We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake, not by mechanical aids, but by an infinite expectation of the dawn, which does not forsake us even in our soundest sleep. I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by a conscious endeavour. It is something to be able to paint a particular picture, or to carve a statue, and so to make a few objects beautiful; but it is far more glorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look, which morally we can do. To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts.
~ Henry David Thoreau
I can’t believe how quickly this summer has gone. I hope everyone has had a great summer so far. I am just back from a wonderful August long weekend camping trip in Banff, Alberta. My good friends Ed and Sarah invited me to join them and a few others at Two Jack Lakeside campground just outside of Banff. I was very excited for this trip as it has been several years since I last “roughed” it in the woods! Apparently, our campsites were highly sought after; my friends had to book them back in April through a competitive on-line registration process. I can understand why. Our sites were nestled in right next to the shoreline. I was happy to meet some new friends and also re-connect with an old classmate of mine from law school I haven’t seen in years. It was a weekend full of reflection – of the past and of the present moment. Indeed, you could say it was a weekend of true mindful living amidst the beauty and wonder of the airscape, waterscape, mountainscape, and soundscape inherent in the Rockies.
I took a great number of photos this weekend as the weather could not have been better – 30 degrees and sunny for three whole days! I’ve included some of my favorite shots from this weekend at Two Jack Lake, Banff (tea house hike at Lake Louise), and the Canmore Folk Festival (which no doubt could legitimately comprise the subject matter of a separate post).
I realized this weekend just how much I miss hiking in the mountains. Having been in private practice the last 5 years, I haven’t really had the chance to do a lot of camping, much less hiking. At this juncture in my journey of mindfulness, I have come to appreciate how hiking is a wonderful activity that at once embodies the key principles of mindfulness – an acute awareness of one’s natural surroundings; a focused attention on one’s gait or stride and the breath; and an intention to “drop in” on oneself through the simple act of walking silently in nature. Getting to the top of the tea house hike was not the highlight for me; it was the little “mindful” rest stops we made along the way that enriched the experience – stopping to listen to the sound of a mini-avalanche in the distance, for example; or dunking our hats into the ice cold water to refresh our batteries; or stopping to debate what type of flora was growing out of the jagged mountain rocks. These are just some of the precious moments of mindfulness that reminded me of how truly inter-connected we are with our earthly surroundings. Surroundings that sustain, enrich, and bring wonder to our lives. In these moments, I also reflected on how my parents’ love of nature and the mountains was passed on to my brothers and I at a very young age. We are very much extensions of our parents and our ancestors. Each and every one of us. Thich Nhat Hanh teaches us this basic truth.
In addition to the hike at Lake Louise, I must profess I experienced a profound sense of calm and inner peace carrying out my yoga practice at 6am as the sun rose over the lake and mountains. I’ve stated before that yoga is, in essence, a meditation. That notion resonated with me because I observed this weekend that my body was not just capable of sustaining certain poses for longer periods of time; but, my mind yearned for the opportunity to engage in these ancient poses as the sun awoke to greet the world. This, for me, is the stuff of wonder, of epiphany. I continue to be deeply moved, humbled, and enlightened as I walk this beautiful journey in mindfulness.
May you continue to be awakened day by day through the miracles of mindfulness. May you be touched by the wonder and beauty of the airscape, the soundscape, and the landscapes which surround you in this and only this moment – the one moment that is and always has been.
The highest in me honours the highest in you, always.