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Archive for July, 2013

Mount Shasta Magic

Mount Shasta’s the place where even the town laundromat houses ‘Galactic Synchronization-Harmonic Convergence’ flyers and poster boards while Mark Twain’s pithy profundities adorn the walls, like:

“If you tell the truth you don’t have to remember anything.” Mother Theresa is there too:

“Kind words can be short and easy to speak but their echoes are endless.” Even Teddy Roosevelt has his say:

“Keep your eyes on the stars and your feet on the ground.”

Yeah, Shasta’s the focal point, where esoteric extremes meet the most extraordinary earthiness. Some might say it is simply a 14,000 foot high, dormant volcano but many others would tell you things are still bubbling underneath the surface. For instance, there is the legendary advanced race, the mystical brotherhood of peoples known as the Lemurians who are said to thrive in an underground city on the mountain. Then there are the ascended Masters, who a man named Guy Ballard met in 1930 on the mountain, and were in a book called: “I AM The Open Door”-written in 1978 by Peter Mt. Shasta. An elaborate website and affiliated groups abound from all over the world. They are following these teachings–which I will elaborate on in a minute. With Shasta, you can go on and on about all things other-worldly. It is difficult, if not impossible to separate fact from fiction. In fact, I was soon to find out, fiction can easily turn into fact.

I found myself in Shasta a couple of weeks back. As far as I could tell their were no grand connections at work, no great yogi to meet, no mystical correlates in place–something inside just said: “Shasta”.
I had just finished a weeklong 100-mile backpacking trip in the Trinity Alps, Russian Wilderness & Marble Mountains Section of the Pacific Crest Trail with my Uncle (a stage 4 lung cancer survivor) and was feeling drawn to spend more time in Northern California area while waiting for life’s next big adventure or decree.

While in Shasta, I was spending time during the day in the city proper having spontaneous connections with the so-called fringe people: new age hipsters, conforming and non-conforming addicts hooked on pharmaceutical and recreational drugs (and alcohol), young gypsies, homeless travelers cruising in minivans and the like.

There was Joshua, a 40-something Choctaw Indian, so hard on the outside that his skin looked like leather, though a translucent energy seeped through with an unmistakable spiritual depth. After a long jail term, for some unknown offense, his mighty heart and gentle ways were untouched. We talked into the wee hours one night.

And Aaron a 60ish man, dirt filthy and probable meth addict, with a truly brilliant mind who was traveling through with all his worldly possessions on some ramshackle device one might call a bicycle. He could not stop talking and sharing his supreme intelligence, with practical and mystical truth pouring out in bursts of inspired lunacy and delight. It was as if he had landed on Mars and had not talked to anyone before in his life, ever!

Mark was a late 20’s college dropout, who after talking with me for 15 minutes suddenly divulged with great shame that he had been sexually molested as a child. Spontaneously he dropped his head into my hands and asked me to pray that he would overcome his drug addictions. I held him, like a little boy in silence. A few days earlier we had met briefly and he had asked me to drive him to the “headwaters” (the revered beginning point of the Sacramento River and gushing forth the holy water from Mount Shasta). He insisted that:

“The water, dude, is so healing. Make sure to always fill your bottle from here.” He stated these words with religious fervor while guiding me to a specific spot seeming to originate from one of the toes in the mountain’s base.

Each night I drove up the mountain and crashed in my tent at a campsite near the 7,000 foot mark, a short distance from the Bunny Flat trailhead which accesses the high peak of Shasta Herself.

After several days floating about town during light hours and sleeping up high at night, I was getting ready to head back up the mountain one evening when a man entered the Yak’s tea shop where I sat looking over a map. His ruffled and wild hair, darting eyes, pinecone necklace, pierced ear, and unkempt and dusty clothes had all demarcations of the fringe types I had grown so fond of. His name was Sapphire and he overtly came right up to me and said:

“You a climber?”

“No, done some climbing but am more a backpacker.” I looked up at him. “I’m Michael.” I replied and reached out my hand.

“I like your open energy bro; I want to invite you to something very cool.” Sapphire adjoins.

“Oh, yeah, what’s that?! I say.

“It’s a music thing, well, more than a music thing. It’s up on the mountain tonight with Saint Germain. He’s the reason I hitchhiked from Eugene to get here.” He enthuses. ‘Saint Germain’-somewhere I have heard of him before.’ I think.

It felt right so I agreed and twenty minutes later we were on our way, after a brief stop for food. Sapphire had only an Oregon food stamp card with 90.00 dollars on it but something was wrong with the pin number or somehow it did not work in California. I ended up buying his meal and snacks since he had not eaten all day. On the way up the mountain Sapphire became distressed about the situation.

“I need to smoke some bra. I want to offer to smoke you out.

“No thanks.” I said.

“I don’t mean to peer pressure you. It’s just that I want to thank you for getting me the food. I really need to smoke some, is it okay?

“Sure, it’s fine.” I smile as he continues:

“Damn, I just had this card activated and checked out.” After a fruitless phone call attempting to fix the dilemma, Sapphire interjects. “Well, if I cannot solve this in the 3rd dimension, I will have to do it in the 5th.” He lights up a bowl load of cannabis bud in his pipe and draws a long drag, exhaling the smoke between his legs. He continues this process while fiddling with the vents on the air conditioner, making them perfectly straight. The air-conditioner is not on.

“Are you hot man?” I ask.

“No I’m a Virgo. Everything needs to be in order.” I chuckle. ‘I know it’s weird but it makes me feel better.” Sapphire is now staring at the picture I recently scotch-taped to my glove box. “Wow, whose that guy?” He points.

“That’s Ramana Maharshi.” I exude.

“Whose that other dude, your uncle?” Laughing, I answer.

“Yeah, that’s my adopted uncle Sargi.” I joke. “No, that is Nisargadatta Maharaj. The two of them are the greatest “I Am” teachers of India.”

“Well that one dude is on the Council.” The Council is the Ascended Masters Council of “I Am” teachers, apparently.

Ramana and Nisargadatta have been my primary teachers in all things related to spirituality and Truth teachings. So much of their teaching is in the style of what is called: ‘Neti-Neti’- a Sanskrit expression that means “not this, not this” or ‘neither this, nor that’-implying negation of all things of the dream life, or all things that do not last (arise and pass away) or what one might call “not in Reality” (Reality being the only thing that never changes). Both Ramana and Nisargadatta emphasize the “I AM” teachings, which are summarized:

“The seeker is he who is in search of himself. Give up all questions except one: ‘Who am I?’ After all, the only fact you are sure of is that you are. The ‘I am’ is certain. The ‘I am this’ is not. Struggle to find out what you are in reality. To know what you are, you must first investigate and know what you are not. Discover all that you are not – body, feelings thoughts, time, space, this or that – nothing, concrete or abstract, which you perceive can be you. The very act of perceiving shows that you are not what you perceive. The clearer you understand on the level of mind you can be described in negative terms only, the quicker will you come to the end of your search and realize that you are the limitless being.”

We reached the end of the Everitt Highway on Mount Shasta. At the 7,500 foot elevation, we park among a group of about 20 other cars. Numerous tourists ramble about on this section of the mountain that looks more like the pictures one has seen of the moon. A larger group is just coming together on particular section of this football field size, flat area. Dusk is settling in. To my left, the moon, nearly full, and it is beginning to pick up luminosity. The sun is setting to my right radiating fiery orange/red intensity. Directly behind the Mountain, Shasta’s summit looms large and robust some 7,000 vertical feet above. As we begin to walk from the car, Sapphire exudes:

“There he is! That’s Saint Germain.” Now Saint Germain is one of the ascended Masters and this version of Saint Germain plays 100 instruments, sings in 10 languages, is an award winning poet and a champion skateboarder to boot. Saint Germain walks towards us. He is enigmatic, unassuming, simple, ordinary and yet carrying an energy impossible to miss. Sapphire greets him and says: “This is Michael, he gave me a ride up the mountain and is going to join us.”

“Okay.” Saint Germain says softly and smiles. We grasp hands and I mention:

“I’ve seen you around town several times the last few days. He nods his head with a wry smile, then turns to walk away. Looking back he says: “I will see you in a bit.” Fifteen minutes later we are doing spontaneous chants, like: “I Am That I Am”- a famous saying from Ramana Maharshi, the Indian sage on my glove box. It is wonderful in song. Next simple and profound affirmations “I AM GRATEFUL”, “I AM LOVE” and “I AM ETERNAL”.

It is so refreshing to be validating the lively, musically inspired attributes of “I AM”, of Divinity itself after so many years of negation. The Saint Germain teachings emphasize:

“…contemplating your ‘Mighty I AM PRESENCE”–the mighty presence of God in you, in your home, in your world, in your affairs. Every breath you breathe is God in Action in you…”

As Robert Adams, a little known spiritual teacher, once said:

“What you really mean is, ‘I am, is God; I am, is Consciousness, they’re all the same but it is wrong to say, ‘I as an ego am God.’ Your ego will become more inflated than ever. And this is the mistake most of the new age groups make. They go on saying (these affirmations) while still thinking ‘I Am’ refers to their body-mind principle.”

Soon our little group on the mountain is fully immersed in sufi-inspired dances, vocal toning, group hugs and while Saint Germain plays a drum-like instrument (congo) with ferocity and love-a combination of which I have never known or heard with that instrument we call the drum. The harmonium comes next and the music coaxed forth is ethereal and pointed. Finally a handmade agave Didgeradoo is being played by this amazing musician. Its earthy other-worldly tones started from the ground up-like lightning. (The didgeridoo or ‘didge’ is a wind instrument developed by indigenous Aborigines of northern Australia over 1,500 years ago. One of the oldest known wind instruments it was originally from Eucalyptus trees hollowed out by termites and produced by Aboriginal didgeridoo craftsmen in Northern Australia, but this one is handcrafted from the flower stalks of the agave (century plants) that are native to Southern Arizona).

At the end of the playing, Saint Germain lifts the didgeridoo from the ground and aims it at each person in the circle. It is as if he is an angelic shaman dispersing demons and injecting blessings and yet it feels as if he is not there at all. Spirit, humanity and the wind meet in sound–a piercing energy.

A week after getting back from Shasta, I saw a small book on a friend’s nightstand, that I now remember reading 20 years ago. It had a picture of Saint Germain on it. The depiction on the cover looks exactly like the Saint Germain I just met in the flesh a week earlier only this Saint Germain incarnation was only a small boy when this book was written.

I certainly have a wild side but in the realm of ‘spirituality and Truth teachings’ have kept to what one might call a sterile but verifiable approach via direct experience as my main mode or path of inquiry. In fact I usually run from anything that seems too far into the esoteric-celestial realm – words like ‘ascended Master’ or ‘Lemurians’ would be enough for me to roll my eyes and walk away. That’s not true anymore. Each of us is divine and we all have our gifts to share. None is more profound, deeper, better, quicker or more substantial. There is room for whatever flavor strikes you, comes through you, is you.

Water Medicine

Last night, though the body rested, I spent an inordinate amount of time tossing and turning in a hotel bed in Fresno, California. Even though I do not hear well (without hearing aids), it seems that I could clearly delineate the nuance of every sound in the nearby vicinity.  Four days in the deep wilderness can do that to you. When in the backcountry, the resonance of stillness is so profound, with the sounds of the wind rustling through the trees or the river flowing becoming the entire focus.

Yesterday my backpacking trip ended prematurely and I ended up hiking 24 miles in one day. Four years ago that would have been an impossible dream as the body was in the throws of a chronic illness. Such is the magic of life. Originally I was planning another week in the backcountry of the John Muir Wilderness, deep into the Blackcap basin, 24 miles from any trailhead, on a little used and as I was to find out ‘unmaintained trail’. Just getting back into this remote region was an adventure in cross country navigation and good old fashioned luck. I saw 2 people in the first two days, both before reaching the trail that heads up 8 miles to 11,000 feet elevation and the high alpine lakes of the Granite-infused Basin and the far reaches of the LeConte Divide.  Water was an intimate part of the hike in as the river was my near constant companion (and dips into the sanctuary of delight were frequent, along with river crossings, soaked shoes.

The first indication that things would take a dramatic shift came on the hike up to the Basin: mosquitoes. With the drought that had occurred this winter, I found it quite surprising that water was so readily available in the rivers, tributaries and visible through vibrant foliage dotting the trail, lush meadows, and abundant wildflowers. The mosquitoes made their presence known over a 3 mile section and like a drunken, Russian ship captain who left the Vodka cabinet unlocked, my refusal to wear Deet repellant made me an unsurpassed feast. The ‘sailors’ devoured me.

I was feeling the altitude more than usual when I finally reached camp. Just as I was starting to cook my evening meal of Pad Thai my little, remote campsite became less remote. A Mexican man straight out of the movies, riding the lead mule in a train of eight, passed by on the opposite side of the river. I turned, stunned to see anyone at all, as he graciously greeted me:

     “Ahoy!” I was aware that it was a nautical term which seemed quite out of place  coming from a Hispanic man riding a mule in the high mountains but it surely was clairvoyant.  All I could do in that moment was turn from my boiling rice noodles and wave my hand, watching as extravagantly packed beasts marched on. ‘Such a strange occurrence and an even more bizarre greeting.’ I remember thinking. 

Moments later a searing headache and nausea crept in, delivering all the markings of Acute Mountain Sickness. No matter, I crawled into my tent just before the deluge of heavy rain, thunder and lightning, struck with a fury. I breathed deeply and inserted two acupuncture needles, one into each hand at the point Large Intestine-4 (advil (headache)and charcoal tabs (acute digestive distress in emergency) had somehow gotten water damaged on day one). These amazing acupoints, probably the most well known, universal and potent points in all of acupuncture almost immediately cut the headache pain in half.  Soon bigger issues would surface. The nausea began to get worse, as I sat their, feeling suddenly, like I was on a water bed. I was actually being lifted from the ground by water accumulating on the pine needle bed I had put the tent on. It was a nice and level spot but it was raining so hard and so fast that the ground could not soak it up and a fast flood like situation was taking place. This is when your tent gets put to the test and amazingly mine held up as 3 inches of water elevated the Thermorest Pad and some how did not seep in through the bottom of the tent. It rained hard for hours, finally it eased up a bit and I moved the tent to higher ground (a nearby granite slab, flat enough to perform the desired ‘makeshift’ label.  

The next morning about 7 am, the rain still lightly falling, I attempted to make some hot tea only to find that my stove had failed. With one packet of green vibrance, a handful of trail mix and a cup of ultimate meal as my only ‘no cooking required’ food, I knew that a long hike out was inevitable. After packing up, I checked to see if anything had been left behind when an eagle feather, completely saturated by rain, fell out of the tree above and landed right on the granite slab where my tent once stood. I smiled and appreciated that grace flows in mysterious ways. The hike out was physically challenging while most of the energy I received did not come from my meager rations but from Nature’s bounty Herself.

In Native American Traditions water is often synonymous with the: Moon(just passed full), Feelings, and Emotions. It also relates to: Cleansing, Letting Go, Purification, and Reflection-all things happening in my life right now,


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