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.
This experience in a body that we call life is a precious opportunity and a sacred endeavor. What a blessing and what a remarkable occurrence for our souls to incarnate in a physical form time and time again. For just like the passing of the seasons, your soul infinitely spins on the cosmic wheel of oneness. Yet, this wonder of being in form can not be fully explored until we come to terms with the haunting specter of death. For as sure as the morning sunrise, we will all die and the time and manner will not be of our choosing. So, armed with this wisdom of the ages there is only one true and revered way to live: as if each day could be your last.
One morning while hiking through the woods I had a sudden realization: I am in everything and of everything I am. As the birds sang their joyous melodies and as I breathed in the fresh mountain air, I said the following aloud to myself:
“I am those birds chanting their soulful incantations and I am the warm inviting air filling my lungs with the breath of another spring time in bloom.”
As I continued my little pilgrimage through the ancient forest and up an old logging road to higher elevations, I realized that I too, was a part of the mountains. I then began to feel rain drops gently fall upon me so I took refuge under a beloved and ageless tree. I wrapped my arms around its glorious trunk and gave it a great big bear hug! In that moment, I also realized that my wise friend, the tree, was also a part of me.
Finally, I arrived at the summit of a mountain with stunning 360-degree views. I stared in awe as a breathtaking smoky mist swept across the blue majestic peaks standing right there in front of me. Humbled, I basked in that moment knowing beyond a doubt that I am in everything and in everything I am.
Forrest Rivers is a writer and teacher who lives in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. His new book, COVID-19 and Humanity’s Spiritual Awakening is now available on Amazon HERE