Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Lay Up Spiritual Experiences for Your Soul's Delight

Good morning, Happy Souls!

Let me first share a little background about my perspective. I am a practicing Protestant who had several life-changing experiences in my youth when God touched me and assured me of His presence and support. From that perspective, I've always been interested in having even closer communion with God. And I've wanted to learn to follow His commandments with a glad heart.

In my Bible reading, I've always been sensitive to the teaching of Jesus about how a rich person can fall in love with her or his possessions and miss the Kingdom of Heaven. To help counter that risk, I have sought to find places and ways to feel God's presence more often.

Let me share with you some of the happiest and most moving of those experiences -- ones that I hope you can duplicate.

Nature can provide a great sense of the Divine. Three places in nature have proven to be most powerful for me. One is the Grand Canyon in Arizona. I have been visiting that remarkable hole in the ground since I was a child. I have flown over it, flown through it, gazed down from the rim and hiked from the top to the bottom and back up again. It's that last experience that was the most profound. While I did my hike on a hot summer day, I recommend that you try this during the cooler spring and fall seasons. If you pick the right trail, there's water and shade every one thousand feet of elevation. Be sure to carry some plastic water bottles or canteens to refill. You'll need a lot of water and food to make this arduous journey. I also recommend that you do some hiking to get into shape before taking this trip. Be sure to take the hike with someone, just in case one of you needs help. There is no charge beyond entry into the park for such a hike. If you decide you want to stay overnight before climbing back up, be sure to make your reservations with the Park Service well in advance. Space at the bottom is in high demand.

As you proceed down the canyon, you gradually leave most people behind. Before you are done, there will be times when you see and hear nothing beyond your own breath and footsteps except an occasional bird or deer. This relative silence and solitude provide a sort of walking meditation. Also, you're working pretty hard so you fall into a patient pace while your body is flooded with endorphins which lift your mood. The deeper you go, the more you begin to appreciate how tiny we and our day-to-day concerns are. That feeling is ultimately replaced with a sense of awe and appreciation for this great natural wonder that lifts your heart and mind. Be sure to take some photographs of your journey, and you will be able to recreate the experience emotionally whenever you want. It's well worth it to carry a camera all of that distance. Even today, when I fly over the canyon different formations seem to greet me from the ground . . . reminding me of the great communion I shared in their midst.

The second awe-inspiring sight is found in a place that is more accessible by air and car, Yosemite in California. In the south of the park, you can walk among trees that are hundreds of feet high and centuries old on misty mornings that seem like the Creation is brand new. In the main valley, you have amazing cliffs, waterfalls and intriguing trails to explore. While I have never hiked to the top of the valley, I'm sure the experience is well worth the effort and provides many of the same rewards as the Grand Canyon hike. Everywhere there is dense silence even though the park receives great numbers of visitors. All you have to do is walk at least a hundred years away from a road, and you will feel like you've gone back a million years in time.

The third place in nature where I have felt the same spiritual uplift is in whale-watching, something that less than one percent of the people in the world have done. In the United States, great whale-watching sites are located off of Boston Harbor during the late spring, summer and early fall, off the California coast in spring and fall, in Alaska during the summer and between Maui and Lanai in the winter in the Hawaiian Islands. During such visits, you will find yourself out with graceful sea mammals whose length may be as great as your boat's. If you have the good fortune to contact humpbacks, you can expect a show. Humpbacks may stick their heads out of the water to get a better look at you, take great leaps from the water, flap their fins hard against the water or dive gracefully to give you a beautiful view of their tail flippers. No two trips are the same. Such a trip will usually cost around $40 for an adult and last 4-5 hours. I like to go on hot days when the offshore breezes provide natural air conditioning over the colder ocean waters.

But I've felt much of the same spiritual connection and tranquility in other places such as the Zen garden in Seattle, watching the sun rise over Haleakala's crater on Maui, driving through the Painted Desert in the Southwest, and spending the night in a hotel overlooking Niagara Falls from the Canadian side.

While you may not have visited all of these places, I hope you will seek them out if you have the opportunity to be in the vicinity. In the meantime, do go to those places that have already provided you with a spiritual connection to our Creator. Sunday's a great day to do this . . . or pick the day of your Sabbath if you do not observe on Sundays.

Donald W. Mitchell, Your Dream Concierge

Copyright 2005 Donald W. Mitchell


Blogger thad jones said...

God used your blog to speak to me in a very loving and intimate way. Mr. Keller's Devotional was also used by the Lord to affirm and reassure me in a very specific way. I'm writing this to exhort and encourage you that your work is not in vain in the Lord. Remain an extremely, supremely, happy soul!

5:55 PM  

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