If you were a kid growing up on the West Coast, pretty much everyone has a story about being packed up into the car between siblings, Mom and Dad popping in a John Denver cassette tape on repeat and making the long desert drive out to see the Grand Canyon, where you took a bunch of photos that got tucked away in an album, never to be seen again. As a native Angeleno, I somehow made it into my third decade without ever seeing our great Canyon—a strange and shocking fact to most people, including myself. I was equally shocked when last year out of nowhere, I suddenly had a burning urge to see it. It just hit deep in my soul one day, like a command. As a meditation teacher, I’ve learned to listen to these Soul Calls, even if they don’t seem to make sense. So with one adventurous friend in tow, I headed out to see what this whole Grand Canyon thing was all about—knowing it’d probably be a very different experience seeing it for the first time as an adult.
When I first laid eyes upon the canyon, my breath literally caught in my chest. I had heard it was beautiful, a great view, a pretty place to take a picture, but this was something totally unexpected. I was instantly humbled by its hugeness—the vast stillness and many-million-year-old umber majesty laid out for endless miles, as close to eternal as I had ever touched. It felt…holy. We immediately dipped into a quiet reverence as we walked the canyon rim, stopping to sit on the ledge along the way and listen to what the great silence had to say. As other visitors hit the designated photo ops with their selfie sticks and hopped back onto tour buses, we took the entire afternoon to slowly walk the rim, stopping where we felt called, sitting on the edge of the canyon for sometimes hours, like a spiritual pilgrimage we had no idea we’d be taking, but now it was clear this was the only thing to do.
We sat in silence and watched the way the light changed from pastel pink to golden peach to fiery orange as the sun shifted in the sky, creating dappled layers of light and shadow that changed the entire landscape of the canyon with each passing hour—as if we were watching God Himself paint an ever-changing canvas right in front of us. The original Bob Ross. And this was certainly his Masterpiece.
I was at a major crossroads at the time. Having pushed the eject button a little earlier on a life that was no longer a fit, I found myself here at the canyon’s edge with a head and heart full of questions about which new paths to take. And I suddenly understood why I’d been called here. Sometimes our heart’s deepest desires can only speak to us in absolute stillness. And there was no bigger stillness than this. So I sat on the rim and quietly asked for the answers I had been seeking. And from the canyon’s deep silence, they echoed back to me, clear and true—their wisdom informing the choices I made thereafter, still carried with me to this day.
So when the opportunity came up this year to spend a day at the Grand Canyon on our way back from an epic sirens road trip, I was excited to share this beautiful experience with our friends, who also had somehow never been before. I wondered if it would be the same, if it would still feel so deeply reverent, or if that was just a one-time experience and I’d soon discover that it really was just a very pretty backdrop for some souvenir photos to show the kids one day.
The forecast called for warm weather and sunny skies. Instead, our Prius full of adventure-seeking babes was greeted by gorgeous grey swirling storm clouds as if on instant command for our resident fine art photographer, Gina Cholick, who specializes in capturing light and had requested clouds from whoever was in charge of those things. Already, the Great Artist in the Sky was showing off its most exquisite work—a moment worth pulling over for to revel in all its grey-streaked windblown glory.
With only a few hours to spare, our plan was to walk the South Rim’s paved footpath for as long as we could, making sure to catch the sunset before having to head back out. Walking into that first canyon view, it happened…the girls stopped in their tracks and gasped, falling into sudden silence, the immense beauty of the canyon completely overwhelming. Nothing else to do but stand there in complete awe and soak it in through all the senses.
As we set out on the trail, the grey sky broke apart into giant blue and white puffs, the sun playing hide-and-seek as it rolled immense tufts of light down towards the canyon floor before our eyes. Sunrays shone brightly in all directions while a lightning storm flashed off in the distant horizon, putting on the largest display of God Light any of us had ever seen. If I ever wanted confirmation that the Grand Canyon actually is holy ground, I’m pretty sure I got my answer loud and clear.
We meandered the twisting path, communing with the ever-changing view and the resident flora and fauna along the way, even stopping to have a lengthy conversation with a very chatty raven. Finally…the time was upon us. We chose a secluded ledge and sat to watch the sunset over the canyon, each taking a private moment to consult the great silence for our soul’s most needed wisdom and guidance. The sunrays danced slowly across the canyon walls, the light melted into misty golden wisps…and our questions were answered. The most important perhaps being that deepest inner knowing that we always get when we allow ourselves to simply connect with the beauty in life. The voice that tells us without a doubt: “It’s okay. It’s all going to be okay. You are loved. You are Love.”
Whenever you have a question that needs a resolution, go out into nature and listen for the answers that come back to you in the stillness. It is the quickest access point to that Something Greater Than Ourselves that always knows our deepest truth. There is a reason that the Buddha sat under a tree to reach Enlightenment. Sit still and listen…and make your life a thing of Beauty.
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