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Bill & Tessa in snow (7)
Temperatures have dropped to single digits and 18-mph winds have blown the snow off the trees.

The header photo is the snow storm on our road as I write this post.  It dumped another ten inches on us.

The night before last it snowed four inches.  But it mostly melted down on the mesa, which is about a thousand feet lower than our place.

It’s why Tessa and I hiked the mesa earlier today.  It’s a special place to empty the mind.

 

The Peace Beyond All Understanding

Our senses give us one sort of awareness. We call it “sentient” consciousness.

But we are also aware of all things around us in a far deeper way.

It is the sort of awareness we have when we are in dreamless sleep.

If an infant cries during the night you wake up, especially if you are its mother.  You wake up at any loud noise, above all if it is your name.

This consciousness is beyond our senses’ consciousness. It is there all the time.

We are usually unaware of it because of loud distractions of everyday life.

We can connect with the deeper consciousness directly if we want. Our senses give us a way of connecting directly with the universal consciousness, though it takes effort.  As we know, we can bring our attention into focus in meditation.

We know that by becoming still and quiet we make more accurate judgements, because we see what’s true more clearly.

It is not easy, for our days are filled with thousands of things that vie for our attention — radio, advertisements, traffic, text messages, calls.

So many want to get our attention by whatever means. Some demand it, whether classroom teacher or sergeant in an army barracks.

We willingly submit ourselves to situations where we intake forms of knowledge or entertainment.

We know intuitively that our one basic freedom is to control where and when we give our attention fully to something.  So much to we value this freedom, that one of the greatest resentments we suffer is having someone snatch our attention from us.

 

Truth  Be Known

Some of the most subtle thieves of our attention are politicians and advertisers. And there are far subtler ones who speak to us very persuasively.

But – to connect with the truth of anything we must come to quiet and stillness, as in a courtroom or sanctuary.  Rarely do we find that stillness in our daily lives.

I’ve sought that stillness all of my life. During my childhood I fled the noise in my home by going outside and finding a quiet place to play.  I’m sure you’ve had your way of seeking it.

As I got older I still needed that stillness, at least once a day. For many years I worked iin mid-town Manhattan, which is one of the noisier places on earth. I almost daily sought peace and quiet in the sanctuary of one of the fine churches on Fifth Avenue, which were almost all always open for a passerby to come, sit for a respite from the hubbub.

But, most of my quiet time has been in the woods. And that doesn’t have to be a long drive to the backcountry.  You can find it in the city as well.

Central Park was one of my Sunday refuges when i couldn’t get out of the city. And there were numerous other parks I found in New York City.

But, as I’ve said so often in my posts, as often as I was able to, I went to the mountains and woods to refresh my inner machinery.

A morning spiritual reading set me off on this post. It’s from a little book of spiritual reading for twelve-steppers, Twenty-Four Hours A Day.

Today’s reading:

Try to see the life of the spirit as a calm place, shut away from the turmoil of the world. Think of your spiritual home as a place full of peace, serenity, and contentment. Go to this quiet, meditative place for the strength to carry you through today’s duties and problems. Keep coming back here for refreshment when you are weary of the hubbub of the outside world. From this quietness and communion comes our strength.

After meditation, prayer and this reading, I took my hike in the high mesa desert.

Rift Trail Arroyo 12-14-15
Down in an arroyo on the mesa. We can hike the mesa most of the winter, but only when there is no wind.

 

The snow in the mountains was great for skiing, but not so for hiking. And these days I hike year round.  I gave up my skis three years ago and snowshoes many years before that.

When it isn’t windy the high desert mesa is a super place to hike. Tessa and I did a bit over two miles today. We were the first on our trail and didn’t see another person until we were near the end.

It gave me a lot of time to empty the mind and return to that stillness that is always there.

My practice on my hikes is to observe what thoughts arise in mind.

Each time a thought arises I have a choice.  I can stay with the idea that came to mind, massaging it with my attention. Or, I can dismiss it.

Trying to force it out of mind doesn’t work.  What does work, is to simply allow thoughts to continue on their way out of mind, as they will do on their own accord.

The freedom I get is in letting thoughts pass on their way, rather than capture my attention.  Some of my friends say they don’t want to give the ideas free rent in their heads.  That’s a good way of putting it.

And I keep my attention on the hiking, feeling the feet stepping upon the ground, hearing the subtle sounds around me and feeling the gentle breezes upon my bare face and hands.

As simple as it sounds, this really is the only real freedom I have.  It is freedom from old habits of thought that are useless to cogitate over any more. It is freedom from all sorts of worries, regrets and folks in my imagination who want to take my attention from me.

This freedom is right now. Here. In the present moment.

It is not tomorrow. Not yesterday. Not later today or what happened earlier. It is not what I intend to do later.

It is freedom to be right here, now, as I am writing this post.

And I gain the ability and strength to take and keep my freedom while I walk my beloved trails.

Besides, Tessa knows I am with her and enjoying her company!

 

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