Matt Niswonger

A Path to the Path Contemplating the Tao

One morning a few weeks ago, I got up early to meditate. We were staying at an Airbnb in Eugene, Oregon because our kids are in a band and we were on tour with them. While on the road, we were working on the current issue of Adventure Sports Journal, the issue you now hold in your hands.

Before closing my eyes, I started to read a few passages from a book by Thich Nhat Hanh, as is my custom before I meditate. A few seconds into the reading I realized something was wrong. The words were no longer alive to me. I was not inspired by them anymore. I had read this book too many times.

I went downstairs to check a bookshelf for something new. Sure enough, in a cold basement bedroom, I found a variety of neglected books. I moved a stack of romance novels to the side and there it was, a treasure. Behind the romance novels was an old, warped copy of the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu.

I left my copy of Thich Nhat Hanh’s The Art of Living and took Lao Tzu’s book. It was a good trade. A new master for an old master.

I went back upstairs and read a few poems from the Tao Te Ching. These poems were over 2500 years old, but they penetrated my heart as if they were written yesterday.

“Some say that my teaching is nonsense. Others call it lofty but impractical. But to those who have looked inside themselves, this nonsense makes perfect sense. And to those who put it into practice, this loftiness has roots that go deep.”

After reading Lao Tzu’s words I fell into a deep meditation. I sat cross-legged for about 45 minutes and contemplated the Tao. Feeling serene, I was coming in and out of awareness. It was about 6am and the house was completely dark while everyone slept. At some point, a mental image of the cover photo of Ron Kauk climbing Peace in Tuolumne Meadows popped into my mind. Suddenly, it all made sense.

Rock climbing is a path to the Tao. A good climbing photo is a path to the Tao. These words are a path to the Tao. Since the word “Tao” roughly translates to “path,” a path to the Tao is a path to a path. Rock climbing is a path to the path. A good climbing photo is a path to the path. Good writing is a path to the path.

My realization while meditating in Eugene that morning is that sometimes I get lost. When I am lost, I need a path to the path. The Tao is the path.

If you are reading these words I’m asking you to join me on the path. Life is a mysterious journey and we are on this path together. I can’t tell you much, but what I can say is at the end of this path we will find death. This may be a bit scary. So, I’m asking you to hold my hand so we can find the path to the path together. This is the way. This is the Tao.

Welcome to issue #130, your path to the path. Whether it’s climbing tall cliffs or just staring at photos of other people climbing, you are powerfully inching closer to the now. Whether it’s outdoor adventure, or photography, or music, or meditation, or housework, consider this issue your personal invitation to the now. The Tao is the path. Now is the destination. See you there.

— Matt Niswonger

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