I am utterly blessed to be writing you from the part of the Italian Alps known as the Dolomites, where I am soaking up a precious 3 full days between a weekend workshop in Berlin, Germany, and one in Alassio, Italy. Truly this is a heavenly piece of earth. The majesty all around is awe-inspiring, as every turn of the trail creates another breathtaking view. Every few moments the light changes in the dance of clouds and sunlight, and every few feet shows a new kind of wildflower.
It is said that no one can truly call themselves a mountain lover unless they’ve seen the Dolomites. A more perfect paradise, I can’t imagine, although admittedly I am here in summer, when the weather is mild, the wildflowers abound, and the meadows are green and lush. (It’s a ski center in winter!)
What strikes me almost as much as the majestic beauty all around is the way people live here. For thousands of years, long before cars, trains, and planes, people lived in these mountains. You can still see some of the primitive wood or stone huts, and imagine how they walked the trails, milked their cows, grew and shared their food – as many still do today. Though there are inhabited little houses dotted all across the alpine meadows, one gets the feeling that the land and the people have long ago worked out a harmonious relationship. It is one of the few places where human habitation is not an insult to a pristine wilderness – but actually enhances it.
Living in beauty, the houses are meticulously designed and maintained, with a kind of pride that shows their owners are grateful to live here. Everything is clean, the air, the water, the yards, the streets. The trails are beautifully maintained, colorful flowers are everywhere, both wild and cultivated. Living among this beauty, all the faces I’ve seen are lit up like a child at Christmas. Deep respect and shared awe show in the simple nods that replace knowing what language a stranger speaks. Still when communication is necessary, sincere effort is made, no matter the language.
Everything here exists to enhance one’s experience of nature and the divine. It feels like a national park, but is actually a series of villages.
This is how it ought to be, I tell myself. That we live in awe of the natural world – no matter where we are, urban and rural alike. That we treat each other with respect, and share the excitement of being alive. That each of us take responsibility for creating and respecting beauty.
If civilization crumbles from human stupidity, places like these villages will still survive — just as they have for thousands of years before we discovered oil. I feel thankful for the oil that got me here and hope the grace I have received will be dispensed back out through all my workshops this year.
Come to think of it, they are all in beautiful places — Gabriola Island in British Columbia, Kripalu in the Berkshires, New Hope, PA, St. Augustine, Florida, and even Petaluma, California, near my own home. And India in January, for those who want to support a good cause (see below).
Come join us as a co-heart in the creation of an evolving world. Come celebrate Heaven on Earth wherever you are.
July 14, 2011