I can condense the description of my natural world context into two sentences. Born near the waters of the Atlantic Ocean, my soul stirs with the sun, sand, and salted waves. Wandering in the Blue Ridge Mountains, hiking a path one footstep at a time, my spirit soars. For the past 32 years I have flourished in a location where I could easily access both. However, my busy years of doing are slowly being transformed into a desire to find peace and satisfaction in just being in the here and now. I have experienced a repeated nudge to attend to the inner life of the spirit, my mountain way of being.
In World Religions: A Guide to Our Wisdom Traditions Huston Smith writes that the differences in human nature call for a variety of paths towards life’s fulfillment. Just as Christianity examines the changing landscapes of spiritual life that intersect with human growth, Hinduism describes different stages of life that call for their own agendas. In the second half of life – defined as the time that grandchildren arrive – individuals may claim the license of age, withdrawing from obligations shouldered during earlier years. Huston summarizes the Hindu principle of this later stage in life. “Relief is in order lest life ends before we understand it.”
I find that in western culture it takes a certain courage and determination to claim these years for spiritual adventuring which Hindus refer as the time of the forest dweller. In reflection I am quite certain I am both interpreting and simplifying the Hindu world. However, Smith notes that forest dwellers are working a philosophy into a way of life, pulling up stakes unless things continue as they always have. He writes that in time one becomes inner directed to the point where it doesn’t matter where you are – market place, farming village, forest, or mountain, one reenters the world a different person, a truer self.
In these past months of labor and silence I have been furiously examining, evaluating, packing up the elements of my past life, honoring the memories and simplifying the possessions, yielding to a draw to quiet solitude that is just a breath away from vibrant community. I have learned much about our ultimate dying in the process, for letting go requires immense effort, the support of community, the embrace of multiple losses and the courage to trust in possibility. For months I have been making arrangements. Now I am embracing new life as a mountain dweller. How about that!