Having grown up in Canada, and gotten used to Thanksgiving in October, I had nothing special planned yesterday for my first American Thanksgiving. I didn’t even take a moment to stop and think about what I was thankful for. Instead, that was for today.
It was another lovely day in Ojai, so I decided to try a hike up to Nordhoff peak. I knew it would be challenging (I’m out of uphill hiking shape), but longed for the little moment of peace and solitude I knew I could have up there.
I set out early, with plenty of water, a snack and my trusty hiking pole. Immediately, I knew it would be one of those days, a day of chatter-filled mind. Here I was blessed to be living in a place with precious, 80-degree days at the end of November, hiking a trail with the most stunning, vista-dominating mountains one could imagine, but my head would have none of it. It instead wanted to be mischievously stubborn today.
There were moments — I’d round a corner and glimpse the vastness of the waiting sky, or look to the gem-blue of Lake Casitas in the distance — when the mind stopped and all that was left were waves of Awareness; precious Awareness, rippling over me, the earth, sky, air and bathing all in bliss and fullness.
But mostly the mind chattered. It ran to the past, the future and every corner of the present. It thought about what it should be doing with its life, its next shopping trip, or what car it should get when it trades the old one in. The mundane and divine played together as thoughts in this head, just as they play together outwardly, whether as birds quietly circling each other, dust devils tasting sand, or the sky receiving ever-reaching peaks.
When I saw Nordhoff in the distance, and it’s abandoned fire-tower marker, I noticed the very tiny, brightly colored shirts or jackets of two people. The first reaction this overactive mind had was really hoping those idiots would finish their dilly-dallying before I got there!
It was not to be. I reached the peak exhausted, saying hello with a genuine smile (the noisy mind can’t always obscure the happy recognition of Self in Other), and yet the two yammered. I climbed the fire tower and just wanted to rest. I just wanted to stare quietly at my friends, my green-brown mosaic of mountains laying out towards the horizon.
I did get lost in their facets, every crevice, angle, or tree, each tenderly whispering: “here let me take one thought from you” until, by their grace, I was still and free, floating with my rocky friends to the sky. And then I’d be slapped back to mind as the two debated where to eat, how much air to let out of their tires for the ride down, or the issues they were dealing with at work.
Eventually the noisemakers left and I had my moment of solitude. I came down the steep tower stairs and sat at the picnic table to have my little snack. And then weirdly, as the contrast of quiet to the previous noisiness rushed in, I think I began missing them!
I am not good at meditation. I am not good at stilling thoughts, or good at mindfulness. But what I am sometimes good at is seeing fullness and truth in everything. So as I sat there and finished my tasty snack, still resting in the afterglow of physical exhaustion, in the waves of beauty surrounding and infusing, I became thankful for everything.
There was gratitude for those two who left, for the sky, sun and hills, for the curious bird floating above, the rock and craggy trees down the path, and most of all, there was loving gratitude for the noisy mind.
Yes, it is true that with a quiet mind it is often easier to see Truth, to have experiences of peace, bliss and completion. With a quiet mind comes creativity, comes energy, with a quiet mind fear, longing and seeking drop away.
But what a supreme blessing to see that a noisy mind is also Whole, is also That. What precious sacredness to see that thoughts are nothing other than Awareness, dancing for itself, loving itself in that billionth of an inch of separation interrupting Union. Thoughts are facets of Life, with its countless arms tapping you on your shoulders throughout your time, begging you to look into all its faces, asking you to see what they are made of, what the Thinker is, and to finally admit that they are both the same divine.
I have not seen, felt, or found anything that is not That, including thoughts. And for that I am deeply, preciously, achingly thankful for.