archives, wisdom

Walking in Nature as Contemporary Mysticism.

When the gravel crackles underneath these Keen shoes, the technical sandals with which I replaced my shimmery, summer-fun footwear, the contemplation commences.

It is shockingly immediate, an invisible portal that can snag any willing participant through a tiny slip that leads out and into an alternative dimension — one that, on this already warm and warming day, wrests me free of what is usually dense and full of obscurities, a phase shift that is tremendous.

Many hours are usually required as a prerequisite, to gear in, to ready the body, mind, and soul, to sense the subtle reverberations of deeper rhythms, to ground into deeper being, to patiently reconnect all the scattered pieces, to achieve synch with the dynamic energies that hum inaudibly yet radiate continuously out of our surroundings. But occasionally everything serendipitously lines up for a swifter arrival.

All I do on this day is step outside of my mustard yellow Kia Soul and it happens as my feet hit dirt.

That connection of body and terra firma initiates a new cycle in a pattern of cycles, one minor revolution of 10,000 revolutions, or at the very least some very large number I cannot quantify, so many cycles it feels like cells have retrofitted their primordial instincts, blindly adopting this ritual as birds recognize the pattern of their migration and salmon pulsate with an urge that compels them to swim upstream.

Perhaps some, if not most, of the countless trips I recall taking come from collective memory imprinted in these hills, vague outlines and impressions left by the ancestors going through these sacred motions themselves.

It seems that a silent witness joins me as if to say, this is a continuous process, a woman aware, awake, open to the heavens and earth, I, she, me, we, blend and breathe and bleed together; the witness whispers here’s that thaaang she does: she’s doing it again.

As I heave the door open on a slightly tilted embankment, it is here, and I know it straight away: in this crunch, crackle, and sandy grind of rubber contacting gravel, the phase shifts, the veil parts, and the hinge flies off its frame.

I never know when exactly, or even if, this will occur. I just know how to catalyze it more skillfully, what conditions support it, how to make myself more available to a certain wavelength of field energies that take me along the same current as the mid-summer butterflies, those brilliant blazes of yellows and oranges and whites in the Tiger Swallowtail, the Copper, and the Checkered White.

They dance in an open dome of sky, with the diminutive hummingbirds and the smattering of songbirds that mill and trill about their business. 

Nobody accompanies me but tools, ideas, songs, a backpack of supplies and supplements, field guides, essential oils, wide-lens, sea green sunglasses with bling bedazzling the sides, pencils, a fishing net, the complete works of Ellen Meloy, a wild heart that wants to shed its pedestrian-domestic dramas, and a spiritually-seeking drive.

I do not have to contend with idle talk or any variety of chatter that just might have distracted me from the plumy owl feather lodged in a bunch of deep lavender harebell flowers. This is a direct encounter, a 1:1 relation, a bare meeting of untethered soul and the wide-open, pine-scented sky.     

The wild rose bush sits unassuming with one croaking, dilapidated bloom left in its thorny foliage. It may play that which might prey upon it, but it isn’t defended to me. It’s honest and plain, clearly presenting itself. It isn’t anxiously self-preoccupied. Or into rationalizations. Needing reassurance. Or excessive attention. It is contained quietly, and holds its rosy power without having to showily demonstrate it.

It’s not freaking out in the face of its struggle to survive its tenuous existence. I find it more courageous than most of my own kind, but mostly I find it endlessly refreshing, a cleansing of congruency between essential form and colorful image.

Deeper pulses, the grand illumination, will naturally break in, teasing out a tiny parcel of the mysteries of experience.

The walk functions as a seamless motion, a grace of coordinated limbs that slither, gallop, scurry, sway, bound, hop, or lumber, depending on the mood of the heavy blue-gray clouds or the fast clip of the garden snake that cuts the trail perpendicular to my forward-thrusting movements.

One continuous circuit from first crunch to last relief, returning to the squat cell tower I parked underneath, a 30-foot metal trellis affixed with small, convex domes painted with red lightning-bolt icons.

Every time I reenter what is transcendent, most assuredly as some pantheistic access through trees, land, and sky in the montane forest I call home, especially when overdue, the embodied spirit called Nature that I have forsook quietly admonishes me through her natural consequence, and reminds me of the joy and the soulful need of perennial return, to endlessly cycle until my conscious experience here on Earth expires in reclaiming belonging to her bosom.

When I climbed down to be set free, she took me in again.   

Today I contemplatively walk, but lately, I kayak, and usually, I cycle.

So, I say this, I say all of this, to encourage you, dear reader, to not get so attached to the means but to align with and energize through the pulsations of which I speak, to get outside, to move, and to open, to find the form, your form, that serves as a vehicle for moving meditation whose basic format and whose underlying aim, made up of equal parts instinct and inspiration, relentlessly pursues the innate, yearning desire for body to divinely wed soul.

For soul to plummet into body, for body to soulfully escape its fleshly, earthly, animal-bound prison, for one’s being to be not be made of these parts anymore, but to be amalgamated into a unified whole!

Here to convey it as adequately as I can muster, I say, make myself a conduit of these ecstasies of deeper connection that betray that a meaningful order behind our first impressions exists: let me scream from the balconies, sing in the hills, batter down the doors to deliver the message that ‘contemporary mysticism is alive!’

I rejoice! Liberated from the primitive superstitions of our archaic past made up of spirits and daemons and incantations of security and certain desired outcomes, but not condemned to scientific materialism, to the meaningless cosmos, to giving up the belief that there is a design in what we did and said!

At some point, a commitment arose from that matrix from which all things originate: to transcribe these sacred encounters that find me in these still wild places on the fringe of the known. Where it began: in the original experience, in cycling!


Sarah McKelvey is a free spirit who enjoys introspecting, speculating, and writing about life, love, synchronistic experiences, identity, psyche, self-cultivation, and her various misadventures. She typically writes in the context of traveling, and is informed by Eastern wisdom traditions, depth psychology, and the iconoclastic teachings of Alan Watts. Words are her favorite medium. In her pursuits, she pursues truth, beauty, and goodness, and hopes to, through her endeavors and writing, promote a life-affirming attitude that belongs on the spectrum of love. She lives along the Front Range outside of Denver, and practices psychotherapy professionally.


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