To See or Not To Be
I have walked and lived in mountain ranges the world over – the Himalayas, the Andes, the Alps, the Picos de Europa, mountains in the Azores, South Asia, and North America. But not until I stayed in a condominium for a few months did I notice a visceral discomfort with heights. Then how was I able to roam those steep summits enjoying the view? I was aware of it though I concealed my phobia well. When I needed to ground myself, I would keep my eyes on my feet or straight ahead on the path. I would also direct my gaze to the scene around me or look at the horizon to avoid the sight of sheer cliff faces or dizzying vistas. Unwittingly, I relied on a natural tendency that is also consonant with my way of life as a Buddhist nun. I focus on my spiritual work, concentrating on where I am and what I am doing rather than on the past or future. Just as I avert my eyes from external views that might throw me off balance, distract, or unnerve me, I distance myself from troubling thoughts or feelings: a painful memory, the face of someone threatening, or a loved one whose loss still haunts. But eventually, this turning away from - while still being aware of - what disturbs me no longer serves. It is all very well for tramping through the wilderness but on the spiritual path I have to descend to face what I fear – to see life as it is from exactly where I am. More vital to wisdom and understanding than being cushioned by exhilarating panoramas or placated by moments of calm is an abil...