moving forward. In every moment I have gratitude and I am blessed for this experience, for this lifetime.

Keep climbing…..

Namaste and blessings…

Call to Action:

  • Stop looking for ‘the path’ and become your path. Everything you need, everything you want is right in front of you.
  • Be curious in the present, live like a child. Everyone is a teacher and a student at all times.
  • Create your world, only you are responsible, there is no where else to look.
  • Be LOVE.

Thomas D. Craig

Author of A Cup of Buddha

Writer. Seeker. Adventurer. Warrior