Touching the Base

Touching the Base

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When I read Wild, by Cheryl Strayed about six months ago my thoughts were, “Wow what an amazing journey this woman embarked upon.” If you haven’t read it, it’s the memoir of a woman in her mid 20s venturing out solo on the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert to the Cascades of Oregon. Remarkable, yet all the while, a parallel thought was running along, saying, “That will never be me, no way in HELL!” I finished the book, put it on the shelf and forgot about it until last week.

Last week my family and I headed out to the mountains. We had reservations for ‘glamping’ at a sweet little guest ranch in the Warner Valley of Mt. Lassen National Park. Our cabin was outfitted with a full bath, hot shower, comfy beds and kerosene lamps. The dining hall served up three gourmet meals every day with a wine list to match. We went there for some family time, just to get away, do some hiking, swimming, get off the grid and pay attention to each other.

One of the extraordinary things about this spot was that it is a thoroughfare for many thru-hikers in the wilderness of the Pacific Crest Trail. Can I tell you these people were amazing! Men and women, traveling in pairs, small groups and even solo wandered onto the guest ranch looking forward to a swim in the pool, hot shower, good food and even a most-coveted popsicle.

These people became easy to identify as they strode into the ranch with forty-pound packs on their backs. They have a certain gait, some might even call it a hobble. Yet they wear it and all the blisters, scrapes, bruises as badges of honor. As well they should, because most of them just hiked up from the CA/Mexico border for over the past three months. We met one woman from Holland, a yoga teacher, deciding to hike the trail solo. She began in Washington and was making her way down to the Mexican border. We met a 41 year-old guy who had quit his job, sold everything, flew across the country and was deep in an existential crisis about why he was doing this, primarily because of the triple blisters on the balls of his feet which were taking him out of the game for three days until he healed.

There must have been at least twenty hikers who came through and while I marveled at each of them, I still wasn’t fully getting why they were doing it. Why would anyone put themselves through that kind of physical and emotional torture? They shared about how their thoughts while hiking were incessant of how many miles they have to go, how heavy their packs were, when their next shower will be, when they can get their hands on an ice-cream bar! They shared the mind tricks to get them through the last five miles of the day. Along with some pretty harrowing tales from near-death slips to up-close bear encounters, they also shared tales of the ‘trail angels’, people who had helped them along the way with rides into towns, home-cooked meals, supplies, etc. My beau and I became such angels to two hikers whom we offered the shower and fresh towels in our cabin. They were incredibly grateful to receive such a gift and we were elated to see their transformation from weary to invigorated. We heard about the moments of zen when all the pain begins to fade away and their true spirit takes hold and guides them. And I suppose that’s when I got it. The breakthrough moment of when you feel so broken that there is nowhere to go but up…literally! I would imagine doing a trek like this, or anything that challenges you to the brink of intense internal questioning brings you to a place of not only surpassing your limits, but a deep devotional surrender.

We hiked small day hikes while in Lassen to many of the hydrothermal features. We saw some breathtaking views. There is something about walking in the forest, hearing absolutely nothing but birdsong and your own breath that is so grounding and uplifting. There is a spiritual component to hiking, wandering on the long journeys, being off the grid and living in a way that has always been possible, but we’ve become so challenged by. It’s a touching down to our inherent basecamp within all of us. The place which tells us not only that anything is possible, but so available!

As we returned from the trip, we rode down from 8500ft altitude and back into Marin County. There was an acclimation period in which I resisted coming home, back into the buzz of the Bay Area. Yet with me I took the inspiration these trekkers anointed me. I immediately looked up the 2600-mile stretch of the Pacific Crest Trail. And while there was still a ‘HELL no!’ coming from my body, there was a audible, ‘hmmm…mayBE’ as I read about the 226-mile John Muir Trail. I’ll keep you posted!

 

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Goin to Church

Goin’ to Church

GLIDE Ensemble – Welcome Table from GLIDE on Vimeo.

This past Sunday, I did something I hadn’t done in a very long time…I went to Sunday morning church service. I didn’t grow up with an organized religion in our household. Yet, growing up in the bible belt, I felt I grew up with religion standing right behind me, looming over my shoulder all the time. Once in a while I’d be invited to Sunday morning service with my childhood friends. I experienced everything from Mass to Methodist to Pentecostal to Mount Zion. The latter was my favorite because it was held in a small white clapboard church on the edge of town. It burst at the seams with music and soul. Not necessarily because of the religion, but because of the willingness of its people. For some reason I was craving this soul, this movement, its embrace. So this past Mother’s Day, I decided to take my mother in-law to the 9am service at Glide Memorial Church here in San Francisco. If you’ve never been to Glide, it was rebirthed in the height of the Civil Rights movement to embrace all faiths, all people..no exclusions, no exceptions.

That morning we stood in the pews beside women in headscarfs, gay couples, hipsters, families and people who struggle with being on the streets. We all stood before the Glide Ensemble Choir being showered with their immensity. We were entertained by two men ‘vogueing’ on stage as they promoted Glide t-shirts. The 10-piece band belted out tunes from Earth, Wind & Fire along with traditional gospel hymns. We held hands and hugged people around us, we sang, we clapped, we danced. And it was here that I finally realized that the brick & mortar church was simply a place to gather, together, and align with a higher spirit of love and compassion. This spirit seemed amplified because of the collective as it streamed down and through its participants.

We filed out of the church into the middle of the Tenderloin, a place dense with despair. And instead of shutting down or shielding from it, we cradled it with our hearts as if it were our own wound, because in the connectivity of all things, it was. From our divinity, we bowed to its divinity, the ultimate “Amen”, “Hallelujah”, “Shalom”, “Salaam”, “Namaste” moment.

 

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Putting Down Roots

Putting Down Roots

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A few weeks ago, before the rains, I had a gardening bonanza! I never thought of myself as much of a green thumb. In fact I still don’t, but since my pre-school years, I’ve always loved seeing the first peek of green peering up from the soil and tendril upward into the world.

I’ve long graduated from Dixie cups and sunflower seeds and now have a 4×4 veggie garden patch. It’s not much, but something which fits perfectly into the sun-soaked spot just beneath our kitchen window. This year I planted two 6-packs of rainbow chard of which the jackrabbits have made their personal salad bar (note to self: chicken wire ASAP). Still standing are the zucchini, squash, japanese eggplant, jalapenos, red cabbage, dino kale and a trailblazing effort of asparagus. Every morning I go outside to coo over them like they’re all my little babies. My 9yo daughter and my cat, Pablo stare out the window at me like I’ve lost my mind.

In Ayurveda, spring is Vata (air/wind) season. It’s the Mover & Shaker of all seasons. It’s the season for birthing new ideas, meeting new people, taking action on those new year intentions. With it can come unexplained feelings of overwhelm, anxiety, irritability.That 3rd chakra, the energy center of our will and moving forward in the world, gets super activated and if we’re not careful can completely quake our foundation.

Getting grounded: Just like that little pea shoot is striving to break through the soil, it also needs to be rooted in order to survive. It’s important to practice grounding this time of year in order for us to move from a true place, rather than falling over ourselves to get to the next project. Think about that picture for a moment…we end up getting in our own way!

Being in nature, getting my hands in dirt, cultivating and nurturing seedlings into the earth, planting a stack of clay pots with jasmine, lavender, hydrangeas and herbs…this grounds me. After working in the ethereal realms of Reiki, kneeling and bringing my focus downward to soil is something my body craves.

So if you’re feeling unmoored in this early bit of spring, we can get you grounded. And be sure to back it up with getting your feet and hands on a patch of mother earth.

 

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