RELIANCE TO ALLIANCE: The view from the other side


It was back in June when I discovered that there was a certified meditation studio in the town of Alliance Alberta where we really hoped to move when our property in Reliance NWT finally sold. I connected with the therapist on Facebook, and made hopeful plans to begin classes after Thanksgiving. Finally this morning, after a very crazy few months, was my first class.

The last year I had come to realize that I would not be able to truly grasp my wilderness experience until I was on the other side of it, looking back with the wisdom of hindsight. Understanding my 7 year wilderness retreat will become clear as time separates me from the actual experience.

The hundreds of long hours spent gazing out the window at Charlton Bay and McLeod Bay on Great Slave Lake indelibly engraved into my soul the spirit of that land. Because I had no friends out there to talk about my insights with, I had to talk to the land, which sounds crazy until the land actually does become your friend.

It is a strange thing to carry on a conversation with one so ancient. I ask a serious question, like, ‘Tell me the true meaning of life,’ knowing full well the reply will not be in words. Revelations came slowly, in the sunset, in the rainbow, in the visiting of ravens and in death. Sometimes I would find clues in the Aurora and or hear them in the howling wind if I was silent enough.

When you ask nature a question, the answers are so profound in their perfect simple truth it seems silly, but who can argue with a planet? Mother Nature has been here from the very beginning and will be here until the end. An entity billions of years old with no ego speaks in a slower manner than we do. Her voice is the heartbeat of the Earth. One beat of the great drum at dawn and the other at sunset, the seasons changing cadence almost audible. I remember when I first heard it traveling by boat from Yellowknife to Reliance on July 1 (straight through in 16 hrs!) and was astounded knowing it had been there all along, it was my own ears that had been dull.

I think part of the problem with the modern world is we are losing the ability to pay attention to nature’s lessons. A lot of noise and light come along with human civilization, electricity and radio waves buzzing through our homes plus the added distraction of the Internet, of all things. It is a very difficult thing to take periods of time to disconnect and just let our mind and heart observe the natural world around us. To feel the wind on our face, watch the birds and bugs long enough to see what they are actually doing. Joyful to be alive on such a beautiful planet, regardless of any adverse circumstances.

Back to my morning meditation class. The room was filled with kindred souls who had all been coming to the same class for a few years now. Right away I felt comfortable with the motherly group, and when it came to my turn to introduce myself, I shared a bit about my seven year retreat in the bush. I realized part way through a story about how driving Ski-Doo at night down Pikes Portage had taught me to focus only on the present millisecond (in fear of falling off the trail again into the deep soft mushy over-flow again) when I realized my audience didn’t know what over flow was. At that moment I saw clearly I had been in a foreign Northern world not many know anything about. One lady had an inkling though, she had lived in Dawson City for 28 years. And had way-back connections with the Inuvik ski track!

The actual meditations were great. I loved the delightful gong struck three times at the beginning and end. The goal of learning meditation is, I think, to retrain the neural pathways in our brain to work in a more positive way which helps our subconscious mind overcome mental barriers and solve problems. This kind of meditation I’m learning also teaches how you to be happy.

So far the transition from the bush life is going well, though we are a bit disappointed in the early winter down here. Not as disappointed as the local farmers though. A lot of them only have half their crop of wheat or barley off the fields and with all the early snow it isn’t looking good.  The high point of the season was when some received insurance payments to cover for the severe early summer hail damage. Some of them are now facing a winter of no income at all. Mother Nature, though wise and beautiful, can also be a very cruel mistress.