Posted by Karen Hadalski at 4 May 2012

Category: Uncategorized

A friend recently sent me a video of the NASA Space Station flying over Earth and the Northern Lights.  During my 20’s I lived and worked as a VISTA volunteer in Alaska.  When a particularly brilliant display of these Lights was forecast, I, along with a few other volunteers and two Athabascan Indians who acted as our guides, packed-up our dog sleds and headed to a deafeningly silent, remote spot where this extraordinary event could best be experienced.

That night was definitely a Peak Experience which I will never forget.  In fact, there isn’t much about my time in Alaska’s Bush country that I have forgotten through the intervening years.

My log cabin was small, so I spent a lot of time out- doors.  When I sat in silence, taking in the vast Arctic sky, with stars the size of basketballs, I was awed by the awareness of how minutely small we are–yet, how loved and significant we must be in the mind of our Creator to have been given such an unutterably magnificent world in which to live.

I often took time from my community development work to rest and just listen to the wind and wolves howling in the distance, while opening myself to the energizing warmth of the midday sun and taking in the astonishing beauty of the dark forest blanketed in crystalline whiteness.

The more time I spent in the natural world, the more I began to experience a sense of connection and relatedness to all of life.  As I learned to allow myself to simply Be, I became aware of a deeper Self that had nothing at all to do with my identity as “Karen.”  This Self was more authentic, solid, and timeless.  It felt grounded and ethereal, at once, and linked me to both the world of creation and its Creator.

When I left Alaska, I embarked upon a serious study of Metaphysics and the mystical aspects of world religions.  Returning to college, I became an English major and focused on Ralph Waldo Emerson’s philosophy of Transcendentalism.

Living with Athabascan Indians and really coming to know them, despite our cultural differences and language barrier, was another turning point for me. Because of these differences, my Alaskan friends and I had to connect through eye and facial expressions; touch; a kind of mind reading; and a combination of English, Yuk, and sign language.

This intense efforting to really “get” one another’s meanings and feelings, combined with the common experience of surviving a harsh winter, sharing our resources, and teaching and learning from one another created  strong relationships and bonds of affection. My way of relating to others was transformed forever.

Living off the land and being cut-off from merchants and modern conveniences imparted a strong sense of self-reliance and taught me that it is possible to survive–even thrive–with very little money and very few things.  As a result, I can honestly say I haven’t spent a moment of my life being anxious about not having “enough” or not being able to “make it”.

Stepping back and observing life from a new and different perspective–be it vicariously, through a Space Station video; or, personally, by immersing one’s self in an environment, culture, or life-style different than what we have been raised in and become accustomed to–is something I would urge everyone to add to his or her “Bucket List.”  It can be life-altering.

As a first, tiny step, why not go to a quiet place, turn off the lights, and click on this link:

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