By Sharon Ray

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Being outdoors is ENLIVENING! This is how I feel after my playdate with Sandy today, a day that began with watching her crack a square top into a round coconut with a cleaver. We drank the nectar of gods out of the shell, just the way Nature seems to have intended it. This was followed by a breakfast of sweet organic pineapple, and I made a juice from organic carrots, apples, pineapple, and a squeeze of lemon. Yum!

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Sharon and Sandy

Thus thoroughly and beautifully nourished, Sandy and I took off for one of Sandy’s favorite hikes up a nearby fire road trail. Very soon after starting out, we entered a beautiful oak grove where old growth oaks twisted and turned above our heads and showered us in dappled light. “My favorite oak lives here,” Sandy told me. “I haven’t seen it in two years.” When we came upon the majestic tree she stopped, and I could hear something like cooing coming from her throat.

“I think that’s poison oak,” I warned as she began to make her way closer to her branched friend.

“Oh, I don’t mind it,” she said, and blithely walked through the “leaves of three,” which somehow didn’t touch her, who they knew bore them no ill thought. In fact, she was on her way to give the tree a tender, giant hug.

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Young milk thistle emerging from the ground

Walking with Sandy is such a treat as she is an herbalist and humbly and naturally shares her knowledge along the way. I met the Japanese catnip herb growing under the oaks, and Sandy told me how wonderful Japanese catnip is when it is juiced as a bedtime drink, its properties can bring relaxation and the calming of the nervous system. We later discovered some milk thistle, and Sandy explained that the first two leaves of the milk thistle are called its “embryonic leaves” and can be eaten, as well as the seeds that come later in the year, to help cleanse the liver.

The hike to the top of the winding road was mostly uphill, with some welcome flat stretches in between. My legs felt happy to be out exerting themselves, and it all felt pretty delicious. While we walked, a certain fragrance filled the air, disappeared, then came again. It kept coming and going, and whenever I inhaled it, the feeling I got was “Wow, this is all I need.” Sandy told me later that the fragrant plant was sagebrush, explaining: “its property is to drop everything you don’t need, and stick to the essence of things,” which coincided exactly with the feeling that arose in me when I experienced its scent!

At the top of the trail we saw a large boulder called “Victory Rock,” so named, I’m supposing, for the feat of those who make it that far in the intense summer heat. Our conditions today were very mild with a sweet, cool wind blowing to keep us happy and refreshed.

Victory Rock holds a secret, sacred formation on its hidden side: the birthing canal. This is an opening in the boulder that Sandy uses when she is experiencing transformation in her life. Sandy’s beloved son, Lorin, is soon to be married, and as she descended the steep side of Victory Rock and looked back up at me just before making her entrance into the birthing hole, she told me that this time through would signify her life transition from mother to wise elder woman. I crouched and watched in silent support as my friend went through the hole and out the other side.

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Sandy at the “birthing canal”

Now, it was my turn. I shared that, for me, going through the birthing canal symbolized my transition into living in a body that is energized by plenty of Divine Life Force through the changes I’m making in my habits of conscious nutrition and exercise. Meeting at the other side of the birthing canal, we gave each other a high five.

Sandy and I walked down the trail in silence. We drove back to where we’d met early in the morning—at Sunburst Sanctuary. We had both worked up an appetite, and proceeded to satisfy it by sharing an organic salad. It was made of lettuce grown on Nojoqui Farm, organic avocado, lentils I’d sprouted, all bathed in a dressing of olive oil, Braggs, and fresh squeezed lemon.

I feel wonderful and strengthened physically, mentally, and spiritually. No wonder that conscious nourishment, recreation, and association are three rungs on the Path to Self-Realization.* The day is soon coming when more people will recognize the deeper benefits of these activities and doctors will begin to advise, “Take a two-mile hike, and call me in the morning after you’ve had your fresh coconut juice.”

Oh God, blessed is the Path that leads to You!

*The Sunburst Path recognizes the importance of consciously and virtuously including eight activities in our lives: meditation, study, conduct, speech, work, association, nourishment and recreation.

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