In this lifetime I have been given many opportunities to experience my True Nature. I can't tell you why but from a very early age I have been confronted by death. Over and over again I found myself staring into the ultimate unknown and finding the false self standing naked before the ultimate reality, which is we are not the body and we are not the mind, and that none of "us" are getting out of here alive.
When I was sixteen I was a Boy Scout attending a Boy Scout camp in Colorado. I was in a group of older more experienced Scouts and in this summer camp a competition was held to determine the top ten Scouts in the camp. This competition involved a timed ascent of a 600 foot vertical climb of a butte near the camp. We did not know why or what we were competing for but we were told the fist ten climbers reaching the top would receive a prize.
So we lined up at the base of the butte a Scout leader was already at the top and a whistle was blown and up we went. I was the first to reach the top. I and nine others were gathered together at the summit and asked to meet at the camp cafeteria at 5am for an early breakfast the next morning at which time we would be given instructions concerning our "prize".
The next morning we all gathered in the predawn chill to eat our breakfast and afterwards a senior camp counselor walked in and announced we were all loading up to drive to set up a base camp at Longs Peak. We were going to climb the highest peak in the Colorado National Park, elevation 14,259 ft.
None of us were experienced climbers but our senior counselors were so off we went on our grand adventure.
Upon arriving we were told to make camp, and at 4 am we were to set off towards the summit. The first part of the climb was relatively flat, we had flashlights and the path was well worn and easy to traverse.
But at first light we saw the mountain. It was formidable. The counselors impressed upon us to press on because it was our goal to reach the summit by early afternoon so that we could descend in time to be at base camp by dark.
All went well during the ascent. We were young, experienced scouts and enjoying the challenge.
As we neared the summit we noticed a snow field running down the face of the mountain, we were at 13,000 ft and still climbing.
We reached the summit around 2pm. When one reaches the summit of a mountain there is usually a book or record left behind by other climbers. It is customary to sign in and leave a comment. We were doing just that, eating a bit of lunch and milling about the summit, (which was an area of bare rock about the size of a basketball court) when suddenly without warning all hell broke loose.
In the Rockies, in the summer it is common to experience sudden and sometimes violent thunderstorms, and as luck would have it, while we were on top of this barren rocky place a thunderstorm rolled up from below and over the top of the mountain. It got dark, very dark and suddenly without warning we found ourselves surrounded by howling winds, blinding rain and lightning. Lots of lightning. The lightning was striking the top of the mountain, blinding flash after blinding flash. We were trapped inside of a thunderstorm. Rock shrapnel was whistling about our heads as lightning exploded against the stone. Deafening thunder with every lightning strike made it impossible to hear each other as we huddled together against the storm. Something smelled like burning iron. It was surreal.
Suddenly, during a lightning flash, I saw our lead scout waving his arms for us to follow him. He was running towards the snow field. We all ran. We followed him to the edge of the snow and watched him pull off his parka, place it on the snow, sit on it and disappear into the storm.
His parka had become a sled, and his quick thinking had showed us a way off the summit.
What was happening for me, in me, was this amazing moment. This moment was familiar to me, I was calm, alert, present unafraid. I felt a Presence that was witnessing the storm, the lightening, the chaos. There was just stillness and the mind doing it's job, and it's job was take off the parka, sit on it and get the hell out of there.
That is what I did. One at a time we shot down the snow field into the storm on a blind track to somewhere below. I was the 4th one down, the three Scout Leaders had gone before. They had instructed us to go down single file in 60 second intervals. As I blasted down the 45 degree slope I used my heals to correct my track, I could see the groove cut in the icy snow by the counselors who went before me. This was all happening in seconds, but time had stood still, just like before when I had faced death in the past, nothing mattered, there was no past, no future, no fear, just NOW.
As I continued to descend I realized I was getting below the storm, I saw light ahead and suddenly there were the three counselors standing with arms locked on their knees acting like a human net to catch me. I hit the brakes and dug my heals into the ice and rolled into their arms.
One after another we locked arms to catch the next sledder, and miraculously we all made it to the bottom.
Slowly one by one we stood up dusted off the ice and snow and looked up at the raging storm pounding the top of the mountain with a bombardment of lightning strikes, thunder and howling winds.
No one spoke a word, and after a few moments one of the counselors gasped, we all looked at him as he gazed towards the edge of the snowfield. We all realized at once we were standing 5 feet from a cliff edge that plummeted a thousand feet to the rocks below.
There wasn't much talking going on the rest of the day. We all descended the mountain in silence.
That night in base camp I remembered that morning with my little brother, and the gun, and the neighbor boy. I remember the sense of Presence, the Stillness, the fearlessness. I felt the truth of myself. My True Nature. I knew that if my body had gone off that cliff, that what and who I really am would not have. I felt extreme gratitude.
We are taught practically from birth to identify with the body.
We are given a name and told by our parents and family that this is who you are.
This named person with a body is in relationship with other named bodies and in time we develop a complex personality that is adept at negotiating this rather odd world of separate bodies with separate names.
Soon we are indoctrinated into a world of separateness and we are left to our own devices that hopefully prove to be successful in the unrelenting quest for love, attention and approval. Not to mention being successful with and as the prime directive of the now fully formed ego, which has one primary objective, to survive.
Most of us float along like this, trying to fit in, make the grade, get the right job, find the right partner make the right decisions and so on.
If we're lucky however we encounter an alternative reality that is typically revealed to us through some form of crisis or loss or excruciating emotional or physical pain. Sometimes it is a near death experience or sometimes the loss of a loved one. But these opportunities come, and when they do we are given a glimpse into The Real.
You are not your body.
You are not your mind.