There's nothing nearly so grounding as waking up at night to find yourself lying on the Earth, looking up at the Universe.
Yes, I went camping... but not just any camping. I joined a friend of mine who is thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) – the premier backpacking trail of the United States.
There's nothing nearly so re-orienting as not even thinking about buying anything – for days.
The PCT is a trail that extends from the Mexican border to the Canadian border via the tallest mountain ranges in California, Oregon, and Washington – 2600 miles!
There's nothing nearly so mentally focusing as knowing that if you don't walk for it, you won't have water to drink.
I only hiked 90 of those miles. But it was beautiful. Throughout most of the trail I hiked, there wasn't a direction I could look without seeing wildflowers everywhere.
There's nothing nearly so fulfilling as feeling a part of a healthy, vibrant and alive natural system.
And of course, I got to satisfy one of our most primal urges; to walk a great distance.
There's nothing nearly so empowering as looking across a vista to see where you are headed, and think to yourself you couldn't possibly walk that far – and then to do it.
What? You didn't know that the urge to walk great distances is one of your most primal urges? Well, neither did I – until I tried it.
There's nothing nearly so enlightening as the repetitive processes of walking and breathing (such as on this hike) to put me in a meditative state (for eight days).
I wouldn't be surprised to find that meditation has existed for far longer than humans have. There must have been – so many times in our ancestors' history – that our ancestors' very survival depended upon traveling great distances on foot.
(And the prize of survival goes to; the most efficient. No adrenaline. No wasted exertion. No wandering mind.)
In that state; a state of moving balance – a state of focus only on the task – a state of peace and flow... in that state; I found a sense of purpose: Movement. Walking. Going somewhere.
But often my mind would wander. I sometimes thought about why I was there. (Because I had wanted to go on a trek since I was 14.) I thought about my grandfather. I thought about the hike we had to cancel back when I was 14 years old. I thought about how disappointed he was – and how I had vowed to myself that I would someday be a trekker. (Though I didn't know that's what it was called back then.) I thought about how much my grandfather would have enjoyed this hike. And I thought about all the times he must have been out hiking – just like our ancestors before us.
There's nothing that makes you feel nearly so close to your ancestors as walking the trails they once walked.
I can't possibly have been the only person to have ever felt that some of my thoughts as I rounded each corner must have been similar to everyone else's who have also rounded these corners – possibly for hundreds, or even thousands of years – maybe even far longer ago.
There's nothing like feeling truly human in a natural way that helps you learn who and what you really are.
Even though sometimes my feet hurt, and sometimes my legs felt peculiarly exhausted; I always felt that I was right where I wanted to be. It was beautiful. It was wonderful. It was reality... You could see it all around you. You could feel it beneath your feet. You could hear it in all of the birds' calls. And you could smell it. It smelled fresh, with a hint of a fresh flower cocktail.
Now that I'm back, the trip is beginning to fade into a memory that now feels something like a “dreamtime.” I now have to remind myself that that was actually reality. And what we call “the real world” is actually an aberration of reality – and a very temporary one. We live in a man-made (artificial) reality – that is actually just a tiny subset for a brief moment in the 3 billion year old reality that is the interconnected systems of life on Earth.
The reality my friend and I hiked through has been around for billions of years. Our “real world” has only been around for about a century. And as I returned to our “real world,” I realized the biggest difference between the to two; humanity's arrogance. Reality has adapted to the changing conditions of time. Our “real world,” however, is humanity's attempt to change our world to suit our wants. We're essentially living in a man-made dream. We've dreamed that we are somehow above the changing conditions of time. And for a while we've held back the inevitable. But that is only a temporary condition in an artificial reality.
Hopefully, journeys such as this will teach us better why we want to live within reality.
This journey has taught me that when the world is well, and I am walking about in it; I can sense a feeling of contentment that simply can't be beat by anything man-made.
We want to keep that.