Winter Retreat 2013: Mountain Medicine
That last night at Taos was confusing, painful and awkward for me. Thus far the trip had been utterly perfect, a remarkable convergence of spiritual and sensual richness, a perfect measure of comfort and of clarity. I wanted this final night to be just as perfect. Instead, the historic inn we dined at was filled with cacophany, my ears felt beseiged with superficial noise and meaningless chatter. I felt an urgency, an unrest, a palpable disatisfaction with everything and everybody. I think gravity was settling in , the gravity of grief. My time in the restorative land of enchantment was coming to a close and I felt swamped by imagined expectations. I’ll go back home, I’ll go back to work, back to school and all the rest and it’ll all be fine now. I’m supposed to be fine. This was my time to heal, time’s up – now get on with it! It should all be better. Silly me. And poor dear husband!
We went to bed early and in the darkness I awoke with a stomach ache. Restless, I checked my work email, thinking I’d get a jump on things, only to discover that our community had suffered still another death – one of our longstanding members had died while I was away. This news was like a thump to my heart. More death?
The aching in my stomach disappeared as suddenly, I knew what to do. I pulled out my seven day prayer candles, opened the window that faced the sacred mountain, got on my knees and lit them in the darkness. The bitter cold air rested about my face and my shoulders. The quiet of the night was like a blanket of ice. The stars glimmered as I looked towards the mountain and began to pray. I prayed for the young man who passed, I prayed for my colleague who had succumbed to recurrent breast cancer, I prayed for my friend’s brother, I prayed for Mom and Dad and Debbie. I prayed for healing, for myself and for our community.
My desire to connect to the strength of that sacred Pueblo mountain through my little ritual of spontaneity flew out through the darkness and the answer came back to me, as I knelt on the cold wooden floor.
Nothing to fix. No short cuts here, stop looking for the destination. Death is part of the path of life, and we are all on this road together. Healing IS the path and you are on it. Keep walking and be at peace.
I looked out at the mountain, imagining the eons of time it had weathered. Every storm, every fire, every quake and surge became a part of its strata, heightening and adding to its beauty and its mystery, just as these happenings, painful as they may be, were becoming layers of my very being. The mountain does not shrug off these insults, but bears them, integrating them with patient largesse. Maybe that’s what’s called Mountain Medicine.
When I returned to New Jersey, I gave one of the candles to my friend. I kept the remaining three to light for Mom, Dad and Debbie, holding a seven day vigil of my own at home. In my heart I felt that I brought some of that sacred mountain strength home with me through those burning flames.