Riding to the temple on the back of the Heruanth was always the highlight of her day. Her body swayed to match the undulations of the body of the beast as it slowly plodded through the jungle. She felt its wrinkled, grey skin against the palms of her hands as dappled sunlight, filtered through the canopy of leaves above, played across its leathery hide. She patted it gently on the head, a signal that they were reaching their destination, wholly unnecessary as they’d taken this journey every day for more than three years now. The Heruanth knew the way.
Dismounting from the beast she entered the temple, a wave of relief passing through her as she moved from the warm, humid air of the jungle into the cool air that filled this ancient stone building. The temple was so familiar to her, almost a second home, and yet entering still brought with it a sense of detachment, not from the wider world and the universe beyond, but from her immediate surroundings. A detachment from the cares and worries of the day, a detachment from the distractions of friends and family alike.
She found her usual spot in the centre of the empty temple’s vast atrium. Hazy light filtered down through slots high up on the sloping walls. She sat down on the floor, her legs crossed, her arms by her side, the backs of her hands resting on the cold flagstones beside her. She closed her eyes and began to focus on her breathing. Slowly. In. Out. In. Out. The temple melted away around her until all she was aware of was her own being.
She stretched her focus out.
She could feel the stone floor beneath her, the walls surrounding her. Beyond that she could feel the Heruanth patiently waiting for her to return, momentarily irritated by a bug buzzing at its ear. Further out she could feel the trees of the jungle, the abundant life within threatening to overwhelm her for a moment, before it welcomed her, unquestioningly, as a part of its whole.
She reached out further now, extending her focus to include the entire world beneath her, around her, above her. She felt the thrum of all life on the planet, an interdependent symbiotic system that she was as much a part of as anyone, anything else on the land, in the seas, in the sky, under the earth. It all existed as one.
Yet further she went, and as she touched the cosmos she felt it flow back into her, accepting her, consuming her, being her as she was it.
Her eyes flicked open. It was time to leave this place. She knew now where her destiny lay, or, rather, she knew the first step to take along the path and she trusted that the second would be revealed to her when needed.
She rode the Heruanth back to the village where she would say goodbye to it and everything she knew. Maybe she’d return one day, but only if the path led her back.