Looking Up Hill

We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.
Jawaharial Nehru

On the Friday following Thanksgiving, my girlfriend and I decided to go on a hike as a way to escape the crowds of consumers that would flooding the city streets for the biggest and best holiday deals. This is definitely one of the pitfalls of a consumerist society. I had heard of a trail many years ago in the foothills of Santa Barbara, that was known for it’s waterfall on the way up. Although I had my doubts that water would actually falling, we went anyway. When we finally reached the location of the waterfall, my speculation was correct — it was all dried up. It was a beautiful day out and we were officially in vacation mode, so we continued hiking anyway. With eyes locked up the mountain, we  continued walking. About an hour later  it was getting to be about lunch time, so we decided to turn around and head back to the car.


At this point the trail was a bit narrow and the rocks we were standing on were like loose gravel. I took my time to turn while watching my footsteps. Upon lifting my head, I became frozen with my jaw dropped to the floor, staring at one of the most beautiful landscapes I had ever seen. The mountain to the left and the mountain to the right converged to form a perfect valley. Beyond the valley was the ocean — crystal clear with an alluring tint of turquoise. Sailing in the waters were at least ten boats and beyond them, an island making the setting nothing short of a masterpiece. I was completely lost for words.


I have always read about the experience of having the self dissolve away in the presence of pure beauty. But I had never really experienced it until now. Unfortunately, it didn’t last long. I was quickly pulled out of my ego-less bliss, with a thought. Damn the mind.  “How did I not notice this before?” I wondered. For the past two hours I had been marching up hill. For the past two hours, serenity had been staring at me straight in the back. The answer was pretty obvious. I had unconsciously become too preoccupied with what was next. Although I live a spiritual life and do my best to be present in every moment, sometimes I forget. Sometimes I get caught off guard. But it is in this state forgetfulness that we have the opportunity to awake.


It is so important that we let these moments of forgetfulness, when we are looking too far up hill,  be a reminder of what is actually important. More frequently we must stop and smell the roses. Appreciate the warmth of the sun. Give and receive a smile. Cherish those we love. We must remind ourselves regularly to slow down. And even turn around every once in awhile.

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