The fourth day, it happens. We're walking up a 12,000-foot mountain aptly called Bridge of Heaven. "Buddhists consider the Himalayas the abode of the gods," says Reynolds. "These mountains are every bit as spiritual." The seven-hour hike will be a walking meditation. Within 20 minutes, every part of my body is focused on my breath—and not as a spiritual exercise. But soon my reflexive mental grousing grows quiet as I become absorbed in the physical sensations of breathing and walking, and the postcard-beautiful vistas all around me.
And right about then is when I plug into the Big Grid. Two life-altering realizations occur to me, not in a tumble, but at an almost stately pace. Climbing this mountain under the wide Colorado sky, I feel strong, healthy, and capable. And at the same time, I can clearly see that compared to the massive forces that shaped these peaks, my life, so precious to me, is frail, fleeting, and insignificant. Instead of viewing each of my daily concerns through a microscope, as I usually do, I begin to see them all through the wrong end of a telescope—the thousand or so thoughts, worries, plans I make every day, reduced to the buzzing of a gnat. I turn this revelation over in my mind like a stone that unexpectedly sparkles the sun, examining it from every angle and feeling a great sense of relief. My life is not harried. It's rich with possibility.
My second thought is this: I don't need to hunt down God like a set of missing car keys. I've just got to open the door and invite God in. As I walk, I feel tears in my eyes, and then I am laughing.
After a few hours, we break and spread out on a soft grassy area. I notice that several of my retreat mates have tear-streaked faces, too. Our trek is over, but the biggest challenge lies ahead. How can I apply what I've learned on the mountaintop back at lower altitudes?
A week later, I've returned to sea level, and I'm up to my neck in the details of my life. The kids are squabbling, deadlines are looming, and my husband is leaving on a business trip. I start to feel like I'm swimming with my clothes on. After one exhausting day, I persuade my kids to take a short walk. On the sidewalk, the ambient roar of the city fills my ears, but, surprisingly, it is balanced in my mind by the near total silence I absorbed in Colorado. The boys chat away, their hands in mine, as I replicate the breathing exercises that saved me when I got stuck on the rock face. I think of the snowy peaks. My worries begin to assume their correct size—cause for concern but not despair.
A few evenings later, I manage to settle my kids in bed at a reasonable time. I close my door for ten minutes and try a meditation. I shut my eyes and breathe deeply. This time I don't make grocery lists in my mind. Right away I can feel myself back on the mountaintop. It's a start.
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