After reading what so many of you feel about the holidays, I’d like to briefly describe my favorite holiday season. It was in 1984, twenty years ago, and I remember the experience clear and fondly.
I have hated the holidays since I was a kid. The emotional, financial, and time consuming demands always lead to depression, frustration and resentment. But not in 1984. That year I loaded up my backpack, stuck my thumb into the wind, and headed west. I had previously established a camp site in the desert mountains of southern California. It was three miles from the nearest dirt road. No one ever wandered that far back into the hills, except for me.
It would be impossible for me to describe the rugged beauty of that place. It was awesome, quiet and lonely. I arrived the day before Thanksgiving, and did not leave the wilderness until after the passing of the New Year. For six weeks I nourished myself with nothing more than a gallon of water and a teaspoon of salt every day.
I had visions! Mostly of biscuits&gravy. You cannot imagine the peace and tranquility of that holiday season. It was deeply healing. Recollections of that time still comfort me.
So, the best holiday season I ever had was the one that I skipped entirely. No pressure, no family squabbles, no crowded shopping malls. Just an ongoing meditation without interruption. To sleep and wake and walk the rocky hills then sleep again. Forty days of prayer and fasting in the wilderness. Hata and raja yoga. Zen archery. Unrestrained songs with meaningless words. Vistas from mountain tops and glittering revelations as hawks eclipsed the sun. A dance in the heart of creation.
Most of that don’t mean diddly now. But come this time of year it is good sometimes to escape into the memories...