After years of being told that meditation works, I’ve actually tried it now. Unsurprisingly, it does, in fact, work.
My meditation places me in the woods. It’s a specific spot I can remember from the PCT. It was perfect. I was just under a ridge line in California, protected from the winds by the mountain but still with a vast view of the valley below and the mountains sprawling out after that.
The night was still, darkness throwing itself over the world like a blanket over a child’s head, keeping the monsters at bay with its welcoming, inky weight. The ground was dry red dirt, flat and soft, holding me aloft as the planet spun beneath me. My toes were red too, the earth completing me, working its way into every crack, smoothing my rough patches.
When the sun ended its mad dash across the sky, I bunkered down into my bag. I was safe, held close by nothing at all. I was deeply alone and in the quiet, I could feel my connection to every single inch of creation.
I sit, recalling that moment in time, that feeling of calm and awe and unity. Then my job, the hard part, is to stand up and start walking toward the valley, toward civilization. One day, the theory is, I’ll reach humanity in my meditation and keep that peace right inside.
I grew up in New York City, where the natural is banished by concrete and the reek of humanity covers every cubic centimeter. There is nothing untouched by man. I grew up thinking that natural was somehow divorced from (wo)mankind.
But this is not true.
The meditation works, the calm comes over me, because I sense that foundational truth: I am no different than anything else that I come into contact with. I am made of the same stuff of the night and the red dirt and the sun. I am intimately linked with the synthetic material of my bivy and the puffs of down in my bag. And I, a human, belong in the natural world. I am not separate from it, despite our attempts, as a civilization, to other-ize it.
The discomfort comes when I think I am different, distinct, detached. And the trick to feeling whole, one with nature in every form, is realizing I’ve never been anything but part of this whole time.
Since it is working, I’ll keep sitting in meditation. But, I’ll be honest: I far prefer the realness of dirt against palm, and the solitude of the natural world over the noise of city life.