“Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet confinement of your aloneness to learn
anything or anyone that does not bring you alive
is too small for you.” David Whyte, “Sweet Darkness”
There’s no doubt that the Western Frontier has always been associated with exploration and even facing the great unknowns. Many left what had been known because of an aching in their own soul, looking for something more in their lives and headed West. It’s a part of our history as a country but it is also closely associated with a deeper reality of who we are in trying to find our soul in a world that often lacks depth and meaning. For myself, there has always been a radical opening that takes place within myself when I go West, as if I encounter, for the first time again, the wide and vast area that has yet to be explored or taken over by human innovation, still holding onto the natural that has a way of speaking, or even screaming at times, to places deep within ourselves when we confront in the lived reality what’s really going on within ourselves. As much as I think I know myself, or God for that matter, I am once again knocked down to a world yet explored, a world unto myself and yet far greater at the same time.
As humans, there is probably nothing that scares us more than confronting those places within ourselves. At times it seems as if it’s easier to see such vastness and emptiness projected on the frontier to make the task less daunting. What scares us more than anything is that we may just be proven to be a fraud in our own lives, not living up to the expectations we have placed upon ourselves or others have done for us over time. Whether they come from the roles we play in our family or in our daily lives, the more we separate ourselves from the last frontier and all it has to offer in exploration, our soul and its vastness, the more daunting it begins to feel to any of us and quite frankly, the less satisfied we become with our lives and the lack of depth and meaning that often becomes associated with it. It has a way of reminding us of our own shared creation, grounding us in something much deeper than what the world has to offer.
When I spent last week visiting the West, in Colorado, I knew that I couldn’t leave without some time exploring some of the most beautiful spots this country continues to offer, places like Pikes Peak, Garden of the Gods, Seven Falls, and simply the experience of driving through the high desert area that never ceases to catch you off guard by its unpredictability. It’s probably the least we can do for ourselves, in our lives, especially when we become so conditioned and domesticated in what we do and when the mundane seems to become the norm of our lives, the loss of mystery, adventure, and unknown, to go out and explore.
So there I was, wandering the Garden of the Gods, at times simply being overwhelmed by the vastness and the intricacies of it all, driving through narrow cutouts, feeling lightheaded by the altitude, a mouth parched from the aridness of the air around, the feeling of being vulnerable as I wander alone in places yet explored. Will I find my way back to my car? Do I have enough battery life in my cell phone? Would someone be able to find me? Of course, all fear and anxiety I was placing upon myself! As crazy as it seems, though, the deeper I moved into the area the further I wanted to go, to see, to experience, to understand, as if something within me became enlivened in those moments, knowing that I am no longer bound by the routine and the known, but being invited into the last frontier, the wild west, one more time in my life, and for that matter, my own soul. For a few moments it seemed to be inviting me to escape it all and reconnect with a deeper reality just now being revealed. It’s as if, once again, for the first time, you begin to look at life through a different lens that begins to expand and yet mirror how small we sometimes become in our daily lives.
The whole experience was somewhat overwhelming to the point of tears, as if love was revealed again in a different way, a more profound way, and yet questioning whether I could ever accept such a gift that was being revealed in those moments. In the distance, the snowcapped mountains gleaned, mounds of stone perched, empty vastness that seemed to go on for miles, and there I stood so small before it all and merely an instrument trying to put into words that which could not be described but only experienced, a moment that could never be captured by camera or phone, but one that only speaks soul to soul, that we are dust and unto dust we shall return. There it was, in a single moment, where all seemed and felt to be one, not wanting to end, not wanting to separate, not wanting to leave but try to absorb a beauty unlike any other. There I was, not only witnessing what was lying before me but also within me. It’s times like that when my own fraudulency is revealed and an invitation to go deeper, further, opens up to something more, a deeper understanding of me, God, and love, when what I had become accustomed to no longer was enough but called out for more.
Like most experiences, I go thinking it’s for one reason, to celebrate and vacation a bit, spend time with friends, but a change of place, time, landscape, the normal, has a way of breaking down our own defenses, our own walls we build, to open us up to something new that we could never have expected or even know we desired. Yet, when the soul becomes dissatisfied and desiring more, it will awaken us to our own complacency and once again invites us to go West, to the great unknown, to open us again to life. We can all become beat down by life and the challenges that we encounter, relationships that can deflate our souls, but we’ll never be satisfied with anything less than what it desires of and for us. In those moments of exploration and the loud silence that ensues, we make that promise that we’ll never settle and never be satisfied with anything less for our lives as co-creators with Mystery, with God, with the great unknown that the West has to offer.