Saturday, June 3, 2023
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In Search of the True Route

Following yesterday’s footsteps whereas mountain climbing by the snowy woods, Peter Moretzsohn contemplates how our actions and ideas form the current and future.

I make my method into the snowbound woods behind our yurt. The forest is dense, product of younger hemlock, poplar, maple and birch timber. These woods cowl a west-facing slope that climbs as much as a modest ridgeline of some scattered hilltops throughout 1,800 toes. It’s completely quiet. I stroll these woods nearly day-after-day, following nearly the identical path. I do know the loop properly now —properly sufficient to seek out my method in contemporary untracked snow by leafless timber.

Yesterday, I did simply that. My first stroll within the woods in a foot of heavy snow was arduous going. The path follows previous, steep logging roads alongside frozen stream beds, and up over dramatic cabinets of mossy granite tied up in thick birch roots. Yesterday, I trudged alongside within the quiet forest, lifting every foot out of deep powder and burying it once more one step forward. I discovered myself panting and cursing, furiously shedding layers. Every time I finished to  scan the woods, catching my breath, I felt a faint sense of embarrassment, like I used to be the proper consultant for our species. A creature laboring underneath my very own delusion of progress.

I’m wondering if there’s a solution to stay with the particular person I’ve been and so usually am, as a substitute of being sure to him.

This morning, nonetheless, the going is a little bit simpler. As I set out into the timber, whistling to my canine to maintain him on track, I discover I’ve a alternative: I can step within the tracks I made yesterday, and never work so arduous, or I can trudge within the contemporary powder between my previous tracks, making one thing of an evenly packed path for others to make use of after me. I attempt each approaches to get a way of its ease or issue. As I stroll, I see my day-old tracks, regular and true up the hillside. In a method, it appears like I’m following a ghost, the proof of my former self. I can recall my ideas from yesterday after I made these tracks, the persistent agitation, the imprecise worry that I’m not profiting from my life, not doing sufficient for others, the light voice reminding me to return to the strolling physique, chilly breath, chilly toes, consideration fraying once more into vacillation. My stroll this morning is way the identical; however whose tracks am I following? Are at present’s ideas the identical actions of yesterday’s thoughts?”

As I stroll, I consider the best way the Buddha spoke of karma. In easy phrases, karma is the best way one factor results in one other. It’s how the previous creates the current and, maybe extra importantly, how the current creates the longer term. It’s the best way we create our personal expertise on this second. The Buddha metaphorized the motion of karma with the picture of a river: when water flows in a sure route, its motion makes a channel within the earth, making it simpler and simpler for water to proceed flowing in precisely the identical method. Our actions of physique, speech and thought are like this. No matter I do, say, or assume, it turns into simpler to do, say, and assume the identical issues repeatedly, like flowing water. I’ve laid down the trail. I’ve made tracks within the snow.

That is how I come to kind an identification, how I validate my very own concepts of who I’m, by frequently appearing, talking and pondering in deeply-ingrained and acquainted methods, all of which I’ve come to cherish, for higher or worse, as “my persona.” However when this self meets an unsure world filled with different complicated individuals carving out their very own channels of identification, issues get unpredictable. Self-image shifts with the shifting circumstances of life. All of the whereas, the stressed thoughts seeks previous patterns and acquainted grooves. It yearns to stroll yesterday’s footprints.

Someplace close to the tip of the path, as I descend the snowy hill, I discover I’ve given up searching for my previous tracks within the powder. I’m gliding between the timber, chilly air on my face, my toes starting to really feel chilly in my moist socks. I cease to hearken to a comfortable thumping from above, a fowl someplace pecking on the bark of a rotting tree. I search for, my eyes scanning the branches towards the brilliant sky. I see a small fowl overhead within the uppermost limbs of the lanky younger poplar tree standing in entrance of me. The fowl resumes its rhythmic work. Inserting my chilly hand on the bark, I can really feel the vibration of her highly effective beak within the wooden, touring all the best way down the size of the trunk and into my palm.

Smiling, I flip to proceed down the hill. Taking a look at my previous tracks in entrance and forward of me, I’m wondering if there’s a solution to stay with the particular person I’ve been and so usually am, as a substitute of being sure to him. I can attempt stepping out of my previous footprints, putting my toes in new locations. However I believe there’s one other solution to stay. Once I’m strolling — simply strolling — completely engaged within the exercise of the second, I can belief my very own toes with out calculation. Once I stroll this manner, I see that yesterday’s strolling was excellent because it was, and at present’s strolling is ideal as it’s. The unfolding of every second is its personal authenticity, by no means following within the footsteps of one other. I’m not one particular person, nor am I many. I’m a relentless flowing, at all times trying to find the true route.


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