I just had an incredible weekend at Wolf Creek Outpost, conducting my latest yoga retreat. The fall leaves were exquisite. The yoga practices and meditations we did on the deck were decadent. I’m always so charged when I come home from these retreats.
On Sunday morning, as we were sitting in the woods near the ranch, solo in meditation, I felt like I belonged to a monastery. I and a few other choice souls were scattered across the landscape, sitting in silence as the expectant sun crept over the eastward mountains. A stone was my zafu, the earth my zabuton. Instead of saffron robes, I was wearing hunter’s orange—after all, it was the opening weekend for the deer hunt. While I’m slowly attempting to raise the light of my consciousness, I’d prefer that my illumination come slowly through a lifetime of work, mediation, and love, like the early morning light beginning to crown the mountains, rather than meeting the infinite with a quick bullet from a misguided hunter. But the neon orange vest and dorky hunter’s cap, complete with a virile buck embroidered on the front (sportsman soft-porn), seemed the perfect habit for this weekend monk.
The sun slowly bloomed over the caps of the mountain and I’m sure every plant animal and mineral on that mountain paused, just like me, to take in the daily miracle of that priceless sunrise. Then suddenly the quite perfection of the morning air was torn with a gun shot. Deer were on the move and hunters were taking notice. Earlier while in my open-eyed meditation, I noticed four or five deer tenuously crossing the canyon road several hundred yards below seeking the water of the creek. The explosion of the rifle brought my senses to full attention. It dawned on me that maybe an early morning sunrise sit in the woods on opening weekend of the deer hunt isn’t the wisest idea, even if we are sporting safety vests and the like. Yeah, that’s the clarity that came to mind. But something else too. At that moment, the mass of knowledge and experience we’d received regarding our hearts purpose, this retreat’s focus, in the form of yoga, conversation, meditation, a sweat lodge, nature, food, laughter and fun, all struck me like a bullet as if some cosmic hunter had placed me in their cross-hairs and put a slug right through my heart.
With my mind alert, my senses active, and my heart listening, noted to myself what I’d learned so far at this retreat:
1. We must know ourselves. Yoga and meditation are an awesome way of doing that.
2. We must then understand the gifts of our hearts and offer them to the world also as a gift, even if no one is pickin’ up what we’re puttin’ down.
3. Like the fox in The Little Prince says, “One only sees clearly with the heart. That which is essential is invisible to the eyes.”
With that, I stood up and started to gather my little flock of weekend monks silently back to the safety of the ranch house and a warm cup of coffee. And as I walked, my gaze on my feet on the earth, I prayed for all those deer out there that nothing more than a beautiful sunrise would pierce their heats that day.