Monday, June 16, 2014

Hiking to Enlightenment and Beer

We don't know how much we love something until it's gone.

Anyone who's traveled might discover how much they love cereal with cold milk, or their bed, or their exercise routine. But when I lived in other countries, I experienced longing on a different scale. A desert climate in the Middle East leaves a lot to be desired, but I especially missed Oregon's beautiful forests and that crisp smell of the outdoors. Today I went on a nature hike with my mom and some folks from Sasquatch Brewery through Forest Park. The hike was four miles long and, on the way, the hikers could answer trivia questions for prizes: Sasquatch Brewery hats. It used to be that going out in public with my mom wearing matching hats would be the most embarrassing fate imaginable. But getting older makes me care less what others think. We rocked those hats because we're both good at trivia and because if I'm going to advertise any brewery on my head, it's going to be Sasquatch Brewery.

That hike was exactly what I needed for letting go of stress. These days I'm open to any avenue for enhanced relaxation: daydreaming, hikes, yoga, converting to Buddhism, whatever! Last night I watched a documentary about Buddhism, and although I'm not really considering becoming a Buddhist, I was fascinated by the Tibetan Buddhists in the documentary. These people have suffered hostility and exile, but they don't respond with hostility or resentment. Instead, they gather in the same place every year where the Buddha is said to have attained enlightenment and pray for world peace.

One of my best friends loaned me the documentary. Since she introduced me to a coffee shop halfway between our homes, we've been meeting there every few weeks for creativity and conversation fueled by coffee. My friend was raised Jewish, but now seems to be some kind of Jewish/Buddhist hybrid, a Jewddhist, to coin a new phrase. She's very wise and I take everything she says with a boulder of salt. I was telling her about someone who's beginning to annoy me, someone in my life I don't trust. (I should mention I have trust issues, so my mistrust may only be the result of having to fend for myself, not always successfully, my whole life.) My friend said I should look deeply within myself to understand why this person bothers me so much. I must figure out what I see in this person that I also dislike about myself. Well, I thought about it and I don't know the answer.

We are our own worst critics. But I think the knowledge that the Tibetan Buddhists have figured out is that we must be at peace with ourselves before we can create peace between one another. I'm working on being at peace with myself, letting go of stress and being grateful for the simple pleasures I lived without for so long.