ChiSing: In this past year as I have been on a healing journey, I was at the beach several times because I love the healing power of the water. And I would do walking meditation for 20 minutes or so along the shore, and last summer it was especially nice with the sun shining, no clouds in the sky, the sun directly on my skin, and my bare feet on the sand and in the water, just walking mindfully, feeling my breath in and out, being at one with the element of fire embodied by the sunshine, the element of earth and water, and the fresh air. Earth, air, fire, and water.
And as I walked mindfully for those 20 minutes, I completely forgot about my health issues. They didn't exist to me. All I thought about was how wonderful it is to be right here and now in this present moment in communion and in harmony with this wondrous creation. And I realized that there is also not just earth, air, fire, and water—that at the core of it all is my spirit, my soul. That is the fifth element, I suppose you could say. That is what connects everything, because it is my spirit and my soul which is my divine self, the God within that is also the God all around, the Buddha within that is also the Buddha nature everywhere.
In that moment, I didn't label it God, Buddha, or anything. I didn't have a label in that moment. I experienced the reality of it, and in my heart, I felt as if I was the sun shining. I felt this great love and joy and peace fill my whole being for those 20 minutes and beyond, such gratitude to be alive right here, right now, not concerned about fears or regrets or worries, just in deep communion right here and right now. And I'm so grateful for those moments of communion. And I'm so grateful for all the moments of communion that manifest in my life.
But you know what? They don't just happen by accident. They happen because that is just the nature of reality. That is actually the truth, and when I am practicing mindfulness, I become more able to consciously become aware of that truth. It is always in reality. I am always in communion, but I get more consciously in communion when I practice mindfulness and meditation, and I'm so grateful that when I am in those moments of communion, all I feel is just the immensity of life, the immensity of life.
So death cannot even hold a light to life. Its filament and love in the light of who we really are. Darkness cannot even hold a candle to that, and fear cannot hold a candle to that love that is at the core of who we really are. So I am just grateful to all of my teachers and all of my communities and all of my friends who support me on this path of mindfulness and community.
Petra: So, I wanted to talk about, during this wonderful time this year, the earth and the stars and the sun. I think about practices of harmony for me and where I most find that. I think I go to a particular hiking trail in the mountains, a particular walk on a particular mountainside, where you break out of the trees and walk by a pond, and then it sort of rises up along the side of the hill, and it is beautiful, and there are flowers. I don't know. Sometimes I feel like I should break out in that song, "The hills are alive with the sound of music." And on the other side of this hill, you walk along the edge of it and it goes back into the shadows of the stream, and there is something particularly wonderful about that hike. And when I find myself in a moment—
And I hike that particular hike often because it speaks to me. I can't remember the number of years I have been asking myself, "Well, what is it about being out here that is so healing, so freeing, so perfect for me to find peace?" And I sat one day, and I simply asked, "What is it?" And the answer came back, "Well, the trees don't need anything from you. They simply are. You don't need anything from each other. You simply are. The sun simply shines. The flowers simply bloom, and everything is being exactly what it is in its fullness, no requirements." No requirement from me or requirement from each other, just able to be. And in that sense of the beingness, I find that my soul responds, and I am invited to simply be. So I am restful. It is empowering.
Last week I was in Las Vegas. There are no mountains in Las Vegas. There are no flowers. There are no streams except those artificially built at casinos. That's not true. There were lots of flowers. In the Bellagio, they were celebrating the Chinese New Year with some beautiful flowers, and I took refuge in a conservatory there, and I found the conservatory of the casinos, and had a moment to breathe. I was involved in a conference about spiritually living, albeit centering around the organization, and what I noticed is that I struggled to find inner peace. There was nowhere to go other than my own hotel room. There was no place where there wasn't a blaring sign, lights, music, the slot machine people coming. I mean, there was nowhere to go.
And then on the last day and a half, I had a bit of time to myself, and I used it to go outside and walk. On my sabbatical, I had days where I walked eight hours through the French countryside. I walked several hours in Tuscany one day. I just walked. I walked through Chartres all afternoon. I walked and walked and walked. And so I found myself the last few days with no place for quiet, but what I could do was walk, and as ChiSing so beautifully said, there is a fifth element, it's us. That is how we show up. And somehow for me, in the walking, and in the sheer physicality of the walking, of my heart beating in my body, the rhythm of my feet, and simply allowing myself to be present—not in resistance to all of those around me, not wishing I were them.
I found it was a re-centering, a re-alignment for me, walking. And I am reminded that being is everywhere. It is only in my resistance to what is and my need for it to be different that I don't find myself in my own core, in my inner harmony, in my center, and for me, sometimes the sheer activity of that intentional walking, that sense of rhythm and flow, when I can discover in my own body, no matter where I am or what I am doing that inner harmony begins to reveal itself again. And that inner harmony then begins to reveal itself around me.
And I am reminded that even in Las Vegas, there is the sheer art of consciousness. And so if I can find it there—if we can find it the midst of our ordinary days—if we bring that harmony that is so palpable on the beach, in the mountains, in the beauty of nature—which is why we come together and celebrate it, because it is so palpable there. But we don't always have the luxury of going there, and it is important to go there and have the experience. It is important to come here and have this experience so that in those moments where you wonder where it is and it doesn't feel like it is here, we have something that is, and that is walking.
And the other thing I noticed—and I learned this many, many years ago—that when we think about consciousness of harmony, it is just a centering breath. We start everything with a centering breath, and that centering breath goes with us. We take it no matter where we are, whether we are in the board room or the bedroom or the kitchen or on the streets. A centering breath connecting heaven and earth and allowing them in. So as we celebrate the lunar new year and that remembering and that experience of the earth and the stars and the moon and the sun in harmony, it is a reminder that we have something to practice.