Teachings of Acadia

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Welcome to the eighth post in the year-long series of Walking the Path of Heartfulness, a monthly meditation gathering. This month’s theme is Teachings of Acadia inspired by my recent annual camping trip to Acadia National Park in Mount Desert, Maine.

My family has been camping in this magical place for the past 14 years (would have been 15 if not for the 2020 pandemic). From this first time I set foot on this sacred land, it has inspired my heart to awaken to life’s guidance. This has been particularly true over the last couple of years where Acadia has offered me insight, clarity and important reminders of interconnection, surrender, and deep listening.

Interestingly, the first handful of years of visiting this beautiful place felt like an escape from the daily grind. As I have worked purposefully to release myself from this grind both mentally and physically, spending time in Acadia no longer feels like a deep sigh of relief. While this has felt strange, this shift has allowed me to open to deeper teachings of this land. For one, both this year and last, Acadia has reminded me that wherever you go, there you are. There is no escaping oneself. And while at first this might seem unappealing, it is in fact empowering. Acknowledgment of no escape is necessary for contentment to arise. This is a welcomed benefit of mindful living and meditation practice. 

Additionally, this crucial reminder has supported my capacity to turn toward myself so that I can meet life and all it is offering me, especially when it is not what I expect or want. This is receptivity “our ability to listen to life as it is – without imposing our ideas or agendas onto it,” writes Deborah Eden Tull in her book Luminous Darkness.

Hiking in Acadia supports this receptivity. While the trails are marked, one has to pay attention to stay on the designated path, to be mindful of how and where one steps. While hiking I am in the moment naturally, feeling the body, savoring the beauty, noticing my breathing, aware of when the mind wanders (although the environment makes it difficult for such wandering). On the first hike of this trip, my husband and I were close to the mountain summit. There were boulders and tress everywhere. I did not immediately notice the trail marker. At first, through the sweat and heavy breathing, I scanned the area quickly to no avail. So I paused, allowed the body and mind to slow down, and with soft and relaxed eyes began to see the surroundings differently. I then spotted the faint blue trail marker.

Here are two more teachings of Acadia – rest in the pause. Sometimes the markers along our life journey are not obvious or what we expected. Pausing, anchoring in the body and listening deeply (aka receptivity), allows us to become aware of the lens through which we are perceiving and perhaps change it. 

Too often we rest in seeking or gaining mind, needing a clear destination or getting hooked by “lostness”, clinging to our desire for an answer. Poet Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer describes it this way in her poem Unlost.

The day is a rudderless path

and still I cling to star charts,

to maps. As if knowing

a destination is synonymous

with purpose. If the wind

should steal the maps,

would I rush to make them anew?

I say there is beauty

in the drift, yet I keep

carving new oars.

I am learning to love

what a day is.

Sometimes, I trust

what is here.

There is something so profound in trusting what is here and yet, our conditioned mind seeks outside of ourselves for the answer, for approval from the external expert when we find ourselves stuck, confused, doubtful, lost, anxiously seeking ways to carve new oars.

What if we drifted? What if we looked at life with soft and relaxed eyes? What if we opened up to unconventional ways that life may guide us? What if we allowed life to guide us?

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It is often quiet when hiking in Acadia. It is just you and nature. This is what meditation practice can offer us when we do not have the opportunity to walk through a sacred place like Acadia. A space to receive guidance, a space to look within and become aware of our perception lens.

When hiking Dorr Mountain, I met the path as it appeared to me with each step, around each tree, over each boulder, up each stair. I met the moment with reverence, openness, kindness and deep breaths. Allowing the trail to emerge reflects what happens when we are receptive to life. We release attachment to gaining the right answer and instead connect to a deeper knowing through curiosity.

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The teachings of Acadia can be summed up with the Zen koan – listen with your feet. In other words, we can drop the striving mind, cease perceiving through lens of separate self and trust in our inner authority. Poet Anne Hillman describes it this way in her poem We Look With Uncertainty

We look with uncertainty

beyond the old choices for

clear-cut answers

to a softer, more permeable aliveness

which is every moment

at the brink of death;

for something new is being born in us

if we but let it.

We stand at a new doorway,

awaiting that which comes…

daring to be human creatures,

vulnerable to the beauty of existence.

Learning to love.

Let’s practice…This meditation begins with a practice in conscious allowing then invites you to visualize your own sacred place of natural beauty as a way to practice receptivity. 

Here are two versions of the first part of the meditation – conscious allowing – which is inspired by Deborah Eden Tull and her book Luminous Darkness: An Engaged Buddhist Approach to Embracing the Unknown

May the teachings of Acadia support you. May they inspire you to open to the teachings of your life.

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