I have just returned from a fasting two-day 30-mile hike in the Yosemite Wilderness. It was a grueling experience through a pristine landscape which produced a stillness I have never known.
Our senses collect data at every moment, and we often don’t notice that things as simple as conversations, images, songs, and television, even passively witnessed, become a source of daily consumption.
I wanted to experience my mind without such distraction, if nothing else out of sheer curiosity.
I went without food because the emptiness I sought could not be found with a full belly. I went without reading because a good book can be more society than crowds of men. I wanted to view the world and myself without impediments, and for two days, I did.
I consumed nothing but creek water and multi-vitamins as I hiked through modern-day Eden, and by the second day my mind became flooded with memories I had long forgotten, as clear as the streams I drank from.
I remembered summer evenings spent at my grandparent’s house over two decades ago. The Studebaker magnets on the fridge. The crochet images of vegetables in the sunroom. The way my G’pop showed me the pains of arthritis by wrapping rubber bands around my fingers. My G’mom sitting on the edge of the bed during story time and the way her voice creaked with age and echoed with love.
Until now this had all been forgotten.
With nothing to attend to in my immediate experience, and with complete exhaustion impeding any analytical thought, I experienced a stillness that allowed for the deeper remnants of my past to come forth, and with them a newfound appreciation for my life.
We constantly hear of dietary restrictions of the mouth, but what of the ears and eyes?
There is a modern movement toward healthy eating. Organic, grass-fed and non-GMO are becoming household terms. As a collective we are becoming increasingly conscious of what we consume with our mouths; we must pay equal attention with what we consume with our minds.
What we consume consumes us. Simply paying attention to this intake can go a long way in cultivating the peace of mind we all seek. I went to the depths of the interior not to find anything new, for:
“The only Zen you find at the top of the mountain is the Zen you bring with you.”-Robert M. Pirsig
I went away to get quiet and find out what I brought with me, and it reinforced my already firm belief that idleness is not a vice, it is a requisite for happiness. The quieter a man can become the greater his opportunity for joy.
Each of us possesses a sea of treasures from our past, and it is only when the waves on the surface settle that we see its depths. These memories are important, for in knowing what we stand upon, we come to know he who stands.
As the world speeds up, we could do far worse than learning to slow down.