Every time these mountains catch my eye, I admire their shameless grandiosity.
Reaching serenely up into sky and down into valley, arms wide open.
Resolutely holding sacred space by being none other than themselves.
For four years and four months these peaks have resided over my life. First to my north rising in a surreal display out of the plains of Catalunya. I stood at their feet as they Cascaded eastwards into the Mediterranean sea at the Cap del Crues. I glimpsed them as I brushed past wild rosemary and lavender, wandering dusty pine forest tracks.
They accompanied me through transition, a falling apart in my life. They showed me a steady, wide perspective in moments of collapse.
Longing took me closer and after two years I found myself a thousand metres up nestled in the mountain’s embrace. Closer to their heart. I felt myself falling in love and letting myself be loved by this gentle and jaw-dropping mass. I loved to play flute and drum in these mountains. To chant and sing. To move. To cry. Sometimes to speak out loud what was in my heart, sometimes to scream and shout. Often to lay down a blanket and meditate or sleep.
During a 6-week retreat in the tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, I would take my cushion and blanket to a rocky outcrop and melt there into the sky. Sometimes eagles would circle overhead as ancient Tibetan chants sprinkled through my body. I would wake in the night with mantras on my tongue and the mountain in my heart.
What draws our gaze to a mountain range?
What draws our feet there?
What lights up our heart?
I have wandered enchanted through the peaks of Snowdonia, the Himalayas, The Andes and The Alps. I have dreamed of living in the mountains, imagined that life, drew it, danced it, sang it, meditated on it. So to embed myself in a mountain range, day after day, year after year, has been a precious experience for me. I didn't set out with any particular goal in mind, I just knew I wanted to live a while with mountains. I remember this quote from Nan Shepherd's beautiful 1940s book 'The Living Mountain'.
"Yet often the mountain gives itself most completely when I have no destination, when I reach nowhere in particular, but have gone out merely to be with the mountain as one visits a friend with no intention but to be with the mountain"
To imagine being a mountain, grounded and souring at the same time.
How does it feel in the body?
How often do we use this analogy of being steady and grounded like a mountain? In yoga and meditation. Can you feel that way your body knows mountain? The memory of mountain. Solid and also permeable, steady without being stuck, ancient and with precise foresight, imperfect yet unreactive, graceful and powerful all at once.
Being with these mountains has taught me so much about love. Or maybe their holding me allowed a remembering to happen.
For the last few years I have witnessed this love affair of earth and space playing out before me every day through this mountain range. A romance between peaks and sky. Mountain leaning into sky, kissing hues of blue and pink, swooning into silky swathes of creamy cloud. Sky igniting rock’s erotic form, teasing and tickling with star light and seducing with sensual displays of sunrise and moon beams. They’ve been playing together like this since before any of us were born and will continue long after we are dead.
I don’t think this experience of mountain-ness can come with a lot of thinking about mountains. It is more about spending time in actual peaks, or in meditation, getting the felt sense of mountain, perhaps through the memory of our bones once being mountains, or listening to a story we love about mountains. Then we can perhaps notice those moments in our lives when mountain posture might help. When we need some of that mountain essence in our life. And we invite the memory in. Let each cell of our body align to mountain. Is this love?
"So to look on anything, such as a mountain, with the love that penetrates to its essence, is to widen the domain of being in the vastness of non-being. (Wo)man has no other reason for (her/) his existence" Nan Shepherd from The Living Mountain
Once I felt called to Arunachala, a holy mountain of south India.
There I met my teacher.
Later I went to the sacred peaks of Snowdonia.
There I met a part of myself I had forgotten.
Then I was drawn into the mysterious Pyrenees.
Where I learned something about love.
For three cycles of nine moons the Pyrenees have been my home. I lived in a Buddhist community. Gradually I migrated to the edge of the community and into the forest alone, still held in the love there, I let the practices I had learned continue to weave into my life in their own way. As this happened I began to feel an increasing momentum towards a new unfolding. A sense that this chapter is over whether I like it or not. So after living a few years now in relative isolation I feel a new call into participation. I am not sure how this will take shape.
So when I said goodbye to precious friends in my mountain home, I found myself saying thank you for the incredible support and welcome of Lama Tenzin, Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche and the lineage of teachers and practitioners who have helped bring this place to fruition, and of course, to the mountain, where I remembered my own song.