Tarn and I took a desert walk today. We enjoy exploring a section of an ancient river bed that snakes its way through sage, juniper, and rabbit brush far east of Bend. From a distance, this area is indistinguishable from any other part of the high desert. But, when boots hit the ground, one can witness subtle miracles peeking through the landscape.
I notice an interesting display of “micro-geology” beneath my feet. Small stones of infinite shape and color hide in nooks and crannies inside a field of broken basalt. I discover red and yellow jasper, petrified wood, agates and mini-crystals so small I have to get down on hands and my one good knee to see them.
The only signs this is an old river bed is the occasional outcrop of water-smoothed boulders—some with symmetrical holes bored deeply into the hard surface. A number of these holes are still filled with water from past rains. I see lots of wildlife signs through varying scat and tracks. This is a good place for animals to find both water and prey.
Nature reveals such surprises only to those who walk off the beaten path. It is the same with Dharma practice. Through meditation we intentionally cultivate a way of occupying our time outside our usual paths—wandering far afield of our habits of mind. In this way we witness a surprising “peeking through” of our true nature. It is always there but we often “drive” too fast and think the vast expanse is nothing of interest. We arrive in the town of Burns and realize we saw nothing along the way—just 120 miles of “mindlessness”.