Part Four: A conscious community
Excitement built in the camp as the four wanderers woke up at dawn the next day, to embark on the second leg of their journey. For the first 11 miles (about 18 km), all walked in a joyful silence over gorgeous blue ridges and through lush green forests.
Finally, Donovan broke the silence by saying what was on everyone’s minds: “If there are survivors in the village, than I think it will be wise to approach them with a show of great love and respect.”
Zabreen quickly agreed with Donovan, and suggested that the band enter the village bearing gifts. Elohi and Anju nodded their heads in agreement.
When the four interfaith survivors finally arrived at the village’s weathered gates, they came with gifts in tow. Donovan inscribed symbols of peace into his beloved walking stick to give to the village. Elohi recited a short prayer to a large bundle of mountain laurel flowers before picking them to donate to the village. Anju slowly untied her prayer bead necklace so she could offer it to the village, and Zabreen pulled out his inspirational collection of Rumi (Sufi mystic poet) poems from his knapsack to give to the village.
Staring at the large metal gate before them and the dense forest behind it, the four quietly began to doubt the existence of any survivors, yet they resolved to climb underneath. But just as they all prepared to crouch, a tall and slender middle-aged man appeared in front of them.
The man, who had a shaggy beard and long hair, bowed twice to them. He introduced himself as Rafael Blossom, and then welcomed them to the village with great enthusiasm:
“Welcome to our mountain sanctuary. We call it Blue Mountain Oasis. There are 172 of us and we all met and formed after the Longest Winter.”
Rafael pulled out a beautiful embroidered pipe from his pocket, packed it full of sacred herbs and recited a prayer before handing the pipe counterclockwise. He then proceeded to explain the community’s composition, intent and purpose:
“We’re a community of diverse souls. Each of us has had our own unique experiences prior to and after the asteroid. Before that catastrophe, some of us were steadfast atheists and resisted spiritual practice all together. Others were fundamentalist followers of differing faiths. Still, there are others within this community who deeply explored the spiritual path prior to the event.
“What unites us all today, though, is our shared faith in humanity, our love for the Earth and our reverence for the Creator (however we each conceive of IT) and IT’s creation. Our community mantra is: Many paths lead to the mountaintop.”
All stared in absolute amazement at Rafael. His presence of inner peace resonated with the group of spirited nomads. Elohi was the first to speak:
“Rafael, please tell us more about the community. How do people here spend their days? What is their relationship to the Earth?”
Rafael paused to take a few deep breaths, and continued:
“In short, we spend our entire days immersed in the One. The fruits of all our actions are dedicated to that Supreme Soul whose breath is our breath and whose light gives us light.
“We live a highly disciplined and spiritual life here. Each morning we wake up at 5 a.m. and spend one whole hour in prayer and meditation. Then from 6 to 7 a.m., we prepare breakfast and eat in silence. From 8 until 10 a.m., we participate in some form of contemplative act. Many of us go on nature walks during this time. Others will devote this time to journaling or to some form of spiritual movement, like tai chi.
From 10 a.m. until noon, those of us who are able head to the fields and tend to the crops and livestock. Others will wash dishes and tend to domestic chores and personal gardens. From noon until 1 p.m., we prepare and eat lunch. Then from 2 to 4 p.m., we all engage in some form of creative art. We have artists of all stripes in our community.
“From 4 to 6 p.m., we exercise in silence. Some of us go on our second nature walks of the day. Others might go swimming in a nearby river. From 6 until 7 p.m., we prepare and eat our dinner. During this time, we all happily speak, laugh and tease! Then from 7 to 8 p.m., depending on the day, we alternate between group mantra chants, musical and artistic performances, and roundtable discussions on topics of self-realization. These talks are facilitated by different members within our own community.
“From 8 to 9 p.m., we sit in prayer and journal in our rooms. After that, we conclude our days.”
Rafael cleared his throat and drank a few sips of water before proceeding with answering Elohi’s questions:
“As for your second question: What is our relationship to the Earth? We view the Earth as sacred. To us, the Earth is an exquisite expression of the Creator in physical form. But beyond that, she embodies the very essence of God through her beauty, balance, grace and nurturing love. Understanding this, we try our best to live in perfect harmony with nature.
“This intent is reflected, for example, by the minimal footprint we leave on this land. Our community is run via solar power. We collect all our own rainwater through a special catchment system that we installed. We also compost as much trash and waste as we’re able to.”
All four wanderers looked on admirably, as Zabreen collected his thoughts and asked Rafael a different sort of question: “How has the community survived in the wake of such catastrophe?”
Rafael replied, “In one word: Faith. That’s what keeps us connected through thick and thin. Through the Longest Winter, we developed an unshakable faith in the mystery of creation, the Earth and in each other. We came to interpret our surviving as divine will. How could it not be seen this way? Whenever our minds become clouded by delusion, we remind ourselves how miraculous it is that we’re alive.”
All smiled warmly at Rafael, as Anju was the next to ask him a question: “What are the intentions of this community?
With a beaming smile, Rafael responded with great simplicity:
“At first, our motivations were firmly rooted in survival. However, after learning to meet our physical needs, we began to reorient our purpose to something more meaningful: to become a living example of peace, love and awareness in action.
“We want to demonstrate to ourselves and others that humans are capable of living as one in the great web of being. Furthermore, as the human population begins to slowly grow again, it will be essential that we all have examples of conscious living to follow. We simply can’t fall back into the old narcissistic habits of the culture before the asteroid struck.”
All again nodded their heads in agreement, as Donovan asked one final question on behalf of the awestruck group:
“Rafael, did the community somehow know we were in pilgrimage to your village? Yesterday, we saw smoke signals up high in the mountains, coming from this direction. Did you send out those signals? If so, how could you have possibly known that we were coming?”
Rafael grinned widely at the band of wanderers before answering:
“Well, it turns out that living such a pure and contemplative lifestyle greatly sharpens one’s intuitive senses. Nearly half of our elders foresaw your arrival days before, either in the depths of their meditations or through dream visions. Most profoundly, all who did feel your presence interpreted your arrival as an omen of good fortune. It is with great honour, then, that we invite you all to live here among us. We’d be honoured to have you here.”
Rafael opened the gate, and there behind the large thicket of rhododendron trees stood all 18 of the village elders. Rafael turned to the elders with great reverence and bowed, and the oldest among them stepped forward and made a mysterious motion with her hand. Rafael then explained:
“Our elders are currently observing a four-month period of silence. But they’re the only people who are empowered to accept new folks into our community. They’ve indicated to me that it is with great honour that they invite you to join us in the spirit of oneness.”
With tears of gratitude in their eyes, Donovan, Elohi, Anju and Zabreen bowed before the esteemed elders of the village (and then back at Rafael, their humble interpreter) as a sign that they collectively accepted their invitation.