Up at Jackson Hole last week on our (almost) one year wedding anniversary, the clear skies and arid climate cleared my mind. Sleeping and waking where the rugged youthful mountains tower 14,000 feet into the pristine air miles away, bring clarity and brightness. No space for wavering or worry here. At dawn the Pleiades sparkled and Orion held fast in the velvety sky. When the first light broke over the range to the East, the outline glowed blue. On the first evening a moose and her baby nibbled at the Aspen leaves a few feet from the road we walked. Their chocolaty fur and graceful, slow movements gave them an aura of contentment and beauty. A boat ride away over Jenny Lake and up the trails into Cascade Canyon we found another moose lying in the tall grass. Some unaware hikers stood twenty feet away. How many animals remained so close, yet just beyond our perception? The gurgling, steaming geysers of Yellowstone gave the impression of walking on the moon and signs warned that stepping off the board walk might mean melted boots. If the acidic water could eat through stone and the earth’s curst, I guess rubber soles wouldn’t put up much resistance either. Elk screeched their rutting cry and tons of bison stood heavily at the roadside grazing. Being in the beauty and grandeur of this frontier landscape gave me greater respect for the Native Americans who shared this space with them. Nature’s inspirations fill up the empty well.
In the midst of the calm where a rhythm of nature prevails and fewer people gathered, my mind enjoyed the silence of the mountains. There’s a lack of mental and physical noise that melts away the inner chatter and makes me receptive to simply listening to the inner calm. I fall into harmony with the natural world. Sometimes the best way to foster writing is to stop the inner flow of words and become hollow like a flute. Walks in nature do it for me. But what happens when I’m stuck on a plane or in a meeting and need a sense of sacred space? Reverend Sally Johnston, who I interviewed this week for an article on Words of Power suggested a “non-thought filled prayer” as a way to quiet the mind. We think of prayer as asking for things, but in this practice a single sacred word of your choice remains the focus. The word like peace, thank you, love, Jesus or Abba, acts as an anchor to keep the mind fixed and rested on it. Instead of saying “stop thinking, stop the rush of inner chatter,” during a meditation or a moment of anxiety, the sacred word acts as a focal point to soothe and ease the weary, frazzled mind. At Buddhist retreats, teachers use the expression of “bringing the mind home.” The repetition of a single sacred word does this well. It’s a good practice that I use when I can’t get on a mountain or into a forest or field.
Copyright: Debra Moffitt, 2008 www.debramoffitt.com