Saturday, April 14, 2007

if a tree had fallen, we would've heard it...

Today I went on a silent hike with the buddhists from the Shambhala Center. Technically, I *am* one of the buddhists from the Shambhala Center, since I'm a member and all, but I haven't gone to sitting meditation in nearly a year, so I'm basically a stranger to them. Even those who look familiar, I only know from passing glances. Going to sitting meditation was always surprisingly antisocial for me. I'd come in quietly, do my thing, then slip out at the end, often without saying a word to anyone. I didn't make a single connection the whole time I was going.

Today's silent hike promised to be similarly antisocial, but it turned out to be otherwise. First there was all the idle chit-chat as we gathered at 9:30 this morning and got ready to go. Then there was the hour long car ride into Columbia Gorge, plenty of chatter then. And, of course, the ride back.

The hike itself was interesting. A silent meditation hike is very different from a regular hike. You go slowly, you focus on your footsteps on the path, and of course you don't talk. Ten of us walked along like that and I'm afraid we looked a little cultish to the other hikers who passed us by, yacking away to each other. We stopped three times, twice for ten minute sitting meditation breaks and once for lunch. All silent. I imagined that, to others on the trail, we might look like a family so dysfunctional, we had completely stopped speaking to each other. Probably what we looked like was buddhists, quiet, nothing special.

The trail we hiked was gorgeous, up a trail carved into a steep hill, a river on one side down below, a rock face rising high on the other. At first it was wet, then the sun came out. There were purple wild flowers, birds, a lot of moss, butterflies, waterfalls. It was really lovely. And the people were sweet too. At the end, we commissioned a stranger to take a group photo of us all around a bench near the parking lot. So strange, to pose smiling for a picture with a bunch of people you just met.

The ride home was a little raucous. Some of the women wanted to stop at Cascade Locks for ice-cream. The ice-cream shop was tiny but sold Tillamook ice cream served in homemade waffle cones. I had German Chocolate Cake flavored ice-cream -- soooooo gooooooood. But so rich! After that, the chatting in the car was out of control. Even *I* talked. Little old me!

Now I have plans to go see music tonight with two of the women from the ride. I can't remember their names and I didn't find them all that interesting, individually, but the music sounded nice and the impromptu social invitation seemed like something I couldn't turn down. I need to get out more. My stack of DVDs can wait.

PS -- 40 Year Old Virgin was *really* sweet. I never would've guessed!


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