By Fred Allendorf My wife and I recently went backpacking into the wilderness on the Montana-Idaho border. Sitting in meditation, I began to contemplate how much more enjoyable my meditations were in the forest, away from the clutter of everyday life. Mindfulness of everyday actions was greatly enhanced in the wilderness. It really was possible to feel that every step caressed the earth.
I was struck by an analogy between the campfire and the television. My wife and I spent each night staring into the light of the campfire, talking and sharing thoughts and feelings. Millions of people across America gather each night to spend hours staring into the light of the TV. Campfires are a place where people share thoughts, feelings, and their experience of the day. "Television families" share a window in which they watch the lives of others.
We are numbed by modern life. TV, radios, and walkmen lead us to avoid being with our own thoughts and feelings, even in those moments when others are not around. But there is more than just escape from distraction in the forest. Morning meditations at home are peaceful, but they lack the intensity of my meditations in the forest. In the wilderness we rejoin our ancestors of thousand of generations who lived their lives in touch with all living beings.
Fred Allendorf, a biology professor and an ordained member of the Order of Interbeing, is a member of the Open Way Sangha in Missoula, Montana.