A peak experience from Tucson

A spiritual author takes Joseph Campbell at his word, and follows his bliss . . . up Arizona’s Finger Rock

SPECIAL TO SOUL’S CODE: JONATHAN LOWE —  About a peak experience, I had one literally this past week climbing what’s called Finger Rock in the Catalina mountains north of Tucson, where I live.  People generally don’t take the time to commune with nature, or to realize that we are part of it rather than conquerors of it.

What’s amazing about Tucson is that you can be in city traffic and congestion one moment, and after ten minutes . . . on a trail at the edge of the city be in the wilderness of a mountain canyon with no sounds or view at all of what you left behind.

In the Catalina mountains north of the city are several canyons of sheer-rock walls, hills covered in tall saguaro cactus which live hundreds of years, and massive boulders in sand.  Whether one is taking a short hike or climbing all the way up the trail, such as in Finger Rock canyon, the city is quickly left behind.  And at the top, after several miles of steep climbing, is a tall spire of stone 200 feet high, like the finger of God pointing at the sky.

My road less traveled

The climb was not easy.  There are shifting sands and bad-ass  rocks along the way.  I also tend to leave the trail others take to wander along in dry washes.  I came upon a javelina sunning himself on a rock by taking this “road less traveled.”  The pig-like mammal is harmless unless cornered, and I managed to maneuver around it without rousing it.

Climbing over large boulders, I had to be cautious, as I learned once years ago when a boulder the size of a car suddenly shifted violently and pitched me onto a 45 degree slope in a 20 foot fall.  I broke my finger then, and was stopped by a cactus, whose spines penetrated my back.  Memory of this opened my eyes to new dangers.

Then, suddenly, in the space that called out to me . . . a thought flooded my mind: The infinite is evident all around us, something which dwarfs any sense of ego in trying to reach goals. Climb a mountain that can’t be reached by car for no reason, or goal, other than to see what happens — and something else may happen.

Something happened to me.  I felt an exhilaration, not at the accomplishment of climbing, but with the validation of knowing what’s important, and seeing it with my own eyes again.

Why I made nature my ‘church’

We are all really going to die, physically-speaking.  This is one lesson that nature mirrors back to us with every step.

Could it be that the wise person, who listens to silences and nature’s other lessons, doesn’t “live fast and die young,” with the goal of checking off some bucket-list or dying with the most toys?

What I felt along my climb, and not just at the top, was the reality of another perspective.  We only own this moment we find ourselves in, and if we live in that moment, accidents are less likely to happen because we are attuned to nature’s rhythms.  Sound corny?  What’s corny is listening to the television instead.

I once interviewed scientist Jonah Lehrer, who told me the ego is difficult to remove from our self perception — and I’m sure that Eckhart would say the same.  It takes a trip away from everyone, and everything, to recognize this at times.

It’s difficult to sustain an ego in the presence of true grandeur.

You can see Jonathan’s first story for Soul’s Code right here. You can buy his book, a novel inspired by the teachings of Eckhart Tolle, at Amazon. It is also now available as an audio book on Audible.com.

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