On July 4th 2014, we participated in something a bit different than your typical red white & blue fireworks, beer & BBQ’s. We had the pleasure of going on a nature walk with the Zen Center of LA’s Green & Brown Circle, which is an environmentally focused group within the ZCLA.
There were 11 participants, most of which were veterans of the ZCLA aside from Mara & I. Together we all hiked up the Hollywood Hills at Griffith Park Hiking Trails. The hike took place it the common zen fashion of meditative silence to center our presence & fully connect with our experience. As we are still new to LA, this was Mara & I’s first time up this trail. Mid-morning was the perfect time of day to witness the sun coming up into full-swing emitting a dancing of shadows with chirping birds expressing birdness & countless green things peacefully arriving to meet the new days glory.
The climb was a little bit of a workout & I did break a sweat. I have to share some respect for the older folks with us that climbed this trail. It wasn’t Mt. Everest but it was by no means a cake-walk. I can only hope to be as energetic if or when I reach such age. Perhaps this is an effect of a meditative life whereas extra energy is not burned on damaging things so ones vitality is given more resource to persevere. These are such wonderful people to share time with & within each of them I see a tangible hope for humanity. The positive power of Sangha is a jewel indeed & the ZCLA has done an awesome job on actualizing the importance of sangha activity!
Once we reached the top of the hill, we laid down some blankets & sat in silent meditation for (I think) 20 minutes. Looking out over the hillside, the iconic Hollywood Sign was in plain view. What struck me in the back drop of my silence was that less than a year ago, I would have never guessed that I’d be living in L.A. …..& yet there I was – sitting zazen, facing the Hollywood sign. Hello Great Mystery! Out of fear & delusion, people have a tendency to act as if the future is already known to us, & yet time & time again, we are shown that it never really is. I am grateful for this mystery. I sleep & wake within it. It’s a pleasure to not know what tomorrow will bring. I can make plans & make some choices according to the probabilities & possibilities, but never will they clutch my mind as ultimate reality. Never will I invest my need for happiness in them. Never will I hold them as anything more than what they are.
During the silent sitting, various birds came to visit us sharing unique sounds which cleared the mind of dialog. The gentle wind was especially pleasant on my skin & I was reminded of how nice it is to practice outdoors. After zazen, we shared our thoughts & reflections with each other & just enjoyed the time together.
We then geared up & trucked down the hill. Before heading back, we stopped at the Observatory where we encountered a man in big red suspenders running back & forth on the main stairway, parading an American flag. It was as if he was in a slick propaganda movie, posing for the onlookers in surreal patriotic poses. I just took the whole thing in & capered the moment on my camera. Even though I do not in any way resonate with the mindset of Patriotism or Nationalism, for some reason the people in L.A. seem to have a hard time smiling so I do have to say, it was nice to see this man reaching out to us with his energy smiling as he was & expressing such enthusiasm. If such efforts simply remained in this harmless stage, never turning into ideas of superiority, imperialism & horrifying scenes of war, I might have joined him in the fun!
Heading back down the hill, we returned to silence & it was surprisingly just as difficult going down the hill as the trip upward! Around the corners, I needed to practically run as to not slip & fall! We all made it back in one piece with smiles on our faces. It was a good day*
I took some great images from this hike & will be sharing them here as they are edited. I am pleased to announce that I am now on the Photography Stewards Circle with the ZCLA so you will be seeing more images documenting ZCLA happenings from me*
It is my understanding that communing with nature is a necessary part of living a healthy life & for those of us who live in Metropolitan & urban arias, it’s extremely important for us to get off the concrete & really connect with nature. It allows us the opportunity to take-in a perspective larger than our social conditioning & man-made values. There are many great trails in the Los Angeles aria to discover. I am looking forward to more hikes here & more cherished times with the Zen Center of LA!
~ Shaon Sattva
Zen Center Of Los Angeles Website: www.zcla.org
The Guide to L.A.’s Griffith Park: www.discoverlosangeles.com/blog/guide-las-griffith-park