Monday, August 16, 2010

Mt. Tabor: Healing Space

   There is a neighborhood in southeast Portland, Or. known as Mt. Tabor, named after the extinct volcanic cinder cone which rises above the quaint houses and pine trees below it's skirts. The name originally is from the Mt. Tabor of biblical fame which is located in the Jezreel Valley of Israel and widely thought in Christian lore to be the site of the Transfiguration of Jesus, among other things. That however, is for another history and I digress. The former Mt. Tabor's old forest, hiking paths, serenity, fresh air and overview of Portland make it a favorite quick getaway for many urbanites seeking refuge from the grind of city life, relatively speaking. Some might say that Portland is not much of a grind at all, but I suppose that would depend on your perspective, like all things. Anyway, this mount is a special place for me as it was, one summer, the site of at least a part of my very own humble transformation, if not transfiguration.
   I began practicing yoga in April of 2005.The immediate impact that it had on my life and continues to have is something amazing and that I am grateful for every day. I remember the immediate serenity combined with sense of real purpose that I had always known was there but never quite knew how to tap into using just my own body, my own breath. I was hooked after my very first class which I took from a DVD, and immediately was practicing 5-6 days a week, which given my tendency to completely engulf myself in anything new and exciting, is unsurprising. There was something different about yoga though. Somehow I knew that I had found my way and that a path had opened up before me, a way to be, a way to live.
   It wasn't long before I began noticing changes happening within my body, and even more interesting, within my mind. Besides the aches and pains from the impact of years of snowboarding and skateboarding immediately being dispersed, being energized but calm, feeling light and loose, tranquil and serene,  I also, began a process of self-awareness. I began asking myself questions that had never occurred to me before.  Why had I said what I had said? Why had I thought that thought? Where do all these pinned -up emotions come from? And my favorite, why did I just have a ten minute conversation with someone who wasn't even in my presence, a conversation that hadn't and likely never would occur, at least not in the form I had just imagined in my head? Of course, looking back now, I can see these things more objectively, but when it is happening, it is very difficult to put it all together like some formulated math problem, i.e. I began doing yoga, look what is happening to me! I was just lost in it. Or maybe I would prefer to say, was found in it.
   Now, we come back to Mt. Tabor. I had just moved to Portland from Telluride, Co. in Febuary of 2006. I settled in quite comfortably and feeling great about starting a new life there, it didn't take long before I met and fell for an amazing girl, who as it turned out would not be staying but for two more weeks before she would be heading back home to Alaska. Damn it all though, we allowed ourselves to get swept along in the passions of the moment and had a dreamlike time before she left! We were inseparable for those two weeks, which seemed like so much longer at the time, but how short a span anyway.  Like all brightly burning, shooting stars, however, it was meant to flame out, and I was left to grasp at what was left of the tail, hurt, distraught and lonely.
  So, what were my normal tendencies? How had I always dealt with the sort of pain I was feeling now? In what would I seek solace and comfort?  How could I numb myself to the real experience of what was happening internally? Well, something shifted for me at this moment in my life. Instead of heading to the pub to belly up at the bar, drink, smoke and sulk, I began to take walks at sunset up Mt. Tabor. I would walk and think and feel. I found a bench and would sit, would allow the emotions of being hurt to sweep over me, to penetrate my awareness. I began to notice that the anger, the pain, my sadness were all very fleeting states of mind and would come and go, one melting into the other over the space of an hour or so until I was flooded with a sense of well-being, tranquility and peace. For the first time in my life, I was introducing myself to these emotions, was allowing myself to feel them, to KNOW and experience them.
  This went on over the course of that summer and I spent many an evening hour walking, taking photos, thinking, and what amounted to this early experience of meditation before I really had an understanding of what meditation was. Interestingly, this wasn't a conscious thing I was doing. I don't ever recall having the thought that I was using  Mt. Tabor as a healing space for myself. It was a completely organic experience and I was lost in the sacredness of what I was doing, with no real self-consciousness about why or where. It just happened and I just was. It was a beautiful time in my life and I know something very pivotal for me in my own becoming.
   Something else I find interesting is that I have always  at least thought I had an ability, though I know it's a fairly common phenomenon, to find or at least to know that there is a beauty in the experiences that we designate as negative or hurtful or sad. I actually can ENJOY feeling down, being hurt or dejected. But is it really enjoyment of these emotions that I am experiencing OR is it that when I am feeling these things acutely, is it that by feeling them, I am healing myself and THAT knowing is what I am  experiencing as serenity, tranquility, beauty?  When we allow ourselves to live a more accepting, open and honest life, even with our own inner turmoil, I believe that we free ourselves to encounter our lives more fully, with acceptance and compassion for our own unique experience.
  Occurrences like this tell me that we are, at least in part,  being guided by something outside of our own consciousness, though not something "outside" of ourselves, only outside of  the immediate awareness for most of us, depending on your experience with the more subtle levels of prana, or life force. They also inform me of how great our individual potentials can be if we can only learn how to tap in to our own subtle body, regardless of pre-existing notions of good/bad, painful/pleasurable and allow space for magic to happen.  How open we allow ourselves to be to the possibilities of what this implies is our own choice. The beauty of it is immense and beyond exclamation.


  1. I have been doing some self awareness stuff lately, asking myself why I thought what I thought and what purpose did it serve. I haven't gotten any further than that. I have a problem with concentration and my mind wanders so quickly... so I am at a bit of a road block. But paying attention to my thoughts is exciting for me, when I remember to do it. It feels almost.. elevated. Does that make sense?

    Thanks for making me think David (as you usually do) I enjoyed this and am looking forward to more of it.

  2. I think it feels "elevated" because that is a common feeling we can have when we begin to meditate. It's nothing to do with levitation but a lifting of the spirit. I think you are catching a very small fragment of your potential when you do this form of meditation. Next, start trying to sit still in quiet for ten minutes or so first thing in the morning before turning anything on, checking your phone, etc.... Do that for a week, then see what happens.