Boundary Waters’ Teachings
I recently returned from a wonderful trip to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, a National Park wilderness on the border of Minnesota and Canada. Two or three times a year, I venture into that wilderness and always come back feeling renewed and invigorated – and often inspired. I’d like to touch on three teachings that were especially significant for me this time.
I left home with the intention to work on staying present and mindful in the moment. After a five-hour drive to the entry point, my good intention was tested immediately by the task of backpacking 60 pounds of gear for 2/3 mile of rough, up-and-down terrain on the portage to the first lake. I was humbled by how quickly my thoughts turned to estimates of how much further I had to go and questions about the wisdom of bringing all this stuff. And I was impressed by how much easier the portage became – and how much lighter my load – when I focused on just the one step before me. I saw once again how efforts to escape from what we deem unpleasant add to our suffering and how the practice of gently returning, again and again, to the present moment brings peace.
After setting up camp, I perched on the massive, flat, granite slab that served as the campsite’s front porch and basked in the beauty of my surroundings. The sun was moving lower in the west-northwestern sky. I felt an all-body sensation, familiar to me during times in nature or in deep meditation. The mind was quiet and the body was vibrating with a kind of hum – hard to describe. I just slipped into it, without noticing. When I did notice, self-consciousness took over. The mind got excited and immediately began giving my body instructions on how to deepen the experience - which, of course, diminished it. Again, I was humbled – and frustrated with the way my mind butts in and tries to control things, when the body’s doing just fine. I apologized to my body, took some deep breaths and, to my surprise, I felt forgiven and re-connected with myself – despite that goofy intervention. More and more I’m reminded to trust my body’s wisdom. It knows the way.
The next evening, shortly after sunset, from that same vantage point on the front porch, I was drawn to a scraggly looking pine tree on the shore opposite the campsite – directly across from where I was sitting. It had a sense of motion about it. As I looked closer, I could see arms outstretched and legs bent at the knees and a wild-looking headdress at the top. I saw the tree as a dancing warrior, moving with boldness and abandon. I felt an invitation to embrace the dancing warrior within, to let the bolder part of me breathe a bit, to give the wild man some room, to let go of some of the seriousness, cautiousness and self-containment that I no longer need, to see that being careful is not the same as caring, to take another step in the direction of freeing myself – and trusting myself.
On the way home, I stopped at Vanilla Bean, one of my favorite restaurants on the shore of Lake Superior. While awaiting my walleye cakes and eggs, I read some “Banter Verses” from The Radiance Sutras by Lorin Roche. The masculine deity, “The God who is the Consciousness that Permeates Everywhere” is speaking:
I am always here.
I am the embrace
Of your most intimate experience.
Though I am beyond the intellect,
I am not beyond your daring.
(Banter Verse 15)
I am everywhere, infusing everything.
To find me,
Become absorbed in intense experience.
Go all the way.
Be drenched in the energies of life.
Enter the world beyond separation.
(Banter Verse 20)
The invitation to dare and dive in - what a delicious cherry on the hot fudge sundae of boundary waters’ teachings!