Why I Walk Through Mountains

The mountains are calling and I must go.  John Muir

I walk through mountains to feel my feet touch ground as they step up.

I walk through mountains to follow steps of ancient people’s paths.

I walk through mountains to remember, I’ll go high and I’ll go low, and it’s all the same mountain land.

I walk through mountains to listen to songs in languages that only mountain birds speak.

I walk through mountains to visit lakes in ancient craters.

I walk through mountains to sing to trees and birds and rocks.

I walk through mountains to view down below from up above.

I walk through mountains so they can tell me secrets nowhere else tells me.

I walk through mountains to know that I am part of everything.

I walk through mountains to see that I am a girl who walks, always, one foot in front of the other.

I walk through mountains to remind myself that when I reach up high I am only there for a moment, for soon again I will be low, then flat, then twisty, then high again.

I walk through mountains because it helps me remember that I must always be in process, that I am always fluid, that I am not a construct of a “good” student or a “good” girlfriend or a “good” daughter.  These are tents I sleep in, but they are only on the journey, never who I am.

I walk through mountains because they help me remember there is always a climb, and I am always getting stronger even when I feel weak.

I walk through mountains to reteach myself that them nor I are superior.  These mountains that rise so high will one day fall, but will grow and grow and grow in the process.  They are never still, they are never finished, they are never permanent, and we are the same.

I walk through mountains to remind myself that my footsteps move my heart which moves my blood circulating throughout, changing me every day with every step.

I walk through mountains because the movement reminds me that I am still alive and there is still so much more path to go and that all that I have learned will help me when I come across bears or high rivers or rattlesnakes.

I walk through mountains to show myself that I am always walking in my power, sometimes it is uphill, sometimes it is down.

I walk through mountains to retrain my brain to remember that my school or job or relationship or person doesn’t exist here, and yet I am me here, totally and completely, with all of these thoughts and learnings in my head.

I walk through mountains to remember that character, in part, is the effort to make yourself strong in your mind and your heart and the balance between the two.

Do you hear the mountains calling you?

Image credit: Carolyn VanLydegraf

Girls Who Ride Trains (or Don’t)

“The train’s not there!  It’s supposed to be here.  The tracks are on the map!” 

It was a winter night in Poland, and it was f-ing colder than any other place I’ve ever been.  The train that my travel partner and I were supposed to take to Ukraine no longer existed.  It just was no longer there.

And then my friend lost it.  I mean really lost it. This cool, calm, collected girl who could take anything (except no trains), just completely lost her marbles.

“No train…NO train. NO TRAIN!”

Yep.  No train.

In times like these, there is only one thing you can do.  Buy mulled wine from a street vendor, read Polish poetry from the book in your bag, sing a silly song, and jump up and down.  Bonus points if the street vendor will take a picture of you jumping and laugh.

It was quite hilarious to me, my adorable friend, throwing a tantrum walking down the streets of Krakow because the train that was supposed to be there just wasn’t. And she was pissed.

We all throw these the-train-is-supposed-to-be-here tantrums (mine take the form of this-is-the-most-f-ing-cold-place-I’ve-ever-been).  We have a plan dammit!  We want to ride trains that say they will come!

Now any traveler worth his or her salt knows that plans never actually work out.  But generally you miss the train.  Usually it, at bare minimum, exists.  There was an explanation, we just didn’t have enough Slavic vowels under our belts to even begin to comprehend.

It never occurred to either of us that it simply would not exist, and we’d have to find another way, and that way would just happen to be one of the best days of our entire journey.  And from this I learned, sometimes, even though they say there is a train, the train is just not there.  And there’s not much you can do about a train you want to ride that will most definitely never come. Sometimes No train…No train. NO TRAIN! is the best thing that can happen to you, you just don’t don’t know it yet.

So what did we do?  Took a bus that almost drove away with our packs, walked to Slovakia, ignored the creepy dudes saying strange things to us from a house where we waited for hours for a hitch, hitchhiked with a guy who liked Megadeath, hitchhiked with a guy who barely spoke but took us to the bus station, took a bus to Ukraine, got in a car with our friends, and passed through the border to a comfy former Soviet home and a welcome shot of vodka.  Three countries, three languages, and a lot of epic adventuring in the course of a day.  And that day was one of our most amazing of a 2 ½ month journey.

Girls who ride trains get it.  We ride them right through the split of the countryside.  We view life from our window seats looking forward and back.  We see the shortcuts through the borders.  We find freedom knowing we’ll fall asleep in one country and wake up in another.

Girls who don’t ride trains also get it and find other ways.  We stick out our thumbs and are taken through the highways by Slovakian men who love death metal.  We drink cold coffee on the side of snowy roads waiting for a hitch.  We navigate to destinations in languages we can’t even begin to understand, and yet we somehow get where we are going.

Because even when the train is not there, we’ll find another way.

Take a train lately?

Image credit: Tab Tuhin

Burn It

“I cried when they walked in with lit torches to blaze from the inside out.  It was so beautiful, I didn’t want this one to burn even though I knew it was the only way to make space for the new.” ~ from the Temple at Burning Man.

Burning things, like temples and letters and fears, is an ancient ceremony of letting go.  Through fire we release into the void uncertainties we have been clutching too close to our hearts. And as we currently enter into the space between less sun and more, humans often feel a desire to sweep out the hibernation of winter and throw wide the doors to spring.

As we scrub out from behind the stairwells and from inside the closets, sometimes we come across pieces of ourselves that we buried way back deep just in case we might ever need to retrieve them-notes and photographs and concert stubs and numbers on napkins.  But how can we honestly make room for the new when we cling so dearly to what fills yet disservices our lifespaces and mindspaces and heartspaces?

You can find it and honor your process with acceptance.  Admit to yourself where you are and ask if you are ready to let go, knowing that there is profound understanding of ourselves that comes from simply staying in process.  People with wonderful intentions have multiple instructions for how to deal with our most uncertain and unstable times.  Their advice so often stems from their own experience and what got them through. But your process is yours alone so let it sing, shout, cry, laugh, back flip, etc.  Know that it knows just what to do.

You can burn it and honor your process with gratitude and release. Thank it for what it has shared, and release it to the transmutation of what can only transpire when broken pieces reassemble.

The beauty of liminality is that it seats us inside the place of our own change.  We can struggle against it, and that is ok, because change is scary and sometimes just plain sucks.  But we can also embrace it, speaking our eulogies of anger, fear, sadness, and gratitude one last time before we fling them into the fire and watch them burn.

I often cry at ceremonies of burnt release, such as the Burning Man Temple.  I am not the only one. As it burns, I hear the thousands of people around me crying or quietly singing or silently wishing, knowing we need this transition of release after so much build.  After holding these loves and epic changes in us so deeply, absolution is an imperative part of the shift from who we were to who we are becoming.

What needs releasing from your deep down stairwell?

Image credit: Curtis and Peggy Mekemson

She Was Weird in a Good Way

“Live for your eulogy, not your resume.” ~ says the man who leads his life with life

Over 40 people in the room spoke.  Laughing, crying, laughing and crying.  Smiling in remembrance.  Tears streaking in knowledge of never-agains.  Beautiful.  And finally one man said, “She was weird in a good way.”

We all agreed.  She was, indeed, weird in a good way. 

She wore the colors no one dared just to go to the grocery store.

She spoke her vulnerabilities as though she were talking about the weather.

She never questioned that she would always dance.

She walked the path of normality until she had the courage to change.

She changed.

She opened herself to the possibilities of inner truth, following an intense spiritual path others could not understand.

She raised two girls, strong and knowing of their own magic.

She knew her own magic.

She embodied her sexuality, even when her body was broken.

She held the space of divinity in her own soul.

She took on the practice of allowing herself to be seen.

She stood in her power even when she was too weak to sit up.

She disallowed the overbearing fear of others to chain her to decisions she did not want.

She viewed the world as she viewed herself-beautifully in process.

She tried and failed.

She tried and overcame.

She accepted and let go.

She carried her life as though it were the most valuable thing she owned.

She carried her death the same way.

We do not often share in death.  We fear something so uncontrollable in a world intensely focused on the ability to control.  My friend Alluvia took her death process as deeply as her life process. And through the struggle of dying, resurrecting, beholding elation, embodying anger, knowing acceptance, and finally letting go, she shared it all.  Processing for herself, and as one man said last night, teaching the community how death can be and often is in more connected communities-scouting into the horizon of terra incognita and returning with traveler tales.  We were all grateful.

In the end, after all of the heartfelt thoughts, we danced her into a sendoff around a fire under the full moon knowing she had changed us all profoundly.  Knowing she had taught us it was our highest good to truly be ourselves even though it was the hardest.

Knowing we all strive to be weird in a good way.

Do you live for your resume or your eulogy?

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We Are Brokenly Unbreakable.  We Are Battleborn.

“We are Nevadans.  We fall and fail and get back up ready for what’s next.  That’s how we are made.  We are Battleborn.” ~ the man with the Battleborn tattoo

Desert dwellers get this.  We are made of rocky, parched landscape.  Our roots are deep, allowing survival of the inhospitable.  Because to us, we nourish underneath.  We wait for the rain to come, and it always does.  Even offering just a sip, it sustains us.

We are open.  We know the low places where the Joshua trees bend into crooked shadows in the early evening sky.  Where the wild horses still run into the brambly void.  Where you can see nothing and everything all around.

We are connected.  We know the high places where the aspens unite for miles underground.  Where the Bristlecones gnarl stories of thousands of years into their beingsWhere Stone Mother protects her people of the desert lake.

We are in-betweeners.  We know the slotted canyon places, where Bighorns spring between stones that once lived thousands of miles underwater.  Where if you run out of gas in the middle of the night, chances are you will be stuck til morning.  Where bullet holes riddle the ceilings of saloons with people who two-step fully holstered.  Where ichthyosaur bones sprawl as deep as the creosote roots.

We are tousled.  We know the sage will bloom with scent and roll away.  Where cities will build and collapse to rubble with only ghost-dust footprints.  Where the heat waves will help you dream insanity on the long stretch of highway nothingness.

We are withstanding.  We know the steps to twirling naked in sandstorms in cities we build for a week.  We drink whiskey and shoot bullets into the middle of nothing.  We grow organic food in downtown abandoned city street corners.  We climb rocks and slope down mountains and lose ourselves in the vegetation for days.  We glimpse mountain lions behind pines, bears in the city, and rattlers when we squat to pee.

We are stilled.  We know the silence that comes from unmarked crooked wooden crosses at sunset.  Where you can hear absolutely nothing but the breeze confiding into your ear.  Where the morning sun slowly yawns across peaks and valleys and the crisp night sky awakens the movement from within.

We are pulp inside the spines.  We know which plants to cut into if water cannot be found.  Where secrets of survival bury behind outlandishly spikey exterior.  Where 5,000-year-old rock stories retell of those who also knew, just like us.

We are brokenly unbreakable.  We know how to struggle through drought and slip through floods that come to revive us or wash us away.  Where hallucinations of rivers streak boulders smooth.  Where the ground cracks in patterns that remind us of the beautiful fragility of our ruggedness.  Where we know we must stand through the blaze holding patience for the whisper of rain, however long we must wait.  Where when it does come, we open in magentas and tangerines and sunbursts for only a moment to revive the desert floor before retreating back to the quiet, undisturbed spaces.

This is how we live here, and this is who we are.

We are Battleborn.

How does where you come from make who you are?

Image credit: Natasha Majewski

Falling off the Yoga Mat

Many a yogi will tell you that your mat is your temple, the place you leave your shoes outside its borders and when you step onto it, you enter into an in-between realm of who you are in this moment inserted into the process of who you are becoming.  Often, photos in yoga magazine show perfect postures of bodies bending and stretching on the mat, a knowingness of ultimate perfection of being in oneself.  But I will tell you from experience that some of the times that I have fallen off my mat is when my body shows me exactly where I am as well as where I am going.

I am a yoga teacher and there is nothing quite so humbling as falling out of pose as you are leading it to the class.  And then falling again.

Early on I took this as a sign of the necessity of practice, that I just didn’t have my yoga legs under me yet.  As I moved forward in teaching/my own practice, I began to realize that falling off my mat in front of an entire class was an important part of the process of growth for both them and me.  It showed them that everyone falls, even the teacher. It showed me to find humor and humility as a constant sidekick to kick my embarrassment off the mat.

My yoga mat offers a space into my most (im)perfect self.  It is a place where I can work within the contexts of embarrassment and shame as well as trust and compassion.  It is a place that catches me, even when I fall off of it.

And so this has also become my style of teaching-play, humor, and falling and falling and falling.  I constantly need to remind myself that the growth process is not about proving something.  Falling out of pose in front of a large class relates that perspective and I think there is an appreciation in the teacher making mistakes and owning it.

For me, this is my practice, this is my journey.  Falling, laughing, and coming back to do it all again.

What catches you when you fall?

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Mess Up: A New Mantra

In times of uncertainty there are a few things you can count on.  Things like getting lost, not knowing what is coming, being unsure if you’ll even have a pillow to rest your head on for the evening.  You know, the normal stuff.  But inside these indeterminate spaces, there are things you can embrace.  And one of them is messing everything up.

So often we go through life believing that we need to hit it out of the park on the first try, like we are trying to prove something.  I am one of those people.  And this need-a-home-run-everytime mentality has stopped me from pursuing certain avenues in life that I took the detour from because I thought I’d fail before I even started.

Of course, it is easy to say Just Do It, but standing at the crossroads looking down the path with the Big Bad Wolf of failure awaiting his dinner, my feet so often start walking in the other direction.  It isn’t until miles down the road that I check back in with my surroundings.  And often that nagging feeling of not-quite-right lets me know that I chickened out.

So how do we combat these ideas of the need to be right and perfect and imagining the book signings before words have spilled on the page?

Mess Up.

This is my new mantra.  Not Fail or It’s Ok to Not Be Perfect or something about Thomas Edison’s inventions.  Messing up is part of the system of getting it right, or not.  It really doesn’t matter.  What matter is just getting it at all, where the disfiguration of falling flat on your face adds to the uniqueness of your own story and creation.

I was talking to a friend the other day about really wanting to follow some of my passions that have always sung in my heart but I never allowed them out of the cage for fear they would be seen as ugly-or worse, normal.  He himself currently walks a path of truly living his passions even when it is hard.  And why?  Because he finally has accepted that he cannot not do it.  Plain and simple.  No real stretch of fame or fortune.  More just a listening to his own insides telling him the direction he needs to take.  I long to give me own pulse airtime.  And so, I have decided there is one thing I can do.

Mess Up.

It’s the only thing to count on when we are facing the scary passages of uncertainty, especially when we know these are the routes we must wayward.  We can not only accept but embrace that we will fall, that it is inevitable, and it is part of what makes our lifespaces so authentic.

Someone told me once that we are constantly comparing our B rolls to other people’s A rolls.  These accomplished people look so simple and elegant and all-knowing, and I often wonder how they seem to glide through their passions and accomplishments.

They messed up.  Probably a lot.  Probably more than they want to tell you.  Maybe those people were just always more comfortable operating inside of statistics.  Maybe they didn’t care how many times they fell before they rose.  Or maybe they did, but they couldn’t not keep following their own heartbeats.

For the rest of us who think we should just come out of the womb gracefully slipping into our full potential, I have two words that have been my lighthouse throughout the process.

Mess up.

Have you messed up today?

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