I Found My God on the Trail

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Editor’s Note: Read this beautiful account of the author’s experience of the Divine in Nature. The author is a practicing psycho-social counselor and an ardent trekker. She sees herself as a worshipper of the mighty mountains and the rivers.

This is my journey of finding my God. If you are interested, come take a walk with me.

My childhood was something straight out of a fairy tale. Doting parents, nurturing me and my siblings with just the right amount of discipline balanced with that essential space and freedom to grow and learn the true lessons that life had to offer. My two elder brothers added the perfect dash of mischievousness that led to just the right dose of trouble one needs to develop a healthy sporting spirit and face life with a great big smile!

Our days were filled with all that childhood needs – love, fun, carefree days, play, laughter, comfort, security, protection, independence. We were fed with nutritious food and important values and principles.

Mother and Child, by Jaimini Roy

Our family was not religious. Both our parents were doctors. There was no regular practice of any rituals in our home. My earliest memories of religious events were the main Puja ceremonies of the Bengalis, namely Durga Puja, Kali Puja, Lakshmi Puja and Saraswati Puja. But for me at that age these were festive times meant for special food and new clothes and lots of merriment. It was very similar to celebrating Christmas and Eid. All were big and grand festivals.

The concept of God was introduced at school. We went to good convent schools and it was during the morning assembly that we got introduced properly to God, to Jesus Christ. And I told myself, “Ok…so there is someone who can punish and reward us. But my own Father played a similar role too. Anyway, I better be a good girl”.

“Sinning” humanity is altogether a Christian idea, which falsifies our idea of the Divine—a Divine who punishes poor people because it is their misfortune to be born “sinners” would not be very generous!

~ The Mother, CWM, Vol. 4, pp. 176-177

That’s how childhood tottered on and stepped into young adulthood. With that came development of intellect and curiosity. I now wanted to know a bit more about Maa Durga, Kali, Lakshmi, Saraswati and Lord Jesus and Prophet Mohammed and so on. The stories and mythology surrounding them fascinated me and left me quite awestruck!

Our parents took us on annual holidays and we travelled to various parts of India. These trips almost always included visits to temples as they were part of the regular sightseeing spots for tourists. But I never thought of God when I visited these places. I never liked the pushing and yelling crowd. However the history, the decoration, the artefacts and the architecture of these places interested and attracted me. So I volunteered for all the tours and visits.

Our parents worshipped their work and I realized my job was to worship my education and do justice to my student life. Thus studies peppered with a good amount of being naughty became my religion during those days of growing up. Life was good, life was content and there was no need for anything else outside this wonderful phase.

Then one fine day, adulthood arrived in all its glory! Was it my age or was it the events that proclaimed something significant had changed? Gradually events unfolded and life started throwing one challenge after another at my family and me. We all got affected and responded in our own way. I can talk for myself.

This was not the first time I was experiencing loss. As a child even losing a pencil or an eraser made me sad but it never touched that chord. But as I watched loved ones suffer and started losing them around me it hurt in a way like never before. The pain refused to go. But I wanted to heal.

I could not turn to my parents for that protection anymore. One had already passed away and the other I wanted to protect instead of seeking protection from her. There were well-wishers and dear friends who provided immense support and strength but it was not enough. So there arrived this phase when I looked around for some solace, some reprieve, some panacea, some answers but could find none.

In retrospect, I knew someone was watching over me. Waiting for the right time, so that I had the right frame of mind. Serendipitous events led me to work in a hospital and eventually to meet a group of trekkers. In the hospital, interacting with individuals who were suffering and in pain led me to overcome my own trauma considerably. And I felt the urge to help more people and nurture the unbridled compassion that was surging inside me.

But still there was a kind of restlessness, a vacuum, a seeking, a thirst that needed to be quenched. So when my group of friends suggested a trekking trip I was quick to take up the offer. Nature had always held a very special place in my heart. I was thrilled and full of joyous anticipation knowing that we were headed to the mountains, the mighty Himalayas!

The closest that I had been to the Himalayas were visits to hill stations like Darjeeling, Gangtok, Nainital, Dalhousie, Shimla and a few more. But this was completely different.

Walking on the trail with the magnificent snow peaks for company, so near, the smell of mossy woods, the expanse of the alpine meadows, where at night I could almost touch the milky way with my fingertips, the sky changing colours like a painted canvas at dawn and dusk, the music of a gurgling stream or a distant river, the myriad wild flowers, chirpings of unknown birds, the cool fresh air filling up my lungs and the indescribable bounty of nature all around me was simply…..DIVINE!

Soon I would find out how true and literal that adjective was.

Personal photo of the author

Also read: “In Nature one can live in beauty, always”

From the very first moment when my eyes beheld this panoramic vision and I inhaled the clean mountain air I was doused with a sense of calmness. Along with the multi-sensory treat, a trek also demands a considerable physical effort. During such an arduous climb when I was struggling for my breath and trying to keep my feet steady, I lost track of time. Just as the sun slipped behind the mountains the temperature too dipped pretty fast.

On the trail you are never in a group, for everybody has their different pace. I found myself alone in the dark, fumbling to get the torchlight from my backpack. Gloves don’t make it any easier to get hold of the bag’s zip.

Exhausted, frustrated and cold I sat down on a boulder and blinked at the dark surrounding. And suddenly out of nowhere huge flashlights lit up and washed the darkness away! It was so bright that I remember bringing my hand up to guard my eyes from the brilliant shine. It took me seconds to realize it was no flashlights doing this trick but the big fat full moon gliding up into the night sky and bathing the terrain with a magical silver white sheen.

The snow peaks sparkled brightly like diamonds.

I thought I might need my shades to marvel at this spectacular sight. I sat motionless totally rejuvenated with a regular breathing and pulse rate and copious amount of tears rolling down my face. They were tears of joy mingled with the pain which was bottled up. The moment had arrived. The dam had burst. My entire being was flooded with the overwhelming experiences of ‘letting go’, ‘acceptance’ and ‘surrendering’ at the same time.

There was nobody in sight, no temple compound, no deity and no mantras to recite. And just like that on that moonlit night, with pin drop silence all around, I found my God. I felt the embrace. I experienced the DIVINE!

Don’t remember how long I sat there in a trance; but when I resumed my walk I had no need for the torchlight anymore. My steps were filled with confidence and I found my path as I followed the sound of the distant tolling of the bells. And I knew I would arrive at the Kedarnath shrine just in time for the evening ārti.

Personal photo of the author

Years have passed and I have returned to the mountains over and over again. Along with my treks my journey to know and experience the Divine continues. Interactions with learned people, enlightening books, thought provoking discourses, big and small incidents in daily life have all helped me to progress in my spiritual path. But it was in the Himalayas, on that evening, on that trail that I found my God!

I keep trekking and keep seeking, trying to understand, trying to internalize further the spirit of Almighty and the journey continues…

~ Design: Beloo Mehra

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