A climb up 724 stairs takes you to the top of Mt. Tapyas, in Coron, Palawan, on one of the Philippines' most picturesque islands. (A fantastic leg workout!) I was told it was nice, so I went, without high expectations. I got to the top, looked out at this view and it took my breath away - that is to say, the little breath I had left after hiking up those stairs. I knew a photo wouldn’t do it justice and I almost didn’t want to take one, but I felt obligated so I took one anyway.
View seen, photo taken, I was about to walk back down those 724 steps and then I thought, that was a lot of stairs I climbed to get here. Maybe I should stay here for longer than two minutes. So I paused and looked again at the view, but this time I really looked, and it was as if the first time I hadn’t really seen it. All of a sudden I was mesmerized. It was so quietly spectacular, the water still, the lights sparkling, a horizon of mountains resting peacefully under the pink pastel canvas of the sky – so beautiful it brought tears to my eyes. And then I realized I didn’t want to leave. I just wanted to sit here and look at all the beauty in front of me. I found a seat on the grass and just kept staring in awe. I thought of all the other stunning places there are on this planet, and I wondered, why is this world so beautiful?
The answer that came to me was: it’s a gift, for us. An enormous, overwhelming, incomprehensible miracle of a gift.
And then I realized something else. I’ve seen so many other beautiful places before. Macchu Pichu ... the mountains of Tasmania... mountaintops of Rio de Janeiro. All breathtaking, but even while I admired their beauty, my inner, ever-present restlessness remained. Once I had seen those places, I was immediately ready to move on to something else, somewhere else. But here, now, I wanted nothing else. I just want to be right here, exactly where I am, letting this dazzling beauty dissolve my heart into bliss.
Then I remembered something I had forgotten: this is what I had craved more than anything, this feeling of peace in stillness. (The bliss was an unexpected bonus.) This might be the best thing I've accomplished in the journey of the past 6 months: I’ve learned how to sit silently on top of a mountain and be content.
I don't know if I will be able to hold on to this inner stillness always, but for right now, it's enough.