New Day Herald

Walking Sacred Ground

Article imageSanta Barbara, California—A few days ago, I hiked a rutted stagecoach road framed with massive boulders. Manzanita, oak, cactus and a few scattered pines filled the Santa Ynez Mountains around me. In the distance, the Pacific Ocean shone blue in the afternoon sun. Along with a group of friends, I visited Windermere Ranch, northwest and two thousand feet above Santa Barbara.
Windermere, a Gaelic word, meaning water that wanders around and gathers, is a 140 acre peace retreat located in the Los Padres National Forest. Created by The Institute for Individual and World Peace, this land is a haven for those interested in learning more about the peace process.
The Institute’s founder has said, “The land at Windermere reached out and claimed us.” I experienced the truth of that statement. When I entered the property receptive to peace, the land embraced me warmly and led me to that place inside where Spirit resides and peace is always present.
Now, I’ve felt that energy other places. You probably have your favorite spots in nature, places where you know all is right with your world. For me, hiking around the Sierra Blanca Mountain in southern New Mexico or walking a deserted beach can pull me into a deep place of peace.
What is it about some areas that promote inner calm and connection to Spirit? For some reason, in these spots I can easily drop my concerns, cease againstness and move into acceptance. It’s as if God reaches out and shakes me momentarily loose from my restrictions to life and loving.
The Institute for Individual and World Peace believes that peace in the world is achieved one individual at a time. Sound like a hopeless cause? Imagine trying to get everybody in the world peaceful.
And that thought is one way I lose my peace – taking on the whole world. I’m not responsible for the world’s state of mind, only mine. If I take care of my inner peace, then I do my part for the world. I become the true peace activist. Sure, I can volunteer and give money to my favorite causes, but ultimately I am responsible for maintaining myself in a consciousness of peace.
That was easy to do visiting the horse herd that live and play at Windermere. It was easy to maintain as I went to sleep looking at a bright orange moon surrounded by sparkling stars. Even the next morning, I could pull peace forward when the sun awakened me early and I heard a chorus of birds. In peace, I threw on my clothes and stole away to the Quelien rock area to do my morning prayers and meditation.
With a flat rock as a perch, I looked down on a puffy gray layer of clouds covering civilization and ocean below. Tops of the coastal islands popped out of the clouds like dream-mountains. Birds chirped a morning melody. I was full up with love and happiness, all perfect in my world.
The rising sun warmed my back and I began to feel hot. I hadn’t worn sunblock and I thought my arms looked red. My body protested the hard rock. Gnats and small flies buzzed around my face and lit on my arms. Distracted, I lost my peaceful feeling. Doggone flies, didn’t they know I wanted to be close to God?
Oh yes, I reminded myself, no againstness only acceptance. Little flies buzzing God’s love for me. God’s warming sun healing my bones. The hard rock underneath soothing and healing me. In moments, I became so relaxed I could no longer remain sitting. I lay on the rock, simply allowing myself to breathe and be.
Sometimes peace is fast, hitting like an earthquake. Other times, it creeps up slow like fog caressing everything in its path. However peace comes, it dissolves some things, softens others, but covers all with calmness, gratitude and recognition of the Spirit.
In that moment of clarity and calmness at Quelien Rocks, I knew that whatever the outer circumstance, the inner state of peace was always available to me.
I wish I could tell you I left Windermere Ranch a totally peaceful spiritual warrior, but that’s not the case. On the drive to Los Angeles, we hit five o’clock traffic. Inching our way, surrounded by frantic energy, noisy cars, and frustrated people, my nerves became jangled. I was irritated and I didn’t want to be dealing with traffic. I wanted to be back playing with the horses and walking the sacred paths.
I pulled the image of Windermere forward. In my mind, I hiked the high ground, saw the horses grazing contentedly, heard the symphony of birds and felt the presence of Spirit. I realized, I could go to that place of peace anytime I chose. Rush-hour cars, like the pesky flies, were just another form to be accepted and loved.
One message of places like Windermere is that peace can be in our hearts all the time. All ground is sacred, even LA freeways, if only we allow.
“May the stars light your way and may you find the interior road. Forward.” Traditional Irish Farewell.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *