A Second Climb

Last year, I knew I had strayed very far from the spiritual core of my being and needed to take actions that would be extraordinarily disruptive and hurtful to many people in order to get myself moving back towards that core being. Yet, I had wandered so far that I was lost to myself and unable to be the man I needed to be for those most important to me. In fact, over the course of 25 years, many of the most important people in my life had walked away, impatient with decisions so inconsistent with the beliefs and values that I professed, I didn’t make sense and made me look and feel like a shell of a man. I knew this needed to change, that I needed to get on a new path so that I could be the son, friend, father, etc. that I needed to be for my own well being and for those who were still lingering around.

Yesterday, I climbed Mount Monadnock in Jaffrey, NH for the second time in a year. The first time, I did so with someone who was more than just a good friend, but the person who was able to see past the facade and reach inside to wake up the potential for goodness that I had lost touch with. We climbed on a cool, rainy day and at one point I stood on one of the ledges and looked out over the vaguely familiar landscape of New Hampshire emerging from the fog and knew I had to start believing in something again. I couldn’t have known then what that was, but did feel the essence of Nature comforting and had a vague sense that the end state would be to believe in myself and my place in the world around me, in the lives of those around me. In time, this journey needed to be taken alone, but those first few days, weeks, and months, I was grateful for those who reached out and offered vague encouragement and began to build cairns for me out of the rubble of my life that would guide my trail.

Yesterday’s climb was cleansing and as I stood on the top, this time a warm and sunny day, I looked out across this landscape of the only place I have ever called home, and saw something more than just vaguely familiar. On top of that mountain was a new, still incomplete version of me who now saw the threads of goodness that had been there throughout his life. Threads that were beginning to be sewn together to make a new, more authentic version that fit the spiritual core of my being. I picked up a rock and added it to the cairn then talked to and encouraged a stranger who was struggling down the mountain on a recently repaired ACL. Eventually, I pressed on having a place to be later that afternoon, but I saw in this person what I have seen in so many – to be human, we must all accept our flaws, own them and then figure out how to overcome them. Until then, we are simply strangers to our cores unable to see the familiar landscapes around us; unable to follow the cairns slowly built up by friends and family, rock by rock out of the rubble of life; unable to truly live.

I plan to climb Mount Monadnock again next year, maybe then with someone or maybe with several people, I don’t know. I look forward to seeing the landscape, how it has changed, how it remains the same, how it feeds my soul.

And so it begins…

Why begin a spiritual blog? The last year has been a reckoning for me as I have come to terms with decisions and their consequences. My best friend’s mom called this my period of bardo. Per Wikipedia: “bardo is a Tibetan Buddhist term describing a state of existence between death and rebirth, varying in length according to a person’s conduct in life and manner of, or age at, death.” Clearly meant as a metaphor for the death of one “life” and the transition to another, her wisdom bore itself out over the last year and so continues. When life turned on its head, what some perceived it as self-destruction, I felt a spiritual rebirth.

I should say that I feel a spiritual rebirth.

When I began this blog a few months back, I had intentions of being inspired by Thomas Merton’s autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain. Life happened and the wisest thing to do was go on a “summer vacation” from blogging to spend quality time with my kids and reconnect with friends in my many homes: adopted, childhood, blogging, college, sea-going. The rewards of these broad connections were worth the “vacation” and proved an important step in spiritual rebirth. I now have a sense of who will come along for this journey and I am deeply grateful for all of them.

In essence this feels like a journey back to a child-version of me who had a more traditional and powerful sense of faith. Some labeled me too serious, but I was who I was. However, I let the external critiques govern my own becoming and influence my decisions to move away from that child, becoming an adult who got lost and now pulls at threads of being that survived the journeys to weave together a man connected to the better parts that emerged along the way.

What informed the child was the Catholic Church, the teachings of Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr, and long walks alone in nature. What informs the man? All of that above and so much more. In the 30 years since leaving my New Hampshire home, I have circumnavigated the world and exposed myself to as much of the goodness that I could find from people to faiths, art to food, poetry to music. Now, the Transcendentalism of Emerson and the connection to Nature of the Romantics serve as teachers during long walks in nature that still center my spirit and soul; I look to the words of philosophers like Aurelius and Nietzsche, the teachings of the Buddha and the Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh to inform my faith in some divine force that provides life its spark. Some of you would call that force God and find communion with Him at Church and I am fine with that – whatever your faith and look to learn from you. Personally, I do not have a name for “It” and find communion with the divine through poetry, in nature, and inside the eclectic communities of good people that inhabit the Earth and look to the joy of everyday living and love through that art and music, food and laughter, dance and literature often without any regard for what we might call “wealth.”

So why begin a spiritual blog? To share some stories about these experiences of the divine that inform my spiritual rebirth and becoming.

I hope you will find me, read, share your thoughts, and above all take the time to see goodness and joy in living that is our true divine birthright and share those stories with others. I for one, in this day of such fracture and division in our public discourse, think our stories and experiences are very important to help us all heal.

Will you join me?

The Journey Begins

Today a new journey begins, really a life’s journey continues. Through this blog, the spiritual crisis of one man gets documented. The reference of the blog is Thomas Merton’s Seven Storey Mountain, which will serve as the starting point of the writing, initial weekly reflections from reading this iconic biography, but also other spiritual works from across all faiths. This is the story of one man’s abandoned soul returning to the body it once inhabited and all the pain and joy that will be felt along the way.

Please enjoy.