In the last few years, I’ve adopted one constant mantra in my life: pay attention. Focusing my gaze outward is not only a place of solace, but of peace and sanctuary. One of my favorite meditative practices is walking outdoors, hugging my natural environment by looking up, down and around. When I engage in this pursuit, it never disappoints. Often times, my inclination is to jump head first into the vastness of what I observe. I realize the privilege of standing in the middle of it all. The mountains dotting the horizon, the bloom of the orange-yellow flower from the lush cacti and the hues of the sky affirm my belief that paying attention offers a palpable kind of hope. Isn’t that what we all want?
Last month, my family took a day trip to Sedona to visit Cathedral Rock. We started with Baldwin Trail. The sandy terrain looked like paths we traversed in Phoenix, but on our way, we heard the sound of water. Did a stream seek refuge between these gigantic mountains? It couldn’t be. We glanced behind the trees to discover an oasis surrounded by greenery. I caught the sun shining on the rocks at the right moment. That glimmer sparkled. A reminder to not only pay attention, but to sink into the present moment. I felt incredibly fortunate witnessing this natural twinkle in the earth’s terrain.
A few steps back offered the chance to see the picturesque view in its entirety. I took a deep breath, letting the beauty land slowly. I paid attention to every single detail. The green contrasted with the blue, while the tree branches framed all the light and the shadows. The sounds of the water, the rustling of the leaves and the chirp of the birds added to this spectacular symphony. The air tasted fresh and it reminded me of this Thoreau quote: “Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of the earth.”
Standing still in this place, offered me permission to reflect on this possibility: What if we hadn’t investigated further and continued on the trail without uncovering what existed behind the trees? We might have missed every single minute of this undeniable glory. To experience the full taste of this moment, my daughter decided to stick her toes in the water, while I witnessed her revelry.
Moving further down the trail, our eyes gravitated toward Sedona’s famous red rocks. I couldn’t believe the transition between our moments earlier near the stream and now staring into this mountainous landscape. It’s that swift and sudden, the change of scenery, the shift between two different kind of environments. It reminded me of my favorite metaphor, the pendulum, the sudden change between happiness and sadness, joy and sorrow and how every single day we reconcile these emotions in our personal landscape. It’s paying attention to these subtle and obvious shifts, listening to the roars and whispers and honoring the minutes of our life with what we deem personally fulfilling. It literally took my breath away. Near this particular landscape, we could feel the tilt of the breeze, strong and impressive – might this be a vortex? I am not certain, but the energy felt palpable – like the earth begging me to honor the moment in front of me. I did. I stared at those mountains for several minutes, saying a silent thank you for bearing witness to what I can’t adequately describe.
We ended the day looking up at the sky and caught several trees congregating like they were having a deep conversation. The fact that several different types of trees sprouted in the same section impressed me. Such multitudes. I stood among my new friends and let out a sigh of relief.
There is such satisfaction in paying attention.