Saturday, November 12, 2016

Why protest?

I often feel like I'm not radical enough for my political community. But I'm also sort of an "accessible radical" in other areas of my life. The result is that in crisis times, I work to bridge the gap. 

Friends have been asking how to get involved. Because events change by the minute, please friend me on Facebook if you're interested in actions. I can more easily link up there. 

A friend asked for support in talking about protests with her community. I'd love your additions to this list, but here are some preliminary responses I have about the value of protesting and the reason why people are currently protesting Trump:

*protests are not always useful for overthrowing a candidate. They ARE useful for creating policy change. Occupy Wall Street gave us vocabulary to talk about predatory banking and created a groundswell of public pressure towards (some) banking reform. Black Lives Matter is forcing the issue of police brutality onto the public stage. All candidates had to address these issues BECAUSE protests and grassroots organizing created the pressure.

*protests channel energy, outrage, and sadness. They give it direction and then also allow people to come together to create platforms and social justice programs (think Panthers and their breakfast program, etc)

*protests show that we give a shit. When people 
grieve after ANOTHER police shooting of an unarmed Black Man it is IMPORTANT to show Black folks that they matter, that we get it, that we love them, that they should be protected. And we are working towards those ends. Right now, many demonstrating against Trump are saying that Muslims, women, LGBTQ, and others targeted MATTER to them.

*protests educate. I remember driving by protests as a kid and I would ask my parents what was going on. I didn't always get the best answers but it taught me to look into an issue. I remember Atlanta's pride parade going past my grandparents' church. My grandmother and the other church ladies gave out lemonade to the Dykes on Bykes, topless marchers, and all the other marchers. My grandfather and his cronies leaned against the church in the shadows with their arms crossed. That taught me too.

Why do you protest? Why does it matter? What other actions do you take to affect change?

Friday, November 11, 2016

The children

I confess, I kind of thought trump would win. I didn't want him to but it seemed possible. However, I didn't expect what came after his win. I was surprised by the depth of shock, grief, and fear among many white people. I was especially surprised to hear so many white people tell me about their children's fear.

They didn't know how to break the news of the election. Their children told them they were and are frightened. These parents have been understandably sad and angered and dislocated.

I didn't expect this.

My hope is that this pulls us into greater alignment with one another. I've talked to friends of color for years about how the government doesn't feel like it represents them nor protects them. They feel frightened of its symbols of power, like the military and police. After police killings of Black men, they try to figure out what to tell their sons about safety. They have long found ground in uncertain times.

My hope is that for those of us experiencing this sense of fear and uncertainty for the first time, that we can use it to fuel our empathy for those who have experienced it for a long time. Instead of spiralling into the fear, can this be used to say, "I am so sorry for what you've endured. I feel a piece of it. I want to figure out how to work together to make space for all of us to feel safer."

That's my hope.

White Women are not innocent. Everyone has power. Don't give it away.

Yesterday, I was heartened to read the following from writer Luvvie Ajayi: "White women. Some of you are starting to get in your feelings about everyone blaming you for Trump being president. Lemme tell you something. IT IS ABOUT TIME fingers start being pointed at you. Because in all of history, YOU have all gotten off scot-free for anything that has happened. White men are painted as the villains and folks have ignored the passive aggression and your role in the upholding of white supremacy.
In a world that doesn't really care about women WHEN it chooses to care, it is only for white women. You scream feminism but only fight for those who look like you. Y'all have been shielded from culpability all your lives and through history and been able to move in the system of oppression without getting blame when you have been active participants in the denigration of people of color and marginalized people. You have been the Damsel in Distress even as you've been the source of chaos. But still, you are protected above other women, because the way racism is set up, folks have been convinced that you are the default in womanhood. And part of what comes with that is you haven't learned to trust yourself. You didn't trust HRC to lead because you don't trust YOURSELF to lead.
COLLECTIVELY, y'all messed up on Tuesday.
So yes. You will sit in this discomfort and this shame. And you might choose to whine about it. What you should do is commit yourself to doing better. Look inward and see what part you've played.
Then we can move forward. For now, though, I'ma get these jokes off at your expense.
P.S. Read chapter 9 of my book (titled I'M JUDGING YOU). It's called "Nobody Wins at the Feminism Olympics.'"

Ajayi is an important writer to begin with and this is a very important sentiment.

To be clear: I'm not on the HRC bandwagon but I also did not and do not support trump. Just to get that straight.

I'm watching this election and the ensuing grief, fear, and bewilderment with my own trepidation, interest, and wonder. One of the things that gives me courage is that no one is allowed to be innocent.

None of us are allowed to be innocent.

I've tried to write about the place of white women as an idea, an archetype, in the cultural imagination before. I want to do this because I am a real, living, breathing white woman. Also, because I find ideas of white manhood and all that it entails-- unearned privilege, unearned pressures, etc. I find ideas of black manhood and all that entails-- undeserved criminalization, unrecognized humanity. I find ideas of black womanhood and all that entails-- unending pressures and responsibilities, unshared burdens. White women always feel a bit like a blank space. Unformed.

White women en masse love Oprah. White women en masse love Michelle Obama. White women voted for Trump.

White women were the excuses for lynchings of Black men. The accusation of looking at a white woman was enough to kill a Black man.

Helen of Troy was a white woman. As Ajayi wrote, "you have been the damsel in distress... and the source of chaos." That false innocence, that innocuousness has also meant lack of accountability. Along with lack of accountability, it means denial of responsibility, lack of agency, and power.

It's bullshit.

I'm not innocent. I never was. But I felt like I got a pass.

On Wednesday, after trump became president elect, when I walked down the rain soaked streets I passed a Black man who looked at me like, "Was it you, Judas?" And I wanted to pull out my radical ally card and beg my innocence, "It wasn't me! I swear!" And I thought, "This. This will be another side effect of this moment. This betrayal. My past actions don't matter. My current actions do." To be trustworthy, I have to be accountable. I have to keep showing up. I have to be culpable and also accountable. I have to have as much blood on my hands as anyone else, and I also have to have ownership. 

And that means I get to belong.

Part of the myth of innocence is not being a part of the whole, not making decisions, not having a seat at the table, not showing up. I don't get to be innocent and I also don't abnegate my own power. 

Friday, November 4, 2016

Wolves running with women

I pay great heed to the recommendations of witchy artist women. Thankfully, I have many around me. Women who are attentive to their own internal guide, who create beautifully and seasonally, and who engage with great respect all in their midst.

Repeatedly, I was urged to read Women Who Run With the Wolves.

I bought a used copy as I figured this was a read I'd mark up and return to. I do a lot of teaching around myth. Shoot, Caits and I did two retreats using myth as the intersection between yoga and writing or body and creativity. The book arrived and moved around my house a bit. It lived in my bedroom for a time. It landed on the shelf. It didn't get read.

Then I thought, "I should pick this up." I tried. I tried to read it. I loved it but I couldn't read it. This is a densely packed book, tiny type on thin, crowded pages. You can feel the author's presence. She must be wearing a shawl and a long skirt. She's probably brewing something on the stove as she speaks to you through the pages. She's there and she's very her. She's very of an era that feels to me like feral 70s feminism.

That's not a bad thing. That's sort of the medicine that healed me as a young woman. I've spent a lot of time with those women and they were huge influences. But somehow, it was too much in my suburban Philadelphia bedroom. I just didn't feel like burning my bra right then. The wolves have been pretty much driven out of the East Coast...

I'm usually really intentional about what reading I bring on a trip. Somehow, in all the busyness of preparing for the retreat, I didn't tend to my own book list. On the plane I kept exclaiming, "Why didn't I bring Muir? Or Edward Abbey? Or...? What was I thinking?"

But I did grab Women Who Run With the Wolves. On a whim, I pulled it off the shelf and threw it in my bag.

As is pretty common, I didn't read for pleasure on the retreat. I rested during personal time but I stayed pretty tuned into teaching and offering. I glanced at some essays Kevin had brought but that was about it. Maybe I was being primed... those essays were speeches from a witchy lady in the UK.

When we settled into Crestone, into this place to which I'd been called, in this place that we found by consulting sun-beat, calloused women who looked like they'd given all their fucks decades ago, I heard the author calling again.

I picked up the book and it felt REAL. Like, it felt near. I felt with her. I felt of her. Interestingly, I felt strongly the presence of the woman who rented us our magic hobbit hole. I felt all these women living on the edges, off-the-grid, completely untamed.

What felt sort of silly, or hard to relate to at home, felt relevant. There are wolves. There are feral spaces. There are stories being told around fires. It's all still there and real and felt like a valued road map in that particular moment. I felt like I was on a quest and here was my guide.

I still haven't finished the book. It's living in my purse right now. Every now and then I pick it up and read some more. The author still feels in the room, but a bit further away. I'm building trust that not only can I find the places and teachings that serve but that they find me too.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Willow Lake Trail

When we first landed in Crestone... err, drove into town? Really, landed feels more accurate, we put down our things and took a walk through town. In the small crystal/VHS video rental shop the store-keeper mentioned Willow Lake hike. When we did a little more research we saw that this 9 mile, 3,000 ft ascension was listed as one of the most scenic in all of Colorado!

On our last day in Crestone our poor little rental car climbed up to the trail head through pot-holed, rock-strewn, unpaved roads. I love how much parts of the US can feel like anywhere else in the world. I love the world when it's less sanitized and civilized.

Kevin had tried to get some info on this trail but hikers are notoriously rough communicators. On the Boulder retreat we kept asking returning hikers how long it would take us to get to the Royal Arches. Without fail they'd say something innocuous and falsely encouraging like, "15 more minutes!" An hour later we'd find more hikers who'd say the same.

And on the descent, happy, completely disoriented, we became them.

Armed with this complete lack of information, we set off.

The landscape did shift beautifully and wildly. We wandered on switchbacks in the woods to open meadows to sheer rockscapes.

We only encountered two other hikers and that's when we were about a mile from the parking lot. As we were on the descent, Kevin mislead them WILDLY on how far to the lake. He still feels bad about that.

We started at Crestone's elevation of around 8,000 ft above sea level. We ascended 4.5 miles upto 11,000 or so ft above sea level. My ears continued popping. I stopped frequently on the vertical ascent to catch my breath. Between altitude sickness and where I was with my cold it often felt hard to breathe. But once I recovered, the air tasted good and I felt better than if I stayed inside.

As with everything in this corner of the world, distance and effort felt unpredictable. The usual markers we offer ourselves were meaningless. We were working in a different spatial paradigm. Endless up. Endless quad burning. Endless panting lungs.


Willow Lake sits in an alpine mountain crevice. The water bubbles out of the mountain, springs into the lake, and then drops into waterfalls and rivulets before winding a creek through the valley below.

A lake. In a mountain, Improbable. Clear. Empty. Beautiful.

Of course, Kevin stripped down and jumped in. He said he lost his breath for a moment. He said he found God.

Air temp was about 50. The sun was hot when it reached you but clouds moved quickly through the sky and sometimes lost you in shade. The water had some ice on it and there was snow on the shore.

After endless ascension-- well, 4 hours of it, we descended the 4.5 miles and 3,000 ft in 2 hours. We basically skipped like mountain goats.

When we drove out of town the following day I still felt the climb in my body. I love coming home with remnants of a place in my skin.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Spirit houses of Crestone

The Sangre de Cristo range has long been a site of pilgrimage for Indigenous spiritual seekers. Apparently, when students of Tibetan Buddhist Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche were looking for a site to house their teacher in the Americas, they thought that the high altitude of Crestone would feel like home. They were a large part of building a stupa in Crestone.

Somewhere in there a politician bought a bunch of land in Crestone with thoughts of development. Somehow, happily, his plans didn't come to fruition. Either due to conscience or for the tax write-off, he donated the land to several religious organizations. There is now a Carmelite Catholic Hermitage, several Hindu Ashrams, several Buddhist monasteries of different stripes, permaculture sites, and more. Most people going to Crestone are going for periods of contemplation in one of the religious houses.

The town of Crestone proper is a few dusty roads at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo range before opening into the vast San Luis Valley. If you don't turn back to the valley but instead head up into the mountains you're entering a part of town known as The Baca. There are scattered houses with view of the tumble weed and shrubs below and soaring cliffs above.

Soon, you come to a remarkable Buddhist stupa.

On site, we read about the formation. There seems to be an unusual level of collaboration between the various spiritual houses. As I write this it actually makes better sense-- it is HARD to live in the San Luis Valley. Perhaps cooperation is a natural byproduct of maintaining in adverse conditions.

The stupa was erected in coordination between some of the various Tibetan Buddhists in the region. There was a small meditation house devoted to the Divine Mother. There was a potent feminine energy there... but I tried to describe it to a friend. It also felt very strongly masculine at times. She said, "That's when you're in the presence of something outside of what we know." I think that's true.

We made a few trips up the Baca. We visited with some attendants in one of the Hindu Ashrams and heard stories about their Guru. I loved that many of their structures were built with repurposed tires into the cliffs to be less interrupting to the environment as well as naturally temperature controlled. We read some of the ashram schedules-- early rising, meditation, seva or work in the ashram, all while repeating mantra. The Baca is the site of many people performing cleansing austerities.

The Carmelite Hermitage is said of have one of the best spiritual libraries in the region. The University system in Colorado also had a satellite school studying local ecology.

Everyone there was there intentionally.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Great Sand Dunes

When we landed in Crestone several friends said, "You're going to see the sand dunes right?" 

Well. It hadn't been our original intention but sure!

We drove out the one road from Crestone to the Cosmic Highway connecting the high San Luis Valley. Given that I had a cold, was stationed in a 4-road town of 150 people, I was partially hunting cold supplies. I wanted tissues. Cough drops. I always imagine a land of no CVSes and no convenience. I can now say from experience: it's AMAZING and should happen but it has it's costs. One is when you have an unexpected cold and are underprepared.

As we approached the Great Sand Dunes national park we happily encountered the one all needs shop. It seems like every park has this place. They'll make you a hot dog. You can buy propane gas. There are weirdly great salves made by a local Indigenous woman. There's kitschy home decorations next to survival hunting knives. And happily, there was ONE PACK OF HALL'S COUGH DROPS.

I bought hot sauce for my Aunts and cough drops for myself. Finally, a store. Errands. Check.

Now, to epic sand.

In Crestone we'd stopped in a shop that sold sacred healing crystals and VHS tapes of movies. Cause, Crestone. The very sweet woman tending shop suggested a few hikes and of course to head to the sand dunes. Kevin asked about how they formed. He loves the sand dunes at Jockey's Ridge in Kitty Hawk so he's sort of tuned into this stuff. She said, "you know. This is a desert. Sand just went there."

We later sat in the park's visitor center and watched a video on the geology of the park. They didn't use that language but I swear, they basically said the same thing.

The main nuance left by those wordy scientists was that the sand plays a huge role in the local ecosystem. The sand blows and drifts as sand tends to do. It blows up the mountain. When the winter snows melt it travels back down the mountains and to these dunes. There's a sweet dance occurring in this particular place. It's rare and beautiful.

On a Tuesday there were an assortment of campers and kids who have sand boards-- basically snow boards to coast down the sand. The sand dunes were crazy high and steep. Just due to a normal respect for heights I felt some trepidation. Then I tested the water on a sand hill and found that the costs of running, rolling, or generally playing in any imaginable way were nill. It's pretty freeing.

I was sort of at the height of my chest congestion here. Between altitude and the winds that naturally whip you this high up without tree cover, I paused a lot. I cared for my ability to breathe. Kevin, as is his nature, played.

He is still finding sand in every bit of his being.

We became creatures of the sand. As we walked back to our car, I paused to shake out my boots. I can't even tell you how long sand poured from them.

Many camp throughout the park. The landscape changes quickly. For those who do camp, at night you can return to the sand dunes for star watching. I can't imagine a closer nor sweeter view of the infinite sky.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Traveling as possession

It's not a memory, it's a potent feeling. The air is cold but the sun is hot. The ground is solid and dusty. Calexico plays; rumbling, evocative, creepy, romantic. The sky is wide open and a thick blue. The mountains are both near and far but they are always. And life is in a car. Life is lived in a way specific to this time and place-- moving fast on open, practically barren road. When I read the obituaries in the local newspaper it's all listings of young travelers killed in accidents. Life is raw, fast, sudden, and dangerous.

I don't feel like I went to the San Luis Valley-- I feel like it crept inside of me and it's still there. I don't feel like there were a few days where I visited Crestone-- I think Crestone decided to inhabit me. It's still there. I can still access it. I don't feel like I entered and exited-- this was a possession.

The entirety of our time felt that way-- vaguely creepy, completely magical, totally weird, and inherently wonderful. Behind our magic hobbit hole there was a small alley in the shadows of the Sangre de Cristo peaks. In the morning I saw a gathering of folks who looked like they were living fast and rough. They had that feel around them that they were fierce, protective of one another, kind, and quick to fight. One dusty guy had a tear drop tattooed under his left eye. Most were wearing old army surplus wear. An Indigenous couple made out on the hood of a truck. The whole scene was pretty far from what I live in southern New Jersey... in fact it felt about as far as some of the worlds I encountered in the mountains of northern Vietnam or the valleys of Andean Ecuador.

I couldn't put my finger on it. Were folks allowed to crash in this public space? What was going on?

Ultimately, we went inside the door near where folks smoked their morning cigarettes and nodded to the maroon clad monks wandering by on morning errands. It was a coffee shop. Not any coffee shop but a coffee shop that made bullet proof coffee with ghee and coconut oil, or added bee pollen to your smoothie, or created a spicy maca mocha for you. Like, a weirdly good coffee shop. Inside was pretty much the same as outside, but add a few laptops.

We couldn't get a wifi signal and I doubt many others in there could either. I think everyone was probably working on their novel or developing their online meditation course. We picked up the local newspaper, still hungrily taking in this strange place we'd found ourselves. Everyone was wildly friendly. A guy in a goth raincoat with feathers trailing from his hat asked about Kevin's copy of Lord of the Rings. Kevin explained the origins of his leather-bound copy. The guy responded with, "Ah, your fantasy bible" before catching up on kirtan touring with a musician from Taos.

An old guy with white locks to his waist wore a tie-dyed "Same difference" tee-shirt. A traveling family cooed over a sleepy toddler. I honestly think that if I encountered the same crowd in Chicago that they would look completely "normal" there. Like, "same difference" tee-shirt would shift to a business suit. I almost wondered what I looked like to them. As though none of us would be able to see our own reflection in the mirror.

Years ago Kevin and I wandered into Banos, Ecuador, a town in a deep valley in the Andes. That was the first time I put my finger on the experience I was having in Crestone. I wasn't where I thought I was. Where I thought I was was in me.

I don't know how else to characterize it.

The presence of that place, and others in Ecuador, affected me deeply. I remember an overwhelming desire to just stay and be with that. To write it. To feel it. To let it be with me. At that time, I had other ideas in mind and continued my journeys. In Crestone, I stayed. I'm learning.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Mountain's Call

I've read Muir's quote, "The mountains are calling and I must go," and smiled and thought, "I get that." But now I nod soberly. Yeah. I get that.

I feel like I was recently summoned by the Sangre de Cristo range. I don't know how else to describe it. I knew we were offering a retreat in Boulder and I always try to shoulder retreats with a little bit of personal time when I can restore my own inner reserves after being tuned into the participants of the retreat. I'd asked some friends in Colorado if they had recommendations but I got a lot of vague responses. Last year I designed a Costa Rica retreat for Colorado-based yoga teacher, Carrie Keahey. She said, "Go to Crestone." I had breakfast with my friend Karin Otto and mentioned this. She gasped. In awe she said, "go there. I did my 3 week zazen sit there."

I'd never heard of Crestone, but all of my favorite travel experiences began with someone else's wide-eyed suggestion. We went to Guatemala based on the recommendation of some Chilean backpackers when we were all sandwiched in the back of a van in Panama. Staying in a hostel near Tikal, we played rummy for a few hours with a guy who'd motorcycled down from Canada. He told us, "Go to Lake Atitlan. Go to a village called San Marcos. Stay at a hotel called Aaculaax." A few weeks later, while sunning on the boulders along the Lake Atitlan shoreline, we chatted with some Irish backpackers. "I love Vietnam. Go there." While planning my Vietnam trip, a yoga student said, "Go to Hoi An." And on and on.

I don't know if other people get these suggestions or not nor whether they listen. In my experience, it is worth listening to these recommendations.

I found an airbnb in Crestone and figured out how long it would take us to drive down from Boulder. I often take public transit when traveling but it wasn't an option here. There is one road into Crestone and one road out. No buses. No trains.

As we finished long, sweet hugs with the participants from the Boulder retreat, we hopped into our rental car and got on the highway south through the Rockies. We skirted the western border of Denver before dropping into more arid rock formations, following winding highways along serpentine paths of rivers. My ears never stopped popping as we found our ways into many little towns, the formula: one gas station, on camping spot, one motel, one restaurant. Again and again. And then wide open space. Uninterrupted mountains, climbing trees, open skies.

We saw several of Kevin's "weird Colorado" finds; a Coney Island hot dog stand among them. So funny to find a 8 ft tall hot dog among aspen and yet another "Yogi Bear" KOA campsite. We stopped for lunch near Breckenridge and got some good spicy burritos. The landscape shifted gradually as we wove in and out of valleys and then back up into the mountains. The biggest shift came as we exited about 45 minutes from Crestone. Suddenly, we dropped into a high altitude desert, an altiplano. The San Luis Valley plays tricks on your perception. Because it's so broad and flat, with the only discernable difference between the mountain range boundaries, it seems possibly small. But it's not. The valley opens into a vast range but there's little to differentiate distance. More tumbleweed, low grasses, grazing animals. Open, open space.

The altiplano was arid, desolate and completely beautiful. We drove towards a majestic range of southern Rockies known as the Sangre de Cristo because at sunset, the sky makes the mountains appear the color of the blood of Christ. That name gives some indication to the potency of feeling in this place. This particular area has long been a site of pilgrimage. Indigenous peoples lived and live in the region but many sites in this particular area have always been places of spiritual reverence, not places where you live your everyday life.

Highway 17 or the Cosmic Highway, which links into Crestone, is also where the most UFO sightings in the northern Americas have occurred! This feels pretty linked to me-- there's interesting scholarship on previous generations talking about spiritual sightings or communions with angels in the same terms that people in the last century have used to describe UFO sightings. Some say that these experiences are the same. Whether they're UFOs or angels is obviously a bit tricky to discern or prove, but many in and around Crestone split the difference by referring to "sky beings" or "sky spirits." Many in Crestone purposefully meditate or seek to commune with these beings who they see as helpful or conducive to shifting perspective and consciousness.

Already, we'd obviously hit another one of Kevin's "weird Colorado" spots. He had just heard an interview with a woman who maintains a site dedicated to the Cosmic Highway's high density of sightings.

We passed hot springs I'd heard about, bubbling up from the cauldron of heat and energy beneath the valley floor before turning on T road, the one way in and out of Crestone. This road is almost a straight shot towards the mountains, but mysteriously curves a few times. The bends move around houses. My guess is they either built the road around existing properties and/or they added some bends to decelerate the tendency to just speed off towards the horizon.

We passed a dispensary and a few houses and a lot of wild, open space. We dead-ended at grazing alpaca and a sign for Crestone. A left and then a right, we found a four road town and some scattered houses. I asked a woman for directions to our airbnb. She had a leathered face, suspicious eyes, and was missing most of her teeth. She seemed very sharp and discerning. The road names I was given meant nothing but in a town of 150 people she knew our airbnb host and appropriately guided us.

We opened a rusty gate to a yard of projects: apple trees dropping fruit where mule deer grazed, a geodesic dome serving as growhouse for marijuana plants, several assorted yurts, an apparently functional sink in the middle of the yard, a human-made stream running past a house where a toddler stood naked in a tall window. Some found art projects. A couple of tools.

Beneath the towering mountains, our hobbit house, a round home built from sacred geometry out of wood and cob. We entered the code and the sweet space. It was so warm! So much warmer than I would have expected. Cob does a good job of insulating or cooling depending on the season. As the temperature quickly dropped in the high mountain air, the warmth became very reassuring.

Kevin looked around wide-eyed saying things like, "I feel like I've been here before." I didn't feel that but I don't know how else to explain it... I feel like I'd been called.

And not like this was a warm, milk and cookies invitation. It felt a little rough!

I'd arrived in Colorado feeling good. On the second day of the retreat I went into deep caves with bubbling water from hot springs. By that evening, I felt rough. I had a ton of congestion in my chest that made it hard to sleep. I figured out ways to pull through so I could be present on the retreat but I almost felt like that dip had kick-started something in my body. By the time I pulled into Crestone I was still battling the congestion as well as the altitude. It felt like a purification. It felt like I'd be plunged into the depth of the mountain's heat, shook up, warmed up, and was being pushed to run clear.

I didn't feel well for most of my time in Colorado but I still loved it. I didn't feel concerned about my health. It felt like something that maybe is often covered up, or not often dealt with (I can't even name what!), was rising to the surface level. Like the mountains called me, I had to go, and they were working me out.

Given that I didn't want to miss out on this beautiful space, I continued to do things. Each day Kevin and I set out on an outdoor adventure. As the day progressed and I moved in the open air, I would feel better. I had to stop a lot on hikes to catch my breath as the thin oxygen and my compromised lungs needed time, but I could do it and I felt better for having been free range in that way. I felt summoned and I felt like the mountains wanted to work on me.

The other day I re-listened to an interview Krista Tippett did with Robin Kimmerer, a biologian of moss and member of  Indigenous spiritual community. Kimmerer said that she often asked her college students if they love the world. Many would affirm that they do. Then she'd ask if the earth loves them. That tended to produce uncomfortable silences. She phrased the question in that way to highlight the interrelatedness we have with what we perceive to be inanimate, or at least animate in a way distinct from our own consciousness. She wanted to offer the possibility of the earth's agency. I was so glad to hear that because these are the spaces I've been working in recently. Even as I write these words I think potential readers might think I've totally lost it. "Mountains calling you? Purifying you? How many dispensaries did you hit?" Language feels pretty inadequate in regards to some of these deeper senses.

I've been working to strengthen my intuition recently by simply listening to it. I pay more attention to my dreams. I try to feel my body's responses to various decisions. The more I practice in these ways, the quiet inner voice grows louder. And I'm so grateful for it's insight.

Maybe this is why I could hear the mountains call. I don't think I'm meant to stay there. The feeling of pilgrimage was strong. I think those mountains are happiest left free of human development and intervention. But I'm so grateful for the invitation and ability to be in that potent space, when called.

Into the Great Wide Open Retreat reflection

There has been so much movement. There have been many mountains.

I'm taking a minute to collect and recollect it all.

For the past few months, on my days off I holed up in the library hidden in a canyon of books by American Naturalists. In my blue floral notebook (the personal, creative space) I wrote quotes and ideas. Beth and I sat down together and saw where these Naturalists were directly sharing yogic and Buddhist philosophy (think Emerson and Helen Nearing, who was Krishnamurti's student) or where there was simply a natural echoing. In that ven diagram of thinking, we developed a curriculum for the Into the Great Wide Open Retreat to Boulder.

We hand wrote small journals with daily invitations to intention, quotes, writing prompts, and guided meditations for silent meals.

On Oct 6 Kevin and I flew out to Denver. We got our rental car and started into the mountains. Maybe it was the altitude but it was exhilarating. And I was nervous, which is always the case when I enter into facilitating a retreat. I take holding space very seriously.

We met Beth for food on Pearl Street in Denver. People were already trickling into Chautauqua. We all began gathering in the main room at Missions House, noshing on cookies, swapping travel stories, and getting settled in. If we looked out the "back yard" we saw the glorious rising of the Flatirons.

Dinner was our first official get together. As always, we clarified that every offering was optional and affirmed each participant following their own inner direction.

There's a small time difference between Boulder and Philly but enough that I was wide awake before sunrise the following morning. Kevin and I bundled up against the early morning icy air and began walking up the Flatirons. The trails were empty, leaving us ample space to look up and out over the endless spines of mountains or out into the valley of Boulder. It was pretty much the best space to gain perspective in advance of teaching yoga. I returned to Missions House where we practiced Jivamukti yoga, ate a lovely catered breakfast, and then we sort of organically went en masse up the trails. Originally, we all set out to explore. Again, as is the case in these sorts of things, some folks decided to turn back after remembering that we hadn't all acclimated to the altitude, and others of us went up to the Royal Arches.

Each day after unfolded similarly. An invitation into a deepening or evolving intention, yoga, beautiful food, adventures, yoga, and an evening by the fire eating and talking. We had several silent meals together guided by Thich Nhat Hanh's teachings on mindful silence. A group of us took a jaunt to hot springs in Idaho Springs. Others wandered into downtown Boulder. A few trekked to Rocky Mountain National Park in Estes Park. Others got massages and body work. We all found our way into the mountains, into that perspective, and into ourselves.

I love every retreat and rarely want to repeat them. The thing is, they can't be recreated. They're always a unique encounter between each participant, facilitator, and the space. While this experience could never be duplicated, its ease and yields make me think of offering it again! What do you say? Should we do it?