The Irish have a great tradition of pilgrimage – to take sacred excursions into nature, walk around a holy well, visit a blessed lake, gather at a venerated tree or woodland, climb a sanctified mountain.
One such sanctified mountain is Croagh Patrick, in Mayo which is locally nicknamed the Reek and has been climbed as a celebration of awe-inspiring nature and a test of endurance since before St Patrick cut his toes on its rocky incline, in fact it has pre-christian history back to Crom Cruiach and the earliest of Irish mythology.
Mountain is traditionally climbed on Reek Sunday every year – that is the last Sunday in July. You may not be near it today but there are plenty of mountains to climb and much awe to be had. Even if just a local hill or a lightly elevated nature spot, get out and make pilgrimage to it and to your inner nature. Pack a picnic, bring a flask, go engage.
Think of the seanfhocal Maith an mustárd an sliabh – The mountain is good mustard. This seanfhocal is about how work works up an appetite – if is often said that food tastes better when you are hungry rather than when you are just eating because it is designated lunchtime. We often shovel food in as fuel, like coal to old steam trains. We should stop and experience it. Mindfully enjoy each meal. Atop the mountain we climb, that wrapped sandwich or lunchbox of treats will taste so good that gratitude will also salivate.
But beyond the lesson to appreciate sustenance, there is also the wisdom here of appreciation for endeavour and gratitude for its own rewards. Effort is rewarded – Know that. The task of climbing the mountain gives you an appetite, stimulates, enlivens -Understand that. Engaging with nature can bring you into mindfulness. Experience that. that is the holy self out in the holy world.
Practising mindful participation with the outdoors.
If you can go somewhere scenic - the sea, the hills, a forest – someplace to stimulate you – go. If you can’t get to the great outdoors then just get outdoors – a local park, your own garden, campus grounds, a walk around the block. Being outside is a great and pleasurable way of coming into the present, feeling the temperature on the skin, awareness of your breath, awareness of your footing. Encountering the sights, sounds and fragrances – all good mustard to relishing the now.