Thursday, February 27, 2014

Transcendence

"Glowing Mountains"
-Outside the Desert Retreat House-

Yesterday the mountain behind my house turned into gold. 

Every once in a while the setting sun will hit the Eastern mountains behind my house at just the right angle so that they will literally look like they are glowing - hills of gold. Whenever that happens (and actually it happens quite often), I find myself mesmerized by it all. I go out into my garden and gaze at the mountain behind my house, and something always happens in me. The glowing gold mountain becomes a magnet - drawing me out of my ego. The mountain turns into a doorway inviting me into the experience of transcendence - connecting me to an awesome power that is far greater than my own tiny, paltry individual self.

I've been thinking about my experience of the glowing gold mountain. It's no wonder to me that the Bible is full of stories about mountains that glow. 

In the Hebrew scriptures, Moses is in the desert and he climbs to the top of a mountain where he experiences the awesome power of Holy Divine Presence.  The story depicts "God" as a flaming desert bush. When Moses gets near the bush, he becomes engulfed in the light and his face glows in the brilliance. On top of the mountain Moses experiences "transcendence." 

The Gospels of the Christian Testament tell of a time when Jesus took some of his disciples out into the wilderness where they all climbed up to the top of a mountain and Jesus is "transfigured." He glows with the presence of divinity, and like Moses on the mountain, the disciples who are next to him become engulfed in the same brilliant light and they also glow in the brilliance.  On top of the mountain Jesus and his disciples enter into an experience of "transcendence."

When people read these "glowing mountain" stories they ether think that the stories are ridiculous fairy tales of magical events that never took place, or they think that the stories really did happen but they only happened to exceptionally holy people back long ago. All of which misses the point.

Glowing mountain stories are not meant to be history. They aren't documentaries. They are poetry- incredibly powerful metaphors that try to "get at" the inexplicable mystery of the experience of "transcendence: - the experience of being drawn out of the individual self and connected to a power that is greater than the ego. 

Glowing mountain stories are all about the experience of the "Holy" in real everyday life -  an experience that is accessible to each and every human being on the planet.

As I sit here this morning and think about that mountain behind my house that turns into gold every day, I realize that almost every day of my life I go up on a mountaintop and glow. Sometimes I climb up real high and glow intensely. Sometimes my climb is just a few feet and the light is just a spark. But nonetheless, almost everyday I climb a mountain and glow.

I sit in my garden in absolute silence in those moments just before the break of day dawns and watch a hummingbird and I glow in the presence of the holy. I walk a desert trail in springtime and take a picture of a budding flower growing wild in the sand and I'm on the mountaintop.  I walk out into the wilderness in the dark of night engulfed by the brilliance of a moon and an array of stars in the sky so bright that it seems like day, and I'm on the glowing mountain.  Guests visit our home or we go to dinner with friends, sharing our stories as we eat and laugh together and everyone is glowing.  I see the face of an innocent child at a store who smiles and waves to me, melting my heart, and the store is turned into a mountaintop and I glow in the light of Holy Presence.  

Every day, in some form or other, I am drawn out of my own ego and pulled up into an experience, a power that is greater than "me." I am pulled into "transcendence." 

The sun has come up over the mountains and has taken command over the desert sky. I sit here basking in its brilliance. 

I've been to the mountaintop.  

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