Friday, March 9, 2012


Shortly after turning nineteen and while a student in college, I took a trip to visit my brother who at the time was living in Aberystwyth, South Wales. Paul told me he would be working long hours at a local vacation park and unavailable to offer tours of the area, but I was happy. Being alone suited a need in me to be indrawn and reflective. With no set schedule or obligation to anyone or anything, all I wanted was to wander free with a small map in hand and seek out places of natural beauty.

Each morning, after a quick chat with Paul over a breakfast of tea and toast, I would venture out, with the intention of walking for as long and as far as I could. The setting was perfect. Situated on the west coast of Wales, Aberystwyth offered spectacular views of Cardigan Bay and on a clear day, the lovely vista would suddenly be enhanced by the appearance of Mount Snowdon, standing in serene silence.

With such compelling scenery, I invariably opted to walk one of the many coastal pathways which wound their way up the hills on the edge of the bay or wove through woodlands. Each walk was always breathtaking. Inclines climbed steadily and with greater elevation, they offered an even more expansive and breathtaking view.

As seagulls swooped and screeched overhead, I would marvel at the craggy stone set against the ocean, and breathe in the fresh salt air. It felt good to be outside a classroom setting. With each focused step I felt as if my mind was being washed clean. All concerns of college papers and deadlines dissolved as if containing no real substance. At the same time, I watched my awareness expand to fill the vastness and I was effortlessly drawn into a state of peace and stillness that appeared to have no end.

All those years ago, although I did not know it, I was fulfilling an innate need for solitude and practicing a form of open-eyed meditation. Watching my footing and the steady flow of breath combined with the beauty of the environment was bringing me into 'present moment awareness.' In this state, I was gifted with, "The peace that passeth understanding." I was having the direct experience that peace is not something to be gained from outside, it is an inner state which we are gifted with when we take time to withdraw, be quiet and be with ourselves.


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