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Archive for the ‘Healing’ Category

We Don’t Need Much…

In the last few weeks, more and more has been taken away. It is very freeing. I have lost more than a job. Clearing out lots of old stuff and closing up a storage.  The truth is, I really do not have that much and yet the universe is dumping more. Amazing!

The journey here is unique; no matter how hard the personal willfulness tries to create a job or do anything, nothing happens. So, I wait and see. Most of the time, something happens on its own and I have just enough to get by. Now, I am having to jettison non essentials (storage was one of them) to make sure the bare basics of food, rent and gas are taken care of.

I feel as if a move is coming. I have long been ready to leave the bay area and move to a quiet, rural setting to dedicate my remaining years to inner work, sharing the truth with those interested and having a basic shelter that will support my wife and I in our later years-a place to call home, with enough food to eat. I am finding out that you really do not need much food.

For now, I am working a part time job with my end of life/elder care client and writing my next book, which is great fun!

I hope you are all having fun, else what is the point. If stress is here, drop it and smile, find a reason to laugh and realize that God has your back!

True Abundance…

A few weeks ago a part time job ended. One quarter of my income stream vanished. I still have my place of residence and enough to eat. Yet that monetary energy has yet to be replaced and covering simple, basic living expenses is becoming more and more interesting. I am going through the motions of obtaining more work but with total trust.

A blissful sense of ease resides within. True Abundance…it has nothing to do with so-called outer-worldly circumstances and activities. When bliss becomes habitual, experiences such as loss of job, illness and death do not disturb you. All the pleasure and pains of life, the shifting mind states are watched and seen as arising and passing away.

Yet bliss remains, YOU reside in and as bliss for it is your true nature.

Tears may come, even anger or worry may appear but they, too, move on. Bliss is the background of all of the changes; it is truly abundant.  The irony is that these flickering mind and feeling states are wholly dependent on YOUR AWARENESS to keep them going. Two primary choices present themselves:

1) If you become disinterested in these thought/feeling states, they’re gone.

2) If you attempt to locate the thought or feeling state, it cannot be found.

When we go to sleep at night, deep sleep. All goes and we are content. Why not let it all go in the waking state?!

I would not trade any amount of monetary affluence for the abiding presence, the bliss of soul recognition or the realization of God’s immanence.

Still, I remain open to receive, knowing that all that I truly need will arrive.

This is certain.

The Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest…

I have visited the tallest trees on earth-the Sequoia Sempervirins- (just written about); the largest trees by volume and the biggest living things on earth, the Sequoia Giganteum- which are 52,500 cubic feet, about 10 times the mass of a blue whale!

Then, there was a trip which took us to the oldest, most ancient trees on earth, the Bristlecone Pines, which date back 4000-5000 years and are the centerpiece of today’s blog.

About eight years ago I went on my first backpacking trip in three years. My end of life client at the time, Muriel, was nearing her transition time. Her son, Billy aged 58 (I was 48 then), had been visiting her for a few days and was in distress from the intensity of being around his mother. Her incessant needs and newly-acquired, care-giving responsibilities left him feeling ill-equipped to deal with all of his feelings. He asked me if I would take him backpacking. He was not a backpacker. Heck, he was not even a camper. He regularly toked on a steroid-inhaler for an undefined lung disorder, much like a novice climber would use an oxygen cylinder on Everest!

I was jonesing for a chance to get out into nature.  For I had been denied my regular adventure staple due to a chronic illness. I had missed nearly two full summers and was ecstatic about being able to physically pull off a backpacking trip again. Billy had been secretly planning to ask me to go and had bought a new backpack at a local Outdoor World. I had most of the accessory gear we needed.

A spontaneous adventure set in motion.

Billy wanted a true wilderness experience. With great glee, though somewhat hesitantly, I suggested a few possible places where we might take a trip. Keeping in mind that a low mileage accrual would be key for my neophyte friend.  After my sales pitch on numerous possibilities, Billy, with ambition outweighing common sense, chose the Palisades region of the Eastern Sierra. The plan called for us to set up our base camp a short distance along the uphill trail; this would allow us plenty of time for relaxation, day hiking excursions to see the glacier and views of Mount Sill at 14,153 feet.

I planned a 3-day trip for us up the north fork of the Big Pine Creek, with a 4-5 mile climb into this remote area where we could just relax in a quiet camp all by ourselves. We made the 8-hour drive, heading east from beaches of Santa Cruz through Yosemite National Park and then southward down highway 395. We set up camp at Upper Sage Flat, a rustic forest service campground which topped out at 7400 feet. It was late September, the first days of Autumn.  A light dusting of snow occurred overnight. Just a trace. No snow was on the forecast, yet this was the Eastern Sierra, where whiteout snowstorms have taken place even in summer, killing unsuspecting, t-shirt & short’s clad, day hikers- on more than one occasion.

I was in wholesale relish-mode, up early, as morning broke. The clouds that had come in during the night, disappeared, leaving blue sky in their wake. I was imbibing the mountain energy, crisp air & pine scents, all the elements which make the wilderness experience so enticing. When Billy peaked his head out of the tent, I was squatting, steeping green tea for myself and preparing a gourmet, organic coffee with my cone filter for him. He spoke gingerly:

“I am a little worried. What happens if it starts snowing again?” He gushed, wholly unnerved.

I smiled, with a hint of playfulness, hoping to calm his fear:

“Come on Bill, this what we came for! I’ll have some coffee ready for you in 5 minutes.” I said.

Billy and I were a odd pair, we did not have much in common besides the shared bond with his mother, who I adored for her spunky genius and dramatic flair. It was a time of great silence for me and intense inner shifts. Billy came across to me as more manic then I remembered.

Yet we did have a heart connection, both of us a mutual, gentle strength.

When Billy finally emerged from the tent, he was clad, eskimo-like in 3 coats, the last one puffed up as if it had been inflated.

I knew the trip was a long shot but now the Pillsbury dough boy’s Inuit cousin stood before me. He was looking for an oven to jump into but instead out came his pocket inhaler. He took a few drags hoping it might act like a Star Trek transporter. Sheepishly praying for warmth, he danced a kind of jig step.

“This altitude is really affecting me.” He chimed.

“Duly noted.” I retorted.

After what seemed like hours of expedition-level packing, we hit the trail. We began our ascent upward, with 2000 feet of elevation in front of us. Traveling up a 8-10 percent gradient, the first mile took over an hour. We crawled onward. Billy’s stops and inhaler breaks were taking place every few minutes. At mile two, ominous-looking cumulus and nimbus clouds began to form, quickly mashing together in a chocolate hue.

By mile three, snow flurries and 20 to 30 mile wind gusts were in our face. ‘This is fucking great’, I thought. ‘Epic’. Billy, however, was spent, wobbling and insecure even on a, basic class-2 mountain trail.

“I can’t make it without a fire.” He finally gasped. Just then a wind gust blew away my final rally cry and minutes later we were descending for a hotel in the famous mountain town of Bishop.

The Best Western Bishop Hotel became our ‘Everest’ high camp for the night and I felt like a sherpa had short-roped me to a false summit.

“This is great, huh?!” Billy’s voice rang in delight, after a post trip shower and restaurant meal. I nearly laughed but managed to modify the sound into a small, disenchanted giggle.

“We barely got our feet wet.” I cliched with somber sarcasm.

“Oh, it was great, good enough for me.” Billy replied.

I relented, realizing that this was a perfect trip for him, while readying for a long drive home the next morning. Then Billy surprised me.

“What about doing something else?” He said. Soon I had my Eastern Sierra maps out, scouring for a new adventure.  A great idea sprang in.

“What about the White Mountains?” I enthused.  They have a forest of Bristlecone Pines said to be the oldest trees on earth.” Billy was sold and a new adventure was born, though one that did not require lungs, legs or heart power.

Less than a two hours away, with a long ascent up a paved forest road in the Inyo National Park, the drive climbed over 5000 feet, to the 9843 foot elevation. A high, moon-like desert that kept getting more and more surreal unfolded before us. Billy was growing more and more manic, as the spacious landscape opened up. Jabbering, unnecessary noise as far as I was concerned, instead of enjoying the serenity in silence.

When we arrived at the visitor center at Schulman Grove, the silence was overwhelming all my bodily senses. The magnificent natural sculptures, twisted by intense winds for thousands of years, the Bristlecone Pines blasted away all my thoughts. I told Billy that I was going to be in silence while we were there. He acquiesced and closed his mouth for a bit. We stayed all of an hour. I walked alone into a separate part of the forest. The silence kept deepening. Something profound, beyond words, thoughts, feelings and mind took over. I was in abeyance to THAT. The slate wiped clean, absorbed in a blissful, transcendent bubble reflected by the ancient Bristlecones. The sparsely populated mini-forest of trees, looked ethereal and yet familiar. They were a windswept prairie of angels who embodied sanctity, watching over mankind and the earth for thousands of years.

Billy found me near one of the pines, as I wandered back closer to the parking lot. I stood, staring in awe at a tree that dated back to the time before Christ, before Buddha–wherein a higher level of planetary consciousness infused humanity. The Pyramids of Giza were being built when this amazing force called a Bristlecone Pine first sprang into form.

“Ready to go?” Billy said. I couldn’t speak, instead I nodded in the affirmative, following him in silence as we both got in the car. As we drove down the mountain, Billy kept asking me questions, making comments as before and I was unable to answer.

Finally, after 15 minutes, a real fear and desperation overtook Billy. He had just asked me for the tenth time, ‘Are you alright?’ and words came from my mouth like a kind of compassion from the ether.

“Yes, I’m fine.  The silence took everything away. I couldn’t speak.”

“Oh, I was so worried. I thought that maybe something happened to you, like a bad acid trip.” He smiled at the joke.

“Oh, no, nothing like that. Not even a good acid trip could do that.” We laughed and continued on down the road. The silence began to penetrate into Billy too. He talked less, and basked more. The space grew, a communion without words; a power far exceeding the chatter and banter of normal speech. Silence is the eternal speech. The inner hush has an eloquence that is able to transmit a primordial, timeless language.

This was the last visit I ever had with Billy. His mother died a few months later. Yet we shared a remarkable adventure, one that was not planned and had a lasting impact on both of our lives.

bristlcone

 

The California Coastal Redwoods…

I was lucky enough to grow up among the second-generation, coastal redwoods (called Sequoia sempervirens) in the rural Scotts Valley hills, ten miles from the beaches of Santa Cruz, not far from the California’s first State Park, Big Basin. The enormous forefathers of these gentle trees were almost entirely clear-cut, dropped from the earth as part of the conquest of California, with most of the destruction done between 1840-1930’s.

Less than two miles from the Glenwood Drive home of my youth, lives a single, old-growth redwood, originally called ‘King of the Forest’. The King is 260 feet tall and was close to 300 feet, before a storm knocked off his top hat a few decades ago!

The King is the last remaining old growth redwood in the entire Glenwood region, spared during the massive, redwood deforestation when difficulties arose felling the Queen, whose magnificent stump sits benignly under his canopy.

I had seen this great tree once, shortly after we moved to this region when I was ten. I barely appreciated his benevolent longevity, pristine presence, noticing only his size.

Some 30 years later, I rode my mountain bike to his place of residence, an inconspicuous grove that he watches over in a small redwood ecosystem, some 30 yards from the roadside. Awed by such grandeur, I stood before him, pressing my heart into his magnificent base. It felt like a hug with a grandfather that I never knew, who had returned from a prolonged prison camp or a great uncle awakened from a decades-long coma. Only it was I who had awakened from the coma.

Growing up among the coastal redwoods has naturally-altered my DNA without gene splicing. I always intuited this benefit of living in a redwood grove.  What a feeling and a true physiological phenomena. It includes an increased ability to breathe and spiritual elevation.

Current scientific studies have shown that redwood forests are like gigantic lungs, increasing oxygen to our tissues, electrifying the atmosphere with increased ionic power. Because of these attributes and many more factors, these forests act as non-toxic deterrents to the high-tech, chaotic Age, alleviating us of depression, anxiety, insomnia and other dysfunctions.

The tallest trees on earth- the coastal redwoods. One towering giant in Redwood National Park, in the far reaches of northern California, is 380 feet in length. These old growth grandmother and grandfather coastal redwood forests are much more potent than the ones resided over by their second-generational offspring. Many of these primordial trees have resided on earth for 1500-2000 years.  The redwoods have endured thousands of earthquakes, storms, and forest fires. They have borne witness, unmoved, utterly still, while continuing to emanate a majestic splendor no matter the outer conditions of the planet.

It’s as if God Herself, Mother Nature, bestowed via an Almighty stroke, the magical powers of patience and fortitude into the redwoods.  For when you come into their midst, attune to their energy vibration, you change; rather your sense of individuality begins to fade and you become the redwood, feel its stillness, power and grace.  If you surrender, a seismic humility overwhelms the turbulence of the mind, shaking the nonsensical detritus of technological immersion, and societal chaos from you.

The coastal redwoods draw one to the source energy, reverberating a timelessness; mantra-like, potent chants echo from them. Listen to their silence and you will here:

“Home, Home, Om…”.

One cannot help but be affected by the stillness of a redwood forest. And the forest does not impose itself on you, yet the wild mind naturally quiets when we spend time in such a forest, though at first thoughts might seem even more turbulent. We are being emptied from the inside out.

The cultural insanity cannot continue as it normally does. A growing awareness builds, we become more conscious the longer we attune to the forest. No one leaves unchanged. An inner shift is unavoidable. Sprouts have bloomed within; a gift is seeded by these illustrious illuminators…

My wife and I are exhausted after our ten hour drive up the Highway 1 coast, from Santa Cruz, over the Golden Gate Bridge, through Stinson Beach and the Point Reyes Coast, all the way past Fort Bragg and back up onto highway 101, arriving at Richardson Grove among the Giant redwoods as sunset approaches.

Peace, true sanity is reflected for at least a few minutes as we drive through the forest. This peace is tasted for a few hours, as we picnic among them. We spend a couple of days camping, it is all the time we have now.  One man, Tommy J, whom we met at the visitor’s center, is planning on spending the entire summer in the park. His whole family, volunteering. They stopped at Richardson Grove after traveling throughout the United States for months. When they arrived at Richardson Grove and first set eyes and heart on the ancient redwoods, they looked at each other, husband and wife, and said:

“This is it!” The kids 5 and 7 agreed. One can only imagine what incredible vibration this family will absorb during this upcoming summer! Tommy J. already carries a deep peace, after only a couple of weeks in the park.

That peace is our true nature, sparkling up from within, brought out by the redwoods much like sitting before a spiritual Master, harmonizing with the ocean surf or witnessing the first rays of the sun coming up through the forest umbrella. To rest in and imbibe an old growth redwood forest is to have one’s life unalterably changed at the foundational source.

Richardson Grove, like many California redwood forests is in grave danger, not entirely from environmental changes related to global warming, like less fog, inadequate rain or a shifting ecosystem. The California Department of Transportation has envisioned a widening of State Highway 101, which is currently a single lane on both sides through this small State Park. Caltran’s idea is to make it possible for larger, commercial trucks to pass through. This plan calls for a clearance of dozens of ancient, old growth redwoods that line the highway edges. This proposal would not only destroy many ancient trees but increase highway speed, amounting to more accidents, along with increased human and wildlife deaths.

Many people in our fast paced Age are lost in a haze of worldliness. Here are these beautiful trees calling to them..’but no thanks, not interested’, they seem to say, whizzing by. ‘We are just trying to get from point A to point B as quick as possible…’

I would gladly stand in front a bulldozer to stop this plan.

As we set up camp, my wife and me, we are captivated by our site’s centerpiece- a 300 foot grandmother redwood. She casts her gaze upon us. Both of us shed tears of gratitude and feel the exhaustion lifting. We arrive at a sublime place, one which we recognize as our natural state.

The return to vitality happens quickly. Both my wife and I feel like newborn birds fed morsels of food direct from our grandmother’s bark. The redwood forest environment does what nothing else can.  It soothes the heartache from a death, the anxiety of our high-speed, modern world and eases every conceivable existential crisis imaginable.

Some how these trees pull off the impossible, restoring equilibrium and equanimity to a shattered sense of self, returning one to the natural vibration of peace.

This is my first time camping at Richardson Grove State Park. I am quite sure my mother and father have camped here, for I feel their hearts strongly.

Early mornings in a redwood forest are one of the greatest joys of my life. Even a once bustling campground is silent. We, my wife and I, did not plan on coming here. Originally our course was set for the northern edge of the great redwood coastal forests which stretch from the central California coast northward for 300 miles from Big Basin State Park to Jedidiah Smith State Park- encompassing dozens of State Parks, open space preserves, and wildlife refuges.

I sit, writing this blog, my back almost touching our ancient, adopted grandmother- redwood’s base. She is refueling me, catalyzing my pen into motion at this holy-natural, spiritual charging station.

My wife later tells me that at about the time I wrote this, just after waking up in the tent, she attuned to a small bird song which ‘sounded of heaven’ and was ‘pure bliss’. For the bird is in perfect harmony in this pristine forest.

The coastal redwoods, gigantic mirrors that reflect inseparability, the oneness of life. They remind us we are not part of the forest but the forest itself, all of us inextricably linked. In truth, the forest is inside of us- it is spacious and vast.

The redwoods show us that all we need is right here.

thumbnailcoastal redwood 2

 

Awakening Dawns…

Last night this poem/writing came whistling through. A job lasting ten years has ended, for which I am grateful. The way it ended was surprising, for I always do my best to end things in a conscious way. Sometimes when you deal with truly unconscious, emotionally-stunted individuals, this is not possible.

Greed and ignorance got in the way of what matters most. I quit on the spot.

 

AWAKENING DAWNS

 

The creed of greed sustains an arrogant lot

a motley crew awash in an ignorant stew.

Bereft of heart sense

Animated corpses

Lost in a dream of entitlement

“I-I-I”-it’s all about “me-me-me.”

Take, Consume, Destroy

The rest of the world, worthless beggars

before such conceit.

Depressingly unbearable suffering

they endure.

Burning in accumulated opulence;

this torture is unrelenting.

The greedy mind goes on in smug discontent

Feigning happiness.

All the while

a ludicrous smile

covers their pain.

Convinced that trivial acquisitions

are the latest rage.

“I have arrived!” They lie.

While all that is truly great

glides by in silence; is condemned and labeled

‘worthless.’

Tis the Age we all live in…

Until a simple magnificence awakens from within

A taste of Reality

The inner palace of light.

God is here -not there

and there is here

True affluence

All possessions burn to ashes in the glimmer of this insight

You care not one bit for all those ‘things’

One by one we enter the open gate

that leaves no room for greed.

For you are awake now.

Immortal, eternal, undying

Truly living

All I have is yours

for I am you and you am I.

 

 

Unbridled Joy…

It is hard to convey the inner joy of being able to hike in a natural forest or along an ocean shoreline without strain. It is pure grace to be able to hike again while feeling revitalized and inspired at the finish instead of depleted and exhausted.

Of course my hikes are shorter now, less intense and risky. No ice axe, ropes or crampons needed; nor is there a 40 pound backpack involved along with a 4000 foot ascent, followed by several more days of even more challenging terrain. The adventurous rush is more inward. I cannot say that is purely by choice, more divine dictate. I find myself attuning to the harmony of a still forest rather than taking big risks to see how far I can push myself.

I am not able to use high risk adventures in an attempt to accomplish a great goal or test my calm in the face of mortal danger.

In a certain way, I grew into a ‘sensation seeker’ in my teen years, with a great love for physical exertion. I was addicted to the feeling of achieving a goal and always looking for the next high, in whatever adventurous substance or form. I do love getting away from the chaotic, information-overloaded culture in the back-country. I just have to get more creative in how I get there.

Into the forest I went yesterday, the Fall Creek region of Henry Cowell State Park. On this morning, before work with my charge Lloyd, I ambled forth briskly in silence except for the chirping of some birds, a few scurrying squirrels, a wafting, cool breeze and the whisper of the nearby river. After some 45 minutes of hiking on rolling hills, I was just about to turn left up the trail and ascend the final climb back to the parking lot when a magnificent wildlife sighting appeared before my eyes.

Darting, then dancing in a fancy run-step, a 2 year old boy, perfectly reflecting my own bliss, rounds the corner with a look of pure ecstasy. Really there is no adequate word to describe the enthusiasm that appears before me. He blazes passed, eyes radiating pure light. The joyous rambler heads for the bridge that crosses the river, ten yards behind me. I see his mother approach and exclaim excitedly:

“Now that is unbridled joy!” I smile and turn to watch the little tyke jump up and down on the bridge, looking toward the flowing river some 15 feet below.  He has become nature, existence itself, and is not aware of any separation with the surroundings.

The forest environment reflects this to him so beautifully and he exults.

As I begin the short quarter mile climb, I come upon a few more mothers with toddlers. One little dude is about to cross a short footbridge over a tiny tributary. And as I am approaching, we meet on opposite sides of this 5 foot causeway. This little guy is alight with the same natural sense of wonder that his comrade 50 yards below encapsulated. When he sees me, the little guy, stops and becomes hesitant, almost frightened. I said:

“It’s okay, you go ahead.” I step back and wave him forward with my hand. He looks at me for and instant then a big smile erupts like a volcano and he scampers across the bridge.

Irrepressible, unstoppable and unbridled joy on two feet! I look into the eyes of his mother and we celebrate in silence.

 

Aligning with the True Path…

Twenty two years ago, in May 1996, I was high in the Himalayan mountains, trekking through remotes villages for a week with a growing dysentery.  It was an arrogance shattering experience but not a true humbling.

No, that would come 12 years later.

In 1996, however, I pushed onward, climbing higher, suffering intense agony, all in the quest of adventure, some momentous nature moments, vivid landscapes, the promise of an epic summit. All the while I was going against the inner truth of my being, which constantly screamed in numerous subtle and profound ways, to: stop, rest, surrender, turn around and give up. Eventually, near death, I literally crawled into a small village for rehab having lost some 20 pounds.

That first shattering of egocentric willfulness, of unsubstantiated individualism and fabricated persona, slowly began melting drop by drop over the next decade like a slowly declining glacier.

Then 2008 arrived and a big chunk of the glacier came off all at once, pinning me in a crevasse of my own doing. It was quite a humbling and yet moments of longing to return to ‘being in charge and being athletic and being in control’ emerged and subsequently humbled me some more.

The endgame is when no desire or impetus is left to strive for anything. The slate of the little self, wiped clean; no obstacles created, nothing to seek. Emptiness yet absolutely full. That’s where we are all headed. Union with God, the Absolute Supreme Being.

Luckily for me, once a certain about of divine receptivity occurs, that God cuts one a small break. For egoistic desires shoot forth and say- ‘I am in charge’.  These impulsive,  karmic tendencies may lead one down a path that is not in alignment with their true spiritual path. It happens!

One may push to usurp the Divine Maker’s Plan. Not a wise decision and yet on many occasions the karmic momentum is so strong that one must experience the most potent aspects of said karma, both the sweet and the bitter tasting.

I feel sometimes the Lord is about to knock you completely off your feet, as was the case recently when I received a body slam week. The Almighty was about to relegate me to a forced horizontal sabbatical for 6 months, 3 months of it on a hospital bed of nails, all for attempting to push the body back into phenomenal shape and do endless athletic adventures.

Then my angel appeared on God’s shoulder, unbeknownst to me.

“Your Lordship, let me take this one, if I may.” Your angelic buddy says to the Almighty, before adding:

“If I recall you owe me from the last poker game…inexplicable as it was. Might I intercede here? As you well know Sire, our young friend, Mr. Michael, has forgotten what happened 7 years ago when, after finally recovering a little bit of vitality, he tried to be a heroic, endurance athlete again. So let’s cut him a small break.”

Now this is the angel you have been blowing off for decades but always has your back despite the blinder’s routine.

All hail the angels and thanks the Lord. For the acute illness is over and no sign of the chronic illness bogie man.

 

 

 

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