Misty autumn mornings on the Hudson River are quite impressive. At this time of year, when it’s not too cold and the morning air is filled with mist, I bring my meditation cushion to the dock and get centered as the mist moves around me. It is in constant motion.
One of my greatest joys at this time of year is to witness the sun as it rises behind the thick curtain of mist and penetrates it, growing brighter by the moment. It is a powerful sensation. What more satisfying way to start the day than to contemplate and fill up with this?
The spectacle speaks to me of the grace that helps the light to shine through and usher in greater clarity. It speaks to me of light and focus. Cutting through and dispelling the fog that clouds our perception. It is deeply satisfying to witness!
One recent morning, I sat on the dock and watched the massive wall of mist drift southward down the river. It didn’t seem to rise so much as drift, as if on a conveyor belt. As the end of the mist parade drifted by me, I felt a sudden urge to climb as high as I could and view the remaining mist from above. So I drove down the road and hiked briskly to one of my favorite perches. I arrived just as the tail end of the mist drifted through the colorful, autumn landscape and out of sight.
The next time conditions were right, I returned to that spot while the mist still blanketed the river.
It’s one thing to sit in the fog and wait for it to lift (which it will do eventually) and another to decide to step outside of it, rise above it, and regard it from a greater perspective.
Doing the latter set in motion a yearning to climb higher – mist or no mist – because elevation alone has something to offer.
Without really planning, later that day I ended up on top of Equinox Mountain (highest peak of the Taconic range) in Southern Vermont. The summit elevation of 3,848 feet offered far-ranging views of New England, especially on such a clear day.
The following day, I was invited to the home of a former student to photograph the breathtaking view from her family’s back yard.
I’ve been drawn to altitude lately, and this includes spending a few days nestled on a hill at my favorite retreat center a few weeks ago and inviting the elevated energy and space to work their magic on me. The views from up high have been at the same time exhilarating and tranquil. Such dramatic color and beauty. Such peace and quiet.
Every now and then, it’s useful to head to the mountains to take in the greater picture – the patterns and beauty of it all – and to realize that, from a higher perspective, most everything we struggle with and deem important is ultimately so small.
Perhaps is it the desire for that expanded perspective that draws us to the mountains in the first place. An aspiration to rise above life’s distractions and empower ourselves with a greater perspective.
You don’t get caught up in minutia when you’re at the top of a mountain or other elevated place looking down at the world below. You grasp the wider view. You can take inventory of where water flows and where it does not – and how the flow of rivers and streams and the contour of hills and valleys fit into the greater picture. Time feels different on top of a mountain; the far-ranging view inspires patience and is a solid antidote to impatience. You observe clear patterns and the context in which they exist, and witness how everything is interrelated.
I’ve been noticing patterns in my own life, as well – more than ever! It can be uncomfortable and humbling to realize how much work you have to do to release yourself from certain destructive patterns that have been woven into the fabric of your life. But it’s also empowering because you can cultivate the determination to set yourself free – for the tapestry is still a work in progress. But first you have to notice the patterns, by stepping back – or stepping up – and seeing the big picture.
This also brings to mind my recent experience of getting lost inside an enormous corn maze. When you’re on the ground, it’s hard to tell where you are in relation to the big picture. But when you climb a little higher, you can get a sense of the patterns and how to avoid getting stuck in the same places, retracing the same steps, and making the same choices that don’t get you anywhere. You have to retrain your brain to try something different.
With greater distance and spaciousness, you can see and understand more than you would otherwise. I think that is why I have been drawn to hills and mountains lately. I want to see. I am ready to change, by understanding where my attitudes, thoughts, and actions have gotten me and adopting new ones that can help me get where I want to go.
Step out of the fog. See your little piece of the world from a higher perspective. Be observant, and take it all in. Allow the expanded awareness to permeate your thoughts and inspire your actions. This is what I have learned so far from mist and mountains.
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