It was a beautiful day outside. The birds were singing, the sun was shining brightly and a cool autumn breeze swept across the countryside. I was hiking with my dear friend Jamie back down forest service road 316, a gorgeous trail in the heart of the Great Smoky Mountains. We had walked about six miles and were 20 minutes from my car when the Divine fully presented itself. We had stopped to smoke a bit of herb and to reflect on our inspiring journey. To commemorate the moment, I expressed to Jamie that I wished to recite a few prayers that I had compiled over the past week. The collection included sacred Buddhist, Sioux Indian, Hindu, Sufi and Christian invocations to the Absolute. I opened my journal and began to read the first lines from the Buddhist-Loving Kindness selection:
“May all beings be free from danger
May all beings be free from mental suffering…”
At the exact moment that I recited these lines, a pack of wolves began howling in unison with the prayer. The tone of their soulful expressions was both haunting and awesome. The hairs on our necks stood at full attention. It felt as though the wolves were inside our souls playing their heart-stringed instruments. Because It was nearing sunset, I immediately placed my beloved companion, Abbie, on leash and finished reciting the Buddhist prayer. I then listened… mesmerized. After a minute or two, the primal sounds of howling stopped. Jamie and I then glanced at one another in silent recognition of this divine moment. Chills went down our spines, as it became evident to us that the Infinite was speaking through the wolves. What were these loyal beings trying to convey? Oneness. Unity. Stillness. Sacred Earth Connection. As we continued our walk back down to the car, the energy of the forest felt particularly heightened and pure. Soon, the glorious sun began to set over majestic blue mountains and I knew deep within that my home was heaven on earth.
Three pilgrims set off by foot on a 90-mile (about 145 km) pilgrimage down a well-traveled path in the mountains. In a bid to impress the other two pilgrims, the first trekker attempted to hike thirty 30 miles (about 48 km) his first day…. far past any reasonable mileage. Consequently, he blew out one of his knees on the 28th (45th km) mile. Badly injured, the first pilgrim was forced to abandon his journey. The second pilgrim, in a vain attempt to impress his friends back home, tried to record his entire pilgrimage on his phone. However, on the first day, he covered only two miles (3 km) before falling off a small cliff trying to capture a dramatic “selfie”. He, too, was forced to abandon his journey due to breaking his arm in the fall. Meanwhile, the third pilgrim went humbly upon her way at a moderate pace. She stopped along the trail for brief intervals to give thanks to the spirit of the mountains that guided her feet and soul in tandem. After 7 days and 90 miles (about 145 km) of walking, the third pilgrim at last arrived at the destination: a glorious mountain top where soaring eagles greeted her with blessings of acknowledgment for a pilgrimage traveled without hubris or vanity.