Friday, February 10, 2017

Walking in the Wilderness

"Never Walk Alone"
- on a wilderness trail -

Yesterday afternoon I heard the sound of a low–flying helicopter heading out into the wilderness area near where we live and I knew exactly what had happened. From time to time hikers who are unfamiliar with the desert lose their way and call for the assistance of a rescue helicopter.

In this morning’s paper I learned that I was right about what happened yesterday- a tourist who is visiting here from Germany decided to take a long walk into the wilderness. He had no idea how easy it is too quickly become disoriented and he didn’t bring along any water so he became seriously dehydrated and need to be recused (actually there have been several instances out here in which unprepared hikers have become terribly lost, gotten sick and even died while hiking deep into the wilderness.)

The article in the paper today offered prospective hikers some important information to consider before going out on any serious desert adventure: (1) always carry enough water, (2) since the trails are often poorly marked or even unmarked at times, consider going on a “guided” hike, and (3) never walk alone.

As I think about it, this advice for hiking in the desert is probably wise counsel for traveling a spiritual path because a “spiritual journey” is very much like walking in the wilderness. 

Sometimes people hear the phrase “spiritual journey” and they think this only applies to religious people, spirituality is a quest for believers; and yet no matter who we are or what we believe, every single one of us is on a spiritual journey. There is something about our human nature that prompts us to pursue “transcendence,” greater wisdom, deeper truth.

Rory McEntee and Adam Bucko offer this insightful observation about the “spiritual nature” of every human being:

The spiritual journey is the heartbeat of humanity,
always present even if hidden beneath the surface.
It is the most primal calling of every human heart.
The journey home of the soul back to the Source is a journey back to unity,
to the realization that we are all the Divine Oneness.

The advice given in today’s paper about “hiking in the wilderness” applies well to all of us who are walking on our spiritual path:  

Don’t allow yourself to get dried up:  In a busy and frenetic world we need to take care to nourish our spiritual nature just as we do our bodies. When we take the time for rest and quiet, for prayer and meditation, for listening to inspiring music. When we shut down the computer and take a few breaths, perhaps go outside to gaze at the nighttime skies, it’s like carrying enough water for our spiritual journey so that we won’t get dried up along the way.

Consider seeking the help of a guide: On a spiritual path many of the trails are not clearly marked and oftentimes there are no trails at all.  The path to greater wisdom is an adventure into an unknown wilderness; but sometimes it may be helpful to seek the counsel of someone who knows the territory a bit more - perhaps a spiritual counselor, a therapist, a guru or a buddha who can help point the way without walking the way for us.

Never walk alone: As I see it this may be the most important of all the advice. In fact,  when I look at the wisdom of all the major world religions, they all teach about how important it is to have companions along the way – spouses and trusted friends, a supportive community of fellow believers or fellow seekers. When we walk the spiritual path alone we will almost inevitably get lost and disoriented.

It’s a beautiful day out here in the desert and I see lots of hikers heading out to the trails. I hope they have all taken the necessary precautions for walking in the wilderness.

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