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 here. 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? I think it’s just 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 realized something I had forgotten: this is what I wanted 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.