November 21 – As Far As We Can Manage – Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening

Wherever we stop is the summit.

I was climbing Trail Ridge Road through the Rocky Mountains, determined to make the Continental Divide, when two sharp feelings pierced me almost at once. I, who have never had any trouble with heights, felt rushes of fear as I drove on narrow stretches 12,000 feet up. I was also filled with the irrevocable truth that everything-there-is, is wherever we are.

This all made me stop and walk the tundra above the tree line. There, I was overcome with the sudden truth that I could go no farther, and that I had no need to go any farther. Can it be that this journey through the mountains mirrors the journey through our lives? Is our suffering like the dizzying, gut-wrenching narrow passes through these ancient rocks? Do we simply move on until we can’t, and in accepting our humanity, does the peak come to us?

What an unlikely truth. I traveled as far as I could manage, and there on the bare scalp of the Earth,  I realized that where I can go no further is my destination. This is the wearing of heart that no one can escape.Despite all our noble efforts to reach some treasured peak—be it a dream of wealth or love—we carry the summit within. And it is always the effort and exhaustion—the very journey itself— that opens the view which is everywhere. For the summit is not so much arrived at as we are worn open to it.

I felt the truth of arriving at wherever my human limitations had left me, knew somehow it was enough, and I let out a cry like a vapor. We are as bare as these crags being worn by endless wind, and, regardless of the maps we carefully draw and pass down, we arrive at what we’ve always had when we use up everything we’ve saved. In this way we are brought to humility.

Once accepting our frail humanity, we can see how stubbornly fragile living things are. We can see how it takes just a thin lick of water down a mountain crack to strengthen a root and a bare lick of love through our stony hearts to blossom a soul.

 

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