Last week I went on another wilderness retreat with my dog, Sita. For three days and three nights, we were off the grid in George Washington National Forest in Virginia. On the last night, I awoke at 4 am and decided to get up and enjoy the night. It was a waning gibbous moon, quite bright but not full.

Without hesitation, Sita awoke from her deep slumber, stretched, and left the tent with me. She stayed by my side.

The night sky was light but not like the dawn. The tall trees were beautiful silhouettes that surrounded me. Dawn was not yet near. The sun would not rise until 7:20 and the first light would not reach me until just before 7.

There were footsteps in the forest around us, but those were not new. The same footsteps occurred in the daylight. Yet somehow at night, they were a bit more pronounced as creatures at home in their world moved around us. I could hear deer snorting and foxes screaming, their natural sound. Both Sita and I were alert, and at the same time, I felt extraordinary peace. I enjoyed the darkness for quite a while before I built my campfire.

All of us are familiar with darkness, literally a part of our day every day. And there are times in our lives that feel hard to see in when our vision is limited. We might not be able to imagine an end to these times when we do not see the way forward. Nonetheless, we are surrounded by those who go about their lives and are at home in the dark, like nocturnal creatures who are comfortable in the night and its various amounts of light. And the dawn approaches.

I sang songs into the night, songs to honor the world and my place in it. And I enjoyed the deep wild, far away from the grid, alone but not alone. I felt how my spiritual longing was part of a great unfolding that included all of Nature.

How might you connect to your deep self in the week ahead?

“I have been able to see myself as an Earthling on a planet with other Earth beings. I continue to experience deep relief from the clinging to conceptual images of myself and others. I now experience myself as nature-defined, an inseparable part of the Earth itself, not simply defined by human mental constructs. I see and sense the energy I have spent denying and hiding from the basic reality of earthly existence. A new and deeper vitality is now available to me to create myself and the world anew.” – Dr. Larry Ward