Out in the woods yesterday,
I was reminded, once again,
about how nature remedies the ills
of what it means to be human.
It holds us in its breath,
its stillness, its offering of life,
its ability to let go.
Submerged amid rock formations, waters,
sage fields, trees, and sky,
I knew, without a sliver of doubt,
that the beauty of this world, our land and our people,
far outweighs what needs fixing.
Today I went on an impromptu solo excursion to Redsun Labyrinth. Located about 40 miles from town in the Bitterroot Mountains the labyrinth sits on private land and is simply beautiful. It is easy to find and lovingly maintained. Luckily there are easy to follow signs guiding and welcoming you along the way to the labyrinth because with it inhabiting private land it’s a bit counterintuitive to simply park in a stranger’s driveway and walk in through their front gate past their house and over their lawn (which is what you have to do). The fact that the labyrinth is open to the public, sits on privately owned land, and simply operates on general trust and donations is pretty spectacular.
Tomorrow night is the start of our local bi-annual Open Way Sanghas mindfulness retreat in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh. Dharma teacher Michael Ciborski is our visiting teacher who will be leading the retreat. He has been leading retreats here in Montana once a year for the last few years. And this year for the first time he ventured here with his wife Fern and their youngest child Fiana who is two-years old.
To offer a wonderful practice opportunity to the greater Missoula community I helped put together a public talk tonight entitled: Nourishing the Scared in Each Other where Michael spoke on the topics of mindfulness, deep breathing, and coming back home to the present moment. It was a beautiful spring evening here in the mountains, the sky was a crisp blue and the sun shone down into the valley with radiance and delicate warmth. Here in the rocky mountains of western Montana, where the chill of winter’s embrace dog ear’s more calendar months than it skips, it can often be difficult to wrangle people indoors when the sun starts to color in the landscape. But tonight we managed to fill a room in the Continuing Education Building on the campus of the University of Montana with 50 people – and considering we were up against the International Wildlife Film Festival I think we had a great sized crowd.
Michael opened up the talk guiding us in some breathing exercises and then went on to speak about how our breath can put us in touch with what’s actually happening in the here and now (as opposed to getting carried away by our stories or worries…). He said that it’s important to develop a strong muscle of returning home, by which he is referring to the present moment. Our true home is in the present moment, it is the only moment where we are truly alive! We cannot reside in the past, for it has already happened, and we cannot reside in the future, for it has not yet come to be. Right here and right now, this is it!
He spoke about a three-point system (so to speak):
Stop – Connect – Engage
To stop means to stop running, stop worrying, stop the anxiety, sorrow, fear and other strong habit energies that inhibit our ability to come home to ourselves in the present moment and serve no skillful means on the path of transformation. To connect means to become one with. And to engage is to embrace and love deeply.
I wrote down a quote from Michael as he was talking that I really appreciated:
“We have tremendous power in the little moments of our life.”
This insight needs to be more than an intellectual comprehension. This teaching is a deep, rich, and beautiful practice that we need to put into action as a collective community in order to foster our connection to ourselves, our environment, and one another. Indeed it is only in the small moments of life that transformation is possible. With mindfulness, every act we do is an opportunity to come back home.