Once when several monks were traveling in the mountains, one pointed to his hand and said, “Right here is the summit of Mystic Peak.” His companion said, “Indeed it is. What a pity!”

~The Blue Cliff Record, Case 23

For me, the above koan is a simple lesson of finding the world of perfection~called here Mystic Peak~at any time and any place in our journey through this life. The good news is, we can take our baggage with us; in fact the journey to Mystic Peak would not be complete without it.

I notice when travel to new and unknown places, particularly with my family, my disaster-conjuring-mind up-shifts into overdrive. Forget about finding a cab from the airport; will we even survive the landing?, I fretted as we recently came into San Jose, Costa Rica in a blustery wind and driving rain. The small hotel we stayed in was nice enough, but would it withstand the kind of earthquake that killed 6,000 several decades ago in nearby Managua, Nicaragua? And as eco-tourists on the jungle coast the next day, it seemed unlikely we would survive the follow-on tsunami. I clutched my copy of How to Survive Anything tightly to my breast as I went to sleep in our rainforest cabin that night.


A short time later, a thunder and lightning storm of hellish proportions woke me, offering to turn fear into reality. The lightning flashes and booming thunder~as if imported from an electrified planet from another solar system~was continuous and unrelenting for several hours. The strikes and reports came every few seconds and even flooded together, making it impossible to match a flash with a boom. My disaster-mind calculated that if Zeus chose to target our rainforest resort with its 22 cabins, ours had a good chance of being struck; the metal roofs were not a comforting feature.

Losing all hope for sleep, I got up and sat in the open window facing the jungle with its pounding rain. With each flash, the jungle, the cabin and I, were bathed in the light. With each clap, we could feel the percussion. The chorus of frogs and I had no choice but to slow count one…two…three (without utility) over and over. After a while, they seemed to sing in Spanish, which I could not hear well. There was a crackling ripper and explosion, seemingly only a few hundred yards away, that blew out the lodge’s night lights. Then all was quiet, except for the rain. The frogs continued to sing, “No es una lastima que estes en la selva mistica con nosotros esta noche.” (It is not at all a pity that you are here with us in Mystic Jungle tonight).