Magic and Mystery in Tibet (1929). The title was enough for me in an economically depressed UK in the 1970s. I had just started meditating, and Alexandra David-Neel’s travels through snowy peaks, meetings with lamas, and hot drinks of butter tea embodied for me the exhilaration of embarking on a spiritual path.

Now, years later, I appreciate other adventures too. Nan Shepherd’s The Living Mountain (1977) is a Scottish hiker’s classic. Forgotten in a drawer for thirty years, when published this book gripped imaginations. Shepherd, greatly influenced by Buddhism, was a true walker of wild places who embraced each stage on a mountain hike. She felt people focused too much on getting to the summit. Rather, each cranny, scree, and loch and each raincloud, mist, or burst of sunshine is to be savored as an opening to explore the present. Her walks have been an inspiring support to breathing mindfulness for me. The breath has its own landscape and weather. As she writes: “As I penetrate more deeply into the mountain’s life, I penetrate also into my own.”

Listen to Sarah Shaw discuss the ritual, somatic, and devotional aspects of Theravada practice that are often overlooked on Tricycle Talks.

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