One of my objectives for the PCT hike was to re-enter a more natural relationship with nature than has been possible to me in everyday human life within our western culture. Short forays into nature even on a daily basis, walking and hiking around my beautiful southwestern home, left me unsatisfied in that I could not really take in all that I was seeing of the natural world. I’d always had a sense of being too walled off to take in the awesomeness of the beauty all around my own home, let alone the grandeur of close by wonders like The Grand Canyon or Zion or Bryce.
As an animal and nature communicator I have entered into the heart of the natural world in a mental/spiritual way that was satisfying up to a point, but I wanted more of a total immersion physical experience, a physical experience in which I might take in all around me as I take in air and water. I wanted to hear my cells sing with the place in which I found myself. I wanted the total unselfconscious physical and mental well being and sense of being of the earth that every wild animal enjoys as a birthright.
Somewhere in the Sierra I found myself, if not totally with the animal unselfconsciousness I was after, as close as I think I will ever get. I noticed that state of being when I found myself one day, fully absorbed in ants harvesting crumbs from my snack. One ant found a fine large crumb which was three or four times his size. He picked it up and made a mighty attempt to walk it off to his colony. He staggered and swayed and made one step then staggered and swayed and took another step. He WAS making headway. It was a mighty feat of mind over matter. That ant was going to deal with that crumb no matter what! Another ant came to help. He got on the other end of the crumb and for a few seconds they worked it back and forth, not quite agreeing on strategy. Then the first ant circled with his end of the crumb and started dragging it. The second ant got the picture and pushed. This was going to work! They were making really good time when a third, smaller ant came along to help. He pushed against the side of the crumb, totally disrupting the progress of the first two ants. They all pushed and pulled the crumb around for a few seconds then the first ant won the day by pulling the crumb away from the others and proceeding backwards toward the colony.
During the time I watched this part of an ant’s workaday life I was totally absorbed. Absorbed in the way a child would be. It lasted for quite some time. Then I noticed that I was absorbed in ant life and the unselfconscious moment turned back to more “normal” selfconsciousness. Once I became fully aware of watching, the magic went out of the moment and I was just watching ants going about their work.
Noticing a beautiful scenic vista was somewhat the same experience. There would be that moment when I would notice myself noticing, rather than simply living within it naturally. The magic would morph into an “isn’t that beautiful” moment in which I could feel human me with the big brain standing back and evaluating a subject rather than simply being in the scene without thought.
I found that both states of being are perfect when in balance. Our usual selfconsciousness and the unselfconsciousness of animals and small children are both beautiful manifestations of our humanity. It probably takes an outlandishly radical move, like spending long periods of time away from the usual pursuits and entering more natural settings for large blocks of time, to find that natural, well balanced and beautiful, human state of being. I know it took that for me. I’m glad I made the effort.