The Ephemeral Cairn Gardens Of the Austin Greenbelt - A Photo Journal and Meditation
A friend and I met for lunch at a local taco shack near the city's greenbelt, where he planned to take his mountain bike out for a cruise along the trails. As it was a pleasant Autumn afternoon and there was nothing keeping me, I decided to take a walk through the beautiful sun-soaked woods myself.
After tacos we made our way to the trail head together, at which point he asked in what direction I was headed.
"I don't know," was my reply.
Mounting his trusty carbon-fiber steed he took off and soon disappeared around a bend leaving me there alone.
Looking down the trail to my left, then up the trail to my right … then back to the left again, as if awaiting some unseen force to propel me in either direction, but feeling no particular pull, I finally rested my gaze upon an opening in the trees just in front of where I stood, and so up the middle I went.
Stepping through the woods about forty or so feet, I came out onto a bone-dry creek bed which I then followed. Poking along haphazardly up the old creek bed for ten minutes or more, I looked up and was suddenly bewildered by what I saw.
Not far off in the distance I could just begin to make out what seemed to resemble stalagmites – a group of twisted, spindling, rocky spires that reminded me of something I might have once seen in Southeastern Utah or the caverns of New Mexico.
As I drew closer it was impossible to suppress a smile.
Here is what I found ....
After some time I sat down to meditate among the stones.
Sitting there in the silence, I at some point found myself moved to envision in my mind's eye a sense of all humanity. This vision encompassed the many individual thoughts, feelings, attitudes and actions of mankind, including those that we tend to regard as undesirable: all of the deceitful, violent, selfish, cunning, calculating hurt and pain that we are capable of inflicting upon others as well as upon ourselves – those things that we wish to reform within ourselves but about which we often harbor some form of condemnation and contempt for in others.
Eventually entering into this vision of the totality of mankind was an opening up to a sense of love, understanding and acceptance for all of it, including our many so called 'detractions'.
Just as I was coming to this point, from the periphery, now drawing my attention away, was a growing awareness of one such member of humanity incarnate. Indeed, as I looked up, there was a trail runner breaking stride fifty feet or so away from where I sat on my haunches.
Having clearly run for some distance along the creek bed, he now stood hands on his knees drawing several heavy breaths, before continuing in my direction at a walk.
I tracked him unflinchingly as he passed, anticipating a silent exchange of glances, if nothing else, but he did not so much as motion to look in my direction.
As he moved along, I let my eyes come to a close once more, attempting to re-calibrate with the vision. Yet, now conscious of his presence somewhere off in the near distance among the rocky spires, my focus waned.
Opening my eyes again I spotted a leg through the cairns. Why him? Why now? Why had this stranger been allowed to intrude upon me at the seeming apex of my meditation? Was this some sort of malevolent ploy orchestrated by the devil himself to prevent me from attaining the enlightened state I was surely just about to reach had I not been interrupted? Damn you again, Universe, for not abetting my spiritual awakening! Though not explicit in such words, this was the essence of my mental reaction to the situation at hand.
Then the following realization took hold of me: Here before me was a perfect, outward, real-world example, illustrating for me the very thing I had been trying to capture in my meditation. Whereas I had begun opening to embrace, accept, and feel compassion toward the 'negative' within my meditative mind-state, I was now all too readily rejecting and mentally discarding what I perceived to be a negative outcome unfolding for me in actual experiential reality. I was condemning rather then embracing my own experience.
With that, I again closed my eyes, intent on letting go of the idea that this runner's presence had somehow arrived as an inconvenience, and instead attempted to welcome it as a practical instantiation of the very thing I had been meditating on.
Within no time at all I was stirred again by the sound of footsteps. The same man having circled round, now walked by me again, heading back in the direction he had come, only this time he acknowledged me with a nod and a wave as he passed. I nodded back silently. As he opened up into a run back down the creek bed, I stood up and watched until he was just a trace in the distance.
After a few minutes I started back down the creek myself, when another thought struck me, causing me to ponder the implications of what had just transpired still further. The trail runner had appeared to be around my age, roughly the same height, with a very similar build. We both had light hair with a scruffy unshaven face, and had both been shirtless. The more I considered it, our resemblance was uncanny.
Had the Universe, rather than forsaking me, merely been presenting me with a mirror?
(The preceding account was first written in Autumn of 2013, shortly after it occurred. This is the first it has been published.)
Michael Curving is a co-host of the Return Of Gnosis podcast, creator of WhoWillBuildTheRoads.com, and blogger at Curving.org. Follow him here on SteemIt and connect with him on Twitter, and it will fill his heart with gratitude.