Appalachian Trail – Shenandoah

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I hitchhike from Waynesboro to get back to the trail. I start walking again — on my way to Harper’s Ferry, eventually — my next town-stop is Elkton — then Front Royal.
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I read Chapter 15 from the Tao te Ching by Lao tsu:

“The ancient Masters were profound and subtle.
Their wisdom was unfathomable.
There is no way to describe it;
all we can describe is their appearance.”

People tend to regard “ancient masters” as better than modern ones — the modern ones seem inadequate. It seems that this was the case even in Lao tsu’s era! (perhaps 6th century BC)

“They were careful
as someone crossing an iced-over stream.
Alert as a warrior in enemy territory.
Courteous as a guest.
Fluid as melting ice.
Shapable as a block of wood.
Receptive as a valley.
Clear as a glass of water.”

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Careful, alert, courteous, fluid, shapable, receptive, clear — you might think that by seeking these qualities, you will become like those ancient masters but it doesn’t work like that. Lao tsu advocates non-doing rather than doing. Non-seeking, rather than seeking.
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Non-doing is meditation — the inner way. Just being.

People suspect that the ancient masters had more time available for transformation than most modern people — but the difficulties that the ancient masters encountered differ from those that you and I encounter.

Here is what I say: You do not need to emulate the ancient masters. I want you to become the one you truly are. Each of us is unique. The meditation process can help you become your true self — someone living in the modern era.

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Lao tsu, the ancient master, asks:

“Do you have the patience to wait
till your mud settles and the water is clear?
Can you remain unmoving
till the right action arises by itself?”

I will be showing only a few scenes during this section of my hike because I encountered heavy wind and rain — I feared that my iPad would be destroyed by the water. I struggled to make it through the storm.

“The Master doesn’t seek fulfillment.
Not seeking, not expecting,
she is present, and can welcome all things.”

These verses do not emphasize seeking — the master is merely present. Meditation does not mean struggling to control your thoughts — it involves merely being aware — seeing a thought come and letting it go — returning your focus to the breath.


I reach Black Rock Mountain.

Not seeking. Not expecting.

She can welcome all things — hard to do sometimes when difficulties arise.

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In Elkton, the Country Store has a bear on the roof.

The theme of this blog — this particular hiking section, is struggle — due to the weather. I hike through heavy rain, hard wind.
A hurricane — now a tropical storm — has come up from Mexico.

Heavy rain and wind — more than I wanted. Hard to sleep at night.
Okay — it happens, keep walking.

I have fallen behind my schedule — and I find that almost all the rooms in the only place in Front Royal have been taken — I have to make a reservation if I want to get a room (and I really, really needed a room to dry out and recover!) and so now I’m walking down Skyline Drive (parallel to the Appalachian Trail). I am hitch-hiking because I need to be in Front Royal in two days.

Sometimes, you have to go with the flow. I’ll spend one more night out and then walk into Front Royal.

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A view from the road — eventually I get a ride to place where I can get back on the Appalachian Trail — six miles down the road — and I’m back on my schedule. Of course Lao tsu doesn’t advocate schedules but he was not out in the hurricane, was he?

I am climbing what I regard as a sacred mountain — South Marshall Mountain.

Here is the message: part of the inner journey involves struggle. What to do in the face of difficulty? Be present — eyes open. The secret is being present in the moment.

This is a magical place — the sacred mountain

During your life, you have faced difficulties — you can expect more in the future and your reaction will determine your overall happiness.

Soon I will be in Front Royal, Virginia.
There are various Eastern meditation traditions which describe the mind as like a glass filled with muddy, swirling water. If you do not disturb the water, the mud settles and the water becomes clear.
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Your mind is filled with swirling thoughts. Be still and allow your mind to settle.

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