Through all these experiences, good and bad, I felt I was slowly getting to know myself. I guess this is the process of spiritual evolution we all experience from lifetime to lifetime, as the pathos of life inevitably edifies our imperfections, whether through lessons that are excruciatingly hard learned, or moments in which the beauty of the universe evokes an enlightening resonance deep inside us. And whilst there were plenty of ‘lessons’ during my year away, moreover, I recall my time as having been punctuated with moments of exquisite beauty. Of all these moments one in particular stands out:
It was springtime and I was hiking with my host brother and host father in the Austrian Alps. We had reached our destination for the day, a small alpine hut just below the tree line. I took the opportunity to explore the immediate surrounds without the burden of my heavy backpack. Happily I wandered over meandering creeks and rivulets, careful not to slip a foot into their frigid waters. Eventually I took purchase upon the smooth surface of a huge boulder and cast my gaze back down the valley to appreciate the magnificent vista. Serenaded by a chorus of alpine frogs and drunk with the beauty of mother earth, quietly I sat, transfixed, mesmerised by the myriad hues of a blossoming sun set. As I continued to sit on this boulder, still retaining the warmth of the day, the beauty of my surrounds evoked a strong sense of being loved. A feeling that existed purely between myself and the universe; independent of any human relationship, and undeniably more profound, intense and beautiful. I saw utter wonderment in the simple fact that I existed on the face of this earth; such a simple truth, yet one I had failed to perceive amongst the complexities of my life. Each breath of alpine air felt like a gift from the heavens, liberating me from the torments of my mind and transporting me to a deeper part of my being. It was completely intoxicating and utterly absorbing.
Gradually the surrounding trees became silhouetted against a starry sky and the last remnants of colour slid into a soft moonlight. Soon after, the bite of the night air began to disturb my gentle reverie and I reluctantly succumbed to the need of a hot meal and preparation for the following day’s journey. As I walked back to the hut, I felt most humbled by the experience, and also sad in the recognition that such epiphanies were few and far between in my day-to-day life. Why were such truths so foreign to me? Shaking my head softly, I solemnly promised that I would one-day return to that very place.
(To this day, I am yet to return to that boulder, though I have come to realise that that promise represented a vow not to leave the inner oceans of my heart as unchartered territory. A pledge to seek the truths I had briefly glimpsed. It was as if the universe had dangled an almighty carrot before my nose and a small part of me, my soul perhaps, was most insistent that I would not simply disregard and forget the experience; a moment in which for the first time in my life I had felt truly connected and at one with the universe.)