Variegated Jewels had an event last Saturday in Phoenix that did not seem to have any new participants when it was beginning. As Buddhist practitioners, we decided we should do our prayers anyway, and create the intention that even if nobody else came - we would use the time for our own meditation. Well, go figure… the minute we finished reciting our opening prayers, one person showed up at the event. I had to laugh, because even these small moments remind me of the potency of prayer and meditation! Had we packed up our stuff and left without praying… we would have missed the one person that came to the Phoenix event that day.
Along those same lines, my partner and I lived out at the Dakini Valley retreat center for 18 months in 1999/2000. One day we went for a “quick hike” with two other guys that were living there at the time. Since we intended only to hike to the creek and back, we took no provisions (no water, food, compass, etc.)
What you need to know is that Dakini Valley is a 150 acre parcel that butts up against millions of acres of the Tonto National Forest. So when after several hours of hiking on the creek, we realized we were not where we thought ourselves to be… you can imagine the fear that came up for all of us. As we noticed the sun beginning to set and heard distant thunder indicating a potential storm, we decided it best to hike up the ridge of the canyon we were in. At the highest vista we were able to reach, the site of acre upon acre of endless forest scared the living daylights out of us. We were LOST… seriously off course with NO familiar landmarks to judge where we were. We plopped down in a circle and nobody spoke. The night was pressing in and we figured our only option was to sleep here and then backtrack in the morning, hopefully able to find the spot we entered the creek.
As we settled into the idea of a long night’s sleep, anxiety and nerves became obvious. We were already quite hungry and had no clean water. As four practitioners, we agreed it was time to make our most fervent prayer… repetitions of the “Seven Line Prayer” to Guru Rinpoche. We began chanting in unison, and after a short period one of the members of our party jumped to his feet and said “we have to get back tonight… I’m hungry and we can’t stay here!” At that moment we joined him in standing and all of us walked around a clump of trees to get to another part of the ridge.
That precise moment, at a HUGE distance from us, we saw the headlights of a vehicle on top of one of the plateaus - probably 10 miles away. There are NO roads where we are hiking, so we KNEW that it was the manager of the retreat center, surely looking for the four of us (now missing for hours.) The headlights appeared only for a moment and then they descended the hill, which we knew meant they had given up and were driving down the jeep trail to our property in the valley.
We set our sights on the direction of that truck and navigated a straight line based on the constellations above us. We had to scramble up and down hills and valleys and make our way through thick and thorny Manzanita bush… but about an hour later we could hear the distant yells of our friends calling into the wilderness to find us. We plowed down the next valley and up the subsequent side, yelling back at them from the top of each new ridge. When we finally were close enough to follow the sound of their voices back to our property, we all practically collapsed in the living room of the retreat center… just happy to be safe and home.
To this day, I KNOW it was the moment we took to pray together that catalyzed our brief moment of discovering that truck on the hillside. Any later and we would not have known which way to hike… and who knows if we could have navigated home by the creek.