A WALK IN THE FOREST – RAPTURE ON THE PATH OF LOVE
by Selk Hastings
Photography by Selk Hastings
Recently my Beloved and I celebrated six years together. We hired a little cottage up in the hills and whilst walking through the bush one day, a memory came to me.
I remembered many years ago I was walking for 5 days alone on a forest trail. Along the trail you always meet people with interesting stories. Many walk to find clarity in their hearts, or to mark the end of a chapter of their lives and the beginning of a new one. Some do heroic feats of physical endurance. But there is one person I met who made a deep impression on me that I’d largely forgotten about until my six year anniversary celebration.
I remember it was a sunny day and the leaves on the trees were glimmering. I was new to walking in the forest alone for days on end and many fears had been plaguing me such assnakes, reaching the next hut before running out of water, getting lost, getting injured and a multitude of other things our minds are prone to imagine when there is a whiff of fear. I remember I was walking down a narrow path with lots of beautiful rocks and tall trees. Looking ahead I saw a figure come into view. As the figure got closer I saw that it was a tiny elderly woman carrying a tall stick.
We smiled at each other. She had her hair tied in a little bun, and wore a wide brimmed hat, and she had something about her, a quality of calm and grace. We stopped in front of each other and we exchanged some pleasantries. Then I asked her how far she’d walked, “Oh, a few weeks” she replied. A few weeks! Well, I was impressed. A few weeks,carrying a heavy pack, and being in her late seventies… and alone. I felt relief wash over me and newfound courage – if she could do it, then I, in my mid twenties, would be fine walking alone for five days in the forest.
But the most meaningful part of my meeting with this woman was still to come. After talking for some time she revealed to me that her husband had just passed away and every year, for decades, they had walked together for a few weeks on the trail. Then the words came than deeply touched my heart. “Now” she told me, “I still walk the trail with my husband, although you see me as alone.”
I can’t describe why this touched me so, but even now as I write this, it touches me just as deeply as it did at the time. Perhaps it was the love and teary tenderness that shone through her eyes and her smile at the time. Perhaps it was her soft enduring strength. Perhaps it touched a deep longing within me to be in a precious loving union. Perhaps it was the fullness that I heard in her voice when she spoke of her beloved husband. Most likely all of these things combined to be greater than the sum of the parts, and somewhere deep within they were calling me to experience life in a way that feels whole, enduring, connected and present. A way of living that I would one day, later in my life, come to describe as living connected to the spiritual heart.
I know after six years of journeying intimately with my beloved, that there have been channels and pathways grooved deeper by the exchange of love. There have been hard places opened by the sweet softness of holding. There have been fearful feelings that have been found under the unfaltering mirror of loves gaze, and then the courage to explore them as someone whispers ‘I see you’.
Ultimately though, the longing we have for finding a sacred union with another person, is also the same longing we have for finding sacred union with ourselves, with our true selves. To truly love yourself. To truly be there for you. To hold space for you to be exactly as you are. With or without a significant other. The path of love is for all lovers, whether that’s with another person or yourself, or both. Everyone has their own unique path to discover.
Walking on the path of love means leaving the trail of the ‘known’ behind. As I look back on that walk in the forest, the journey of walking the path of love is similar. You will stretch out of your comfort zone. You will feel fear and excitement as you leave behind what you considered known and safe. You will sometimes find snakes and you will sometimes run out of water before you reach the next hut. Disappointments and pain won’t be avoided. But eventually you will find water and you will find the hut, even if night has set in and you must spend the remaining hours sleeping out in the wilderness under a tree.
The point isn’t to avoid the wild beasts in the shadows. The point is to bare our hearts open enough to invite them to the campfire and strange as it might sound, make friends with them. As we leave the known trails behind and journey into the mysterious forest, listening to the calls that touch us deeply in our hearts, we will find fruits and berries never before tasted, and some will be poisonous. But we will also discover an aliveness in baring open our hearts to the next moment and the next. It was the mythologist Joseph Campbell who said “People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances with our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.”
Explore the vastness of your heart and watch what happens.