After a delicious breakfast at my campsite of granola, almond milk and some farmer's market peaches that one of my Denver friends gifted me, I was off to Kansas, saying a fond farewell to Golden Gate Canyon State Park.
Kansas. Hm. First timer here to Kansas. I was eager to see what would unfold in one of the most famous states in America - according to turn-of-the-century children's literature anyway. And besides, I have a bit of a relationship with all things Oz.
The Hipcamp I'd booked was located in rural Kansas, just outside Hutchinson, in case you know your way around Kansas. The drive from Denver area to my campsite was excruciatingly long. Oh my goodness, the road just stretched and stretched ahead. The books and the music and all the stops at rest areas to make hot tea felt endless. Miles and miles of fields of corn, wheat and crops of all varieties. They know good and well there in Kansas that they grow a ton of food for North America. (Many billboards pointed out this fine fact.) I have deep respect for folks growing the food in Kansas.
I pulled into my Hipcamp around 5 o'clock or so and began settling in. I would be staying on an actual farm. One with cows, kitties, crops and a silo to boot!
While pitching my tent, I scraped the hell out of my left leg with rebar I use to stake my tent. Blood oozed out. I could feel what felt like future-bruising starting to develop. In the spirit of radical self-reliance, I'd packed a first aid kit for my trip and I'm glad I did. I was able to clean the wound out quite nicely but I also learned a few things about what to pack in the future in terms of gauze.... Like, bring more of it.
I'd pitched my tent facing the field with the back of the tent to the grain silo. It was during the course of this mandatory activity that I threw out my back in "the spot". (Don't we all have one?) Between my gashed left leg and my back pain, I was in an uncomfortable scenario to say the least. I managed to cook my food (instant ramen) and afterwards was barely able to do more than just sit in my camp chair. It was then that the farm owner walked over to say hello. He was an older man, so sweet, so kind, telling me rain might be in the forecast and I could move to the barn if I needed to. He asked where I was from and what I was up to. I shared honestly that I was wandering around solo for a couple of weeks and was grateful for his tidy and beautiful Hipcamp farm. Of course, I was a bit of a hot mess with a pained look on my face from my broke down back and that half ass bandaged left leg. I admit: I did wonder what he thought about this tatted up girl who'd shown up to his farm.
No bother. I somehow managed to get my tent in order, do my dishes and zip up the tent well before sundown. I did some light yoga moves to try to work out the pain my back. I prayed the rosary over the phone with my friend A who was back home in D-town. I slept all night long to the sounds of insects, the breeze rustling the grasses in the field and the roar of distant thunder clouds. It never did rain, praise the lord.
The next morning I awoke to the cows being milked in the barn near my tent. The machines clicking and churning with the cows themselves moo'ing in ecstasy. I ate my breakfast, my back still totally in pain and my leg starting to sting a little bit under the bandages. The cows looked curiously at me as they left the barn and their morning milking.
After cleaning up my breakfast, I headed over to the barn for a shower. Sure enough, there was a tidy little farm store to match the tidy little farm. Fresh eggs, milk, meat filled several refrigerated cases. And lo and behold, there was indeed a hot shower in the back of the farm store. I washed my bloody leg and scrubbed my filthy hair. It was my second shower of the trip so far. The first having been at the hot springs back in Colorado days earlier.
Onwards. The adventure continues.... May it be so.
The last morning at my Crestone Hipcamp was simple enough. I ate some breakfast, drank some coffee and began the process of packing up. The cookware and tubs had to be accounted for. The air mattress and the bedding. The clothes and toiletries. Finally the tent itself and the tarp underneath. Camping and "roughing it" are fairly effortless to me after so many Burning Mans. And while I no longer actively desire to attend a Burning Man, I remain so grateful for its lifelong lessons of taking the suffering that can sometimes go along with camping in stride.
I headed out fairly early because I'd booked a 9am massage at a local hot springs. I got there at 8:15 or so and after a much-needed shower (I hadn't had one in three days after all!), I put on my swimsuit and soaked in the Joyful Journey Hot Springs until my massage therapist called for me.
The 90-minute massage was 'meh, okay' at best but who was I to complain. In the moment, I was glad to finally have the putrid mix of sweat and mosquito repellent washed off and someone massaging my sore muscles after that ten mile hike a couple days before. After the massage I soaked a little more in the springs and then headed back to my car for the cooler and bag of food. I made a picnic lunch, which I ate solo in the courtyard of the hot springs compound. Soon enough, I was off to my next destination: Golden Gate Canyon State Park.
The drive North through Colorado was gorgeous. Totally beautiful, with easy-to-drive highways and drivers who seemed a lot nicer than where I come from. My destination was Golden Gate Canyon State Park. I'd found it simply by searching places near Denver to camp. I didn't want to spend much time in the city, preferring instead to maximize the camping and hiking time during my vacation.
I arrived to the park late afternoon and after stopping at the Visitor's Center to grab a map and get oriented, I headed on to my campsite: Aspen Meadows. It's a walk-in camping area, meaning you have to park and haul your stuff to your site. On the way is a lookout for viewing the Continental Divide:
When I arrived at Aspen Meadows, I observed that luckily my campsite was somewhat near the parking lot. But still, it took about five loads to haul everything by foot to the tent pad I'd reserved. I set up my tent amongst the tall trees of the forest. I had a few neighbors and while I could hear them, they weren't really near me. I made some hot tea and settled in to rest. I read some of my Tara book I'd purchased in Santa Fe. At some point I ate dinner. It would be yet another evening when I would go to bed super early.
The next morning I was up before all my neighbors. It had been so, so, so cold in the overnight that I could barely sleep. I'd tucked my head under the covers and kept myself warm with my breath. I was in every layer I had and still I was freezing cold. In the end, it was nothing coffee and hot oatmeal couldn't fix. Soon enough I was off on a hike. A gorgeous hike.
After several miles of trail and about four hours of hiking, I was back at my campsite just as some folks were setting off! I ate some ramen and made some tea and decided what to do next. I'd looked at the forecast and saw rain was coming so I carefully packed my tent and its contents to accommodate a rain shower or two while I was away. Better safe than sorry! It's the worst to come back to a soaked sleeping bag. After lunch and packing it was onwards to Denver for the afternoon. I had set up a coffee date with an old Burning Man friend at 3 o'clock.
And man oh man was it good to see Delay! (His Burner name.) We grabbed turmeric lattes and headed to a big, glorious park that's walking distance from his house. We sat on a bench and talked and talked and caught up about all the things. The two of us were thick as thieves at the Burns we shared. He's quite a bit younger than me and I could tell that he's really grown up in the few years since my last Burn (2015). He does fancy coding stuff for graphs for Bitcoin investors. Or something. He tried to explain it to me but my inner-85-year-old-woman just couldn't process what the hell he was trying to tell me. Whatever, he's happy doing it and if he's happy, I'm happy for him. Truly.
After that I had dinner with a former co-worker in his beautiful Denver home. (An internet shy former co-worker so I won't post pics here.) It was so lovely to catch up and soon enough I was heading back to my campsite at the state park.
Sure enough, it had rained while I was gone for the afternoon. Quite a bit by the looks of things. Fortunately, I'd packed my gear neatly and everything was dry as a bone. Phew! It wasn't as cold this time and sleep was a bit more restful.
So, why Crestone? Well, a friend of mine had told me this amazing tale of land being given for free back in the eighties to spiritual groups who wanted to settle in Crestone. Amazingly, a very large number of organizations had taken up this opportunity and set up spiritual communities there. In some cases making Crestone, Colorado their North American headquarters. The whole idea simply captivated me. In fact, just the idea of an intentional spiritual community turns me on even as I watch how incredibly skeptical I am of such things. And I mean, Crestone’s got the crazy - remember the Love Has Won people?
Anyway, I was more interested in the larger and more established organizations that had settled in Crestone, not the fringe weirdness.
To get oriented, the Manitou Foundation website has a good overview of what happened in Crestone. Basically, this wealthy couple had bought tons of land in and around Crestone for a retirement community but a series of profound encounters shifted their relationship with the land. Instead, the vision became to invite as many of the world’s spiritual lineages as possible to come and make a home there.
And they did! In droves. The resultant community is fairly extraordinary. And I was excited to check it out.
I’d emailed a few places to just see how they encounter walk ups. Are they even open? Are they in a retreat session? The various websites available are mostly up to date but with all things small-town and Covid I couldn’t take any chances. Although there were certainly enough outdoor things to see if I couldn’t get into any of the places.
I woke up nice and early on Monday and had my breakfast: granola, fruit and almond milk. French press coffee. After dishes, teeth brushing and mosquito dodging, I loaded myself into the car with lots of water and my meditation cushions.
First up, Vajra Vidya. I’d emailed them and the info I got back was that it was ok to swing by and meditate. I rolled up around 8am and parked. Beautiful campus! I grabbed my meditation cushions and headed into the big double doors. Shoes off. Into another set of double doors into their main shrine room and community space. It was totally empty and the space was arranged and ready for meditation and chanting. Not really sure about the protocol about these things, I set up my personal meditation seat in the back behind everything already going on in this room. I sat down and looked around. Hundreds of buddhas, Taras and beautiful objects filled the space. I closed my eyes to absorb the vibe.
I opened my eyes about an hour later and someone had slipped in and taken a seat on one of the pre-existing cushions. I slowly and quietly, like a cat, folded up my items and took a quick picture before exiting the shrine room.
I put on my shoes and walked out front. The morning was cool and clear. I noticed a lovely Kuan Yin under a tree nearby and walked over to have a closer look. Soon enough I was in my car searching for the next place to visit.
If there was a mama stupa, a papa stupa and a baby stupa in Crestone, I visited the baby stupa first. It wasn’t far, maybe a 15 minute drive from Vajra Vidya. I found it easy enough and it’s actually on someone’s property. Like in their front yard. It was a little strange to follow the trail up to their yard and walk around the stupa. But I did.
And what’s a stupa, you might be asking? Well, it’s like a buddha placeholder. That’s how I like to think of them. They’re filled with artifacts and objects of enlightened teachers and beings. (Side note: when I travelled in both Myanmar and India I visited several stupas that have actual Buddha toe nails and hairs and things!) Stupas become places where the teachings and vibration of Buddhism can really come to life. Especially if they’re cared for and visited often. This one certainly was.
Then I was off to visit the ziggurat. I had to look that up. What on earth is a ziggurat? And why is there one in Crestone?
A ziggurat is essentially a spiral staircase to heaven. Where, at the top, one (ideally a priest) can receive the divine instruction from God because God might actually live up there. Some say the Tower of Babel was a ziggurat. Anyway, Crestone has one, don’t you know!
The origins of this ziggurat come from a commission from an American Syrian man back in the late seventies. It’s neat and I’m glad I visited it. And besides, the view is amazing from the top. It’s a desolate experience to climb the spiral. Wonderfully desolate except for the millions of winged ants that lined the walls and the floors on the ascent to God. And did I find God up there? Uh, sure.
Next it was off to the papa stupa. The biggest stupa in the area. The one in all the pictures and websites one might peruse when looking up what to do in Crestone. The drive is long. Miles and miles down a dirt road along the side of the mountains. I crept into a parking spot and walked slowly down the path to the big stupa. Three people were already there, meditating in silence.
What a sight! Gorgeous views of the Crestone area. This large, inspiring stupa placed perfectly along the mountain side wall. Prayer flags billowing in the wind. I sat for a while in the shade just absorbing the profundity of the labor it must have taken to create this amazing place. The dedication to keep it pristine. The joy of being allowed to visit this very cool place.
Back in the car, I followed the long and winding gravel road back to the “main drag” of spiritual centers. The Maha Lakshmi center - Covid closed. The Crestone Zen Center - closed because they were in retreat session. The Chamma Ling center - Covid closed. The list goes on, there are so many places on this “main drag” through the foothills.
I passed a place called the Shumei Institute. They had a hand painted sign out front saying if you wanted to visit, to call the number. So I did. They couldn’t see me right then but I could come back in the afternoon and see what they were all about. Cool!
I headed into Crestone proper to see about finding some lunch. There aren’t many places to eat and I settled on a place called the Mystic Rose for a sandwich and chips. I poked around some gift shops. I visited the Crestone Artist Collective where I got to eavesdrop on the shopkeeper and another shopper talking about Crestone. How people come to this town for one reason: to study with their teachers. I suppose in general that’s true but that wasn’t exactly the case for me. I’m just intrigued by the concept of the place and wanted to check it out. I'm not out looking for a path, I'm on a Path and it's one driven by curiosity and wonder.
After spending a little time in the town of Crestone I headed back out to the main drag of retreat centers. I visited the mama stupa. Yet another gorgeous and meticulously maintained place of prayer and meditation. A little path led the way to a small shrine room to the protector of this particular stupa and its pilgrims: Dorje Yudronma.
Onwards to the Shumei Institute for the afternoon appointment I'd set up before lunch. I parked and went inside. Full Covid protocols in place, I was content to let them let me see and experience as much as they were comfortable. A very nice British person gave me an overview of all things Shumei and I watched a little video on the Shumei Institute and learned about the mothership in Japan. They’re all about nature, art and beauty. And while the lineage hails from Japan but there are spiritual aspirants all over the world.
I got to experience first hand Jyorei, a healing modality they perform and channel. My guide was so amazing and even took me up to their sanctuary and shrine space. The main shrine was closed but I got to experience the extremely tidy and clean place where Shumei aspirants pray and meditate together. One of the most amazing things was the floral display up on the altar. My British guide told me they change it with some frequency and each iteration is somehow more beautiful than the next.
We exited the meditation space and my guide asked me if I wanted to see one more really cool thing. “Of course!” I exclaimed.
There, right there, very near the meditation hall was the entrance to an actual gold mine! Freezing cold wind blew forth from inside the mountain. Apparently the trail into the mountain goes for a good long while before it opens into a massive cavern that’s larger than a football field! They don’t open the mine entrance but every ten years or so. I would totally go in there if I could… Maybe next time the stars will align. Crestone is definitely the kind of place I would visit again.
But dang the town of Crestone is remote. That’s the thing. You really have to want to visit Crestone. Either for the spiritual centers (and your teacher, according to the shopkeeper) or for the radically amazing hiking in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Both of these attractions could easily bring me back for another adventure some day.
Back at my camp, I fixed dinner. Made some tea. I gawked at the new campers at my Dreamweavers Hipcamp. I could go on about them, but I’ll refrain. They were my personal entertainment for the evening. Like a TV comedy show I could just watch from the mosquito-free zone of my tent window.
I read for a little while, meditated and went to bed (again) before dark. That was one of the most blessed things about my travel time. No alarms and no schedule. I woke up when it felt right and went to bed when I was tired. That’s the nature of having time off from the normalcy of life and the rhythms that come with work and living in the Default World.
May it be so.
The next morning I woke up on my own around 5:30. It’s daytime much earlier than I’m used to in Mountain Time Zone! Undeterred, I rolled over and went back to sleep for a little while. The air mattress and sleeping bag combo is actually quite comfortable. Around 7am I woke up again (for real this time) and made myself some coffee in a French press, cooked a little oatmeal with raisins and packed a picnic lunch for myself: a sandwich, some chips, some pretzels and an apple.
I’d done some research back home in advance of the type of hike I wanted to do. Not too long. But not too short. Not too hard. But not too easy. I wanted a hike that would take me all day but not overnight. In the end, after searching on All Trails website, I settled on the Willow Lake Trail. 10 miles of difficult hiking that would lead me to an alpine lake of snow melt. Perfect!
By 9am I was at the trailhead and parked. The lot was packed and I literally got the very last parking spot in the whole lot. I grabbed my backpack (with my lunch and a gallon of water inside), my water bottle and my jean jacket. With that, I headed up the trail and began an epic day-long hike.
A snowmelt creek greeted me around the very first corner. Wild flowers. Small waterfalls. Switchback after switchback. I hummed hymns. Scott had gifted me some bear mace but I’d also heard that humans singing as are much a bear deterrent as anything. So I kept on singing.
By 10:30 I was starving so I paused to sit and eat my completely mushed up peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I realized fairly early that I probably didn’t have enough water for the day but I managed to keep on. The elevation climbed and climbed and I could feel my lungs starting to ache. Crestone itself is at 8,000 feet and I knew the pinnacle of my hike would be 11,700+ feet. I kept breathing, singing and just kept going.
I’m not a fast hiker. There’s no race here. I lived in Yosemite National Park in the glorious summer of 1996 and worked in the Camp Curry Coffee shop. I know hiking. I know the lifestyle. I know the hikers that seem like they’re in some sort of race. (With themselves?) I’m not that. I sit when I want. I drink when I want. I eat when I want. But I don’t stop, that’s for darn sure.
I encountered a number of really nice people along the way. Distanced but friendly. About a third of the way up I encountered a breathtaking view of a ginormous green meadow below. More waterfalls. Little bridges made of fallen logs and stones that would require my full attention. Slipping and falling into freezing cold water was not on my agenda!
Somewhere along the way I ate my chips. And then the pretzels. In addition to not quite enough water, I also didn’t bring enough calories! I kept going. The sun bore down even as the temperature seemed to drop slightly the higher I went. I was grateful for my dorky sun hat.
Finally, around 2pm, I reached the hike's summit and the ice cold lake. And wow was it worth it! Big horn sheep grazed calmly nearby. A few people here and there sunning on the rocks. I found a place and took a mosquito-free nap. They don’t seem to be able to make it at this altitude. I was glad for my jean jacket at this altitude.
I ate my apple in silence, meditated a while and then decided I should probably get back down the mountain. I looked and looked for the trail. I couldn’t find it! Oh no…. I could barely remember what the boulder-strewn trail looked like there at the top and after taking the wrong path about four times and turning around, I finally found it. I saw how I worked with the panic and moved through it.
The trip down only took about three hours but somehow I’m still not certain if it’s easier to go up or down. Heading down works different muscles even though it’s much faster.
I was at the base by about 5:30 or 6:00 and gratefully sank into my car for a water refill. I’d drunk over a gallon during my hike!
Sore from head to toe, I slowly drove back to my Hipcamp at Dreamweavers. Somehow I cooked dinner. Somehow I made hot tea and did my dishes. Somehow I brushed my teeth. I was in that tent and completely passed out asleep by 7:30pm. But not before a ridiculously contented selfie in my bed. I'm so tired but so happy to have spent the whole entire day hiking. (Also - that blazing forehead birthmark is why I return again and again to the bangs.)
I had a big day ahead of me the next day after all - a visit to all the religious centers in the Crestone area. Or as many as I could possibly visit in one day.
May it be so.
Packing came easy on Thursday before my trip. I’d been fussing all week with things, getting ready to go out of town. Tying up loose ends at work. Sending last minute emails. Staging piles (and piles!) of camping gear. Those sorts of things. Feeling burned out with all things day job, this trip felt like I was embarking on an adventure to find myself - to figure out what I want to do with my life. I mean, I already know: I want to serve in the best place possible that's most authentic to me. But I’m burned out, I’m restless and I need some space.
I woke up Friday morning at 5:30. It was the last alarm I’d set for over a week. I grabbed the cold things out of the fridge, loaded the toiletries and was out the door by 6am. Most everything had been packed the night before, carefully thinking through when and how I’d need various things. What would make the car Tetris the easiest to sift through throughout my time on the road?
I stopped at a Starbucks somewhere in the mid-cities and grabbed some coffee and something to eat. I’d keep going, heading west, up through Wichita Falls, onwards to Amarillo. By Amarillo, I was ready to have lunch but struggled to find something on the East side of town. I exited the first picnic area West of Amarillo and pulled over to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. To eat with chips and a nectarine. A meal I would eat many, many times over throughout the next week.
I’d planned all my meals of course. From beginning to end, all the moving parts were all thought through so as to cause the least amount of worry and interaction with anybody. I didn’t want to do a lot of shopping beyond buying gas, ice and perhaps some souvenirs here and there.
After Amarillo it was onwards to Santa Fe. I listened to the BKS Iyengar book Light on Life, a book that breaks down yoga philosophy with such elegance and practicality. And earlier, I’d been listening to Eknath Eswaran’s commentaries on the Upanishads. As I pulled into Santa Fe, I headed straight for The Ark. It’s a big spiritual bookstore filled with goodies, great books and the last time I was in town I only had five minutes in it before it closed. I sorta swore that the next time I was in Santa Fe, I’d make a point to visit again. I picked up a set of prayer flags for our backyard deck. I also got a book on the 21 Tara's.
I got to my friend Scott’s house and waited for him to get off work. Just for a few minutes, it wasn’t long.
He arrived and after unloading my car, we settled in for a drink. Me some pink wine and him a cold beer. We chatted about all the things while we killed a little time before dinner. When the timing felt right, we decided to head out to Paper Dosa for dinner, a delicious Indian place with alarmingly good dosas.
We ended up sharing a table with another couple. The restaurant was extremely busy and this was a good decision for all of us in order to get a table in a timely manner. We got to know them a little, although now I can’t remember their names. Either way, it made for a sweet little evening.
When we got back to the house, I changed the sheets on the bed I'd be sleeping in and took a shower. I was asleep before I knew it, with an elderly black cat named Lula purring next to me.
In the morning we got up, had some coffee and tea and I researched Crestone a little bit before getting dressed. We headed out for a fabulous French breakfast where we talked about all sorts of things - from my unease with work to his leather business. He also shared his yoga journey with me - how he’d stumbled into Iyengar yoga and it was proving to be fairly miraculous with his long disabled leg.
We headed back to his house and I took some pictures of him in his leather working studio. As much for him as for me, I’d say. We parted ways after that and I headed over to the Jackalope - a really cool home goods and garden store in Santa Fe. After endless wandering I settled on a simple teal blue dress that I’d wear almost everyday after that. I even shimmied into it in the parking lot in front of God and everyone!
The drive to Taos was uneventful and very beautiful. Upon arrival I headed straight to a delicious pizza place called Out Back Pizza. After that the Hanuman Temple for a brief encounter with Hanuman’s energy.
Turns out, Saturday is the only day they open the Temple. Fortunately for me, it was Saturday and my timing was impeccable! I arrived just after they opened the doors so I was towards the front of the line that was slowly queuing out front. Covid protocols meant everyone wore a mask and they would only allow six people in at a time to pay respects and meditate.
When it was my turn, I dinged the bell over the entrance to the shrine and put a little money in the donation box and headed in. I hadn’t brought any flowers or goods that the temple could use. Money would have to do. I sat on the floor of the temple and looked at all the shrines. I closed my eyes and sat for a few minutes to see what would come to me. “Life is for service” and “be of service” is what I kept experiencing. Fitting for Hanuman. Fitting for the questions I’m asking myself on this wandering adept adventure.
I exited the shrine room and gratefully accepted the caffeinated chai and some prasad. I had a bit of a drive ahead of me - to get to Crestone, Colorado before dark. Back at the car, I rearranged a few things and got settled for a fairly long drive ahead of me. About three hours to Crestone.
Not far north of Taos, I approached a bridge. I could see people stopping and walking to it so I slowed down as I crossed. Holy shit that was a deep gorge! I had no idea! It’s part of the Rio Grande - but way up in Northern New Mexico! I pulled into the rest area just past the bridge and walked back down to the bridge for a better look. A suicide hotline was there at the center of the bridge. It really was a “sure fire” spot if you wanted to jump. There would be no survivors.
Back in the car, I turned up some music and headed on, stopping briefly at the Earthships. The nice people wouldn’t let me in though. I was nine minutes past their closing time. I could see it was quite the place, with gardens and living quarters like buried into the earth for year round living and comfort.
I passed an Amish cart and horse. I passed into Colorado and marveled at the cannabis dispensary right there at the border.
Onwards to Crestone. I got into town and promptly hit the Higher Elevation dispensary there in town before plugging in the GPS directions to my campsite. (Nothing wrong with a little legal sativa, people.)
I found my Hicamp (called Dreamweavers) after only a little effort. When I pulled into the gate, I wasn't sure where to park or what to do so I inched forward to the doorway to the structure that was to my right. A tall, older man stepped out to greet me. “I’m here to see Jodi. I’m camping here tonight through a Hipcamp reservation.” He seemed a little bewildered at my comment and possibly a little confused. His name was Robert and the little elderly starving dog with him, he called “Shorty.” Jodi, the woman I’d been communicating with about camping, had left for Sedona just that morning, he said but that he could show me around.
Oh dear, I thought, but followed him into the house.
We started walking through the house. I hesitate to use the word “house” though because the structure seemed to me to be a series of shacks and prefab structures that had been strung together for a rambling ranch “house” effect. He took me through the “healing room” where I could see a massage table set up (complete with rumpled sheets) underneath a row of chakra colored crystals that would line up with someone’s body if they'd been stretched out on the table. I turned a corner and Robert said “Hey Merlin, come say hello to Aurah!” A little curly headed man with glasses peered out of a room, pulled back a curtain doorway. Smiling and seeming very friendly, he said “Hi Aurah! Nice to meet you.” Robert explained that Merlin was the resident wizard. I couldn’t tell if he was kidding or not so I laughed it off and said “every place needs a resident wizard, man!”
Then a peek at the shower I was invited to use. ‘Nope’ I thought. Then the kitchen where I “could put my things” if I wanted to. I opened the refrigerator door and saw it was lined with wooden shelves and the whole thing packed to the gills. ‘Nope’ I thought and we kept going. Past the washer and dryer that don’t work. Past more piles of clutter. We exited out the other end of the place and I think I understood at this point to head back out to the road and take the second entrance into the compound. I could camp anywhere I like. And then Robert made a menacing comment about mosquitoes. I wasn’t quite sure what he meant, but I would soon find out!
I pulled into the second driveway and noticed three other campers had already chosen the most obvious camping spot near a firepit. I parked my car pretty far from theirs and walked around. It wasn’t a prime camping location. It felt more like I would be camping in a dump. Piles of stuff, lumber, tools, trash, tires and more just sort of littered the place. I got the feeling that at one time it was quite the place but that Covid and a lack of work hours on the compound had left it in utter disrepair. I pitched my tent along a fence strewn with homemade dream catchers. Seemed like the most obvious place. And besides, it had a helluva view of the mountains.
I started to lay the tarp and then my tent. The mosquitos, it turns out, are a Whole Thing in Crestone for about 6-8 weeks in the summer. The ground is saturated with snowmelt water and they sort of emerge from the ground. They don’t even need standing water to propagate. I rubbed some mosquito wipes along my legs and back of neck and arms in an effort to be able to focus on setting up my camp.
I quickly cooked my first dinner: a Kalachandji’s meal heated up in a skillet on my borrowed camp stove and hot tea. I did my dishes as quickly as I could while thousands of mosquitoes bombarded me. After securing my little outdoor kitchen for the night, I dove into my tent and zipped it up as quickly as I could. Finally: sleep after an epic travel day. I needed the rest. The next day I’d be heading up to Willow Lake at around 11,700 feet elevation….
May it be so.
I depart soon on a solo adventure. On the next new moon, if fact. It'll be just me, my tent, Sophia Pearl (my car) and a cooler full of food. I've booked a series of Hip Camp sites to get me going but I've also left several days in the middle of my wandering to get lost and see where the wind might take me. I've got some hiking in the Sangre de Cristo mountains on the agenda. And a monastery (or ten) to visit. I'll bring the iPad and write a ton, I'm sure. Other than that, I guess I'll see what happens. I'm ready to roll with whatever.
I know it's not cool to complain, but y'all, I'm totally fried at work. Crispy, in fact. These times we're living in have worn me thin and I'm desperate to recharge. My version of "self-care" has always been to take off somewhere alone. Sometimes it's a fancy foreign trip. Sometimes it's to Burning Man. Sometimes it's "just" to the family ranch for a few days. A few times I've meditated for ten days straight at the Vipassana Center south of town. I truly recharge when I have these times away, ideally alone, but sometimes in small groups. It's like plugging into an energy socket for me. It's really important and helpful for me to shut it all off and give myself tons of space and freedom. In a quasi-post-pandemic year the best fit seems to be a camping adventure, cheaper too! Fortunately my dear husband knows this about me. It was true when we married 23 years ago and it remains true to this day. I'm a much better mom, wife, friend, worker bee, citizen when I return. Oh, and prayers for safe travel are welcomed. As bold as I am and as easy as I make all this sound, this stuff is always a little scary if I'm honest.
I share this about myself to encourage you to do what YOU need to do to take care of yourself right now. A solo camping trip isn't everyone's cup of tea but there's something for you to consider and "put out there" for your self care in the near future. It could be as simple as ordering sushi next Wednesday night. Or fussing around in your garden this weekend. Maybe it's picking up a fabulous book that you haven't read since you were sixteen. On your next day off, drive to the Hill Country and have a picnic at Enchanted Rock! Do it. Do something. Set aside the time in your calendar soon to do this for yourself. Please. I hope this is the encouragement and inspiration you need!
May it be so.
Photo credit Stock image: Birds fly in front of a full moon. GETTY IMAGES
The Full Flower Super Blood Moon (on a Wednesday) is the culmination of this science experiment and here we are, dear Adepts! The daily prompts thus far have been leading to this one, so lean in, will you?...
The end game here (for me) has been to get some important themes in the forefront of my mind via day-resonant writing prompts: abundance, creativity, shadows (fears), shine, mystery, vigor culminating with a well-articulated communication from the heart to move through a challenge in my life. In essence, a heartfelt Prayer. The magic of today, of course, is optimal conditions to merge with the big flow of the “celestial court” and write down in as plain language as I possibly can the Prayer that wants to express itself through me. And then link that Prayer up with the full moon this month, which is also the auspicious lunar holiday to celebrate the Buddha’s birth, death and enlightenment. This is the basic idea anyway.
And what is the nature of the experiment we have done here? Well, the incredibly simple and obvious hack of tuning in to the days of the week and associated celestial bodies has allowed us to work what is already in motion with an ongoing aspect of modern life that everyone on the planet (for the most part) has a sense of and is an active participation in : the seven day week. By virtue of lining up with this higher order we can actively link up to the “music of the spheres” which is the whirring and spinning and orbiting of the visible planets (plus the sun and moon) in the heavens. Ultimately though, I propose that this experiment serves as a boost in realizing our true nature as a creative, active, divine force in the world.
Naturally, this science experiment can be extended, if you feel called, as a way to diversify your ongoing experience and harness yourself to the larger mystery of the celestial-scape. There are 52 weeks per year of course so find the next week that makes sense to you and have at it!
Without further chatter, here’s the culminating writing prompt from our time together...
Despacho Instructions: A despacho hails from the Q'ero people in the Andes mountains as a means to create a prayer bundle that one offers to the elements by burning or burying. It's a way to harmonize and align the physical world with inner wisdom and a heartfelt prayer. To construct one, first you need a despacho base. I suggest you use a sheet of paper, folded into 9 squares. In this case I suggest writing the Prayer you develop on 5/26 on the base. (Use the other writing sheets as kindling if possible. Burn it all!)
Thanks for participating with me, Adepts! Over and out for now on this particular science experiment. Time for me to keep movin’. Who knows what will happen next? May it be so.
Here goes! Below are the writing prompts for six of the seven days. I have a few things to say above and beyond what’s drafted here about each day when we meet for the Lives as well as the alchemy available to study within this framework. That said, in theory, this is the basic framework of prompts that I suggest in order to co-participate each day at 6:30am whether or not you meet on the internet or not. Again, the end game here for us (or for me, at least) is to “unstick” some specific areas of our lives and make room for transformation, for spaciousness and peace with a few areas that (for me) are causing anxiety and challenge. I hope that by systematically writing about areas that correspond to the days of the week and then making intentional plans to release and surrender a Prayer that I develop on the full moon might help. I mean why the f*ck not? This is where I trust and have faith in the processes that downloaded and take action to pursue and share with anyone who also wants to do a little self-inquiry.
Here are Six of the Seven days of the experiment:
FRAMEWORK, WHAT TO EXPECT & CLARIFYING DETAILS
Thanks for the interest, friends! I’m thrilled to have companionship for this inner pilgrimage I'm starting tomorrow. (Read up on the premise.) Because that’s the nature of a pilgrimage, right? Only YOU can walk your pilgrimage and only I can walk mine. I’m merely volunteering to be our fearless Cruise Director for this particular pilgrimage/sadhana. Below is a clear outline of what to expect and what the guardrails are for our walk together. I think it's helpful to see what exactly the approach will be and how you and I can make best use of the time.
HOW TO ACTIVELY (or passively) PARTICIPATE:
“See” you tomorrow morning (5/20) at 6:30am. You now know what to do. May it be so.
Context: If you know me well, you know I have amazing super powers in getting shit done and an uncanny ability to execute (and complete!) very large and complex ideas. Zero shame in my game. Indeed, the momentum and discipline I naturally carry boggles my own mind sometimes. And if you don’t know me well, just know that I’m a quintuple Scorpio born at Dawn on a Tuesday on a Full Moon (Need I say more?) Anyway, I’m super “stuck” in a very particular area of my life. Stuck in terms of being driven by (personally, to me) important powers of responsibility and obligation but also a finicky little tickle that I can’t (and won’t) settle for less. I want to use my superpowers of accountability and tenacity to dislodge this present “stuckness”. So: I hereby propose to myself a living, breathing science experiment. I’m somewhat educated in a number of metaphysical and yogic disciplines that could prove to be helpful here and I’m also a real deal scientist. (A degree'd chemist to be exact.) I’m curious what might happen if I pulled all the elements together in a big focused inhale and then released the pent up energy on the auspicious full moon next week? Why? Well, the timing feels right and besides, I’m motivated by this particular "stuck" area of my life. (I’d rather not say what area, exactly. To each Her own, mkay? You have your own stuck areas, surely.)
Purpose: To spend the week leading up to the aptly named Super Flower Blood Moon (also the celebrated auspicious day of the birth, enlightenment and death of the Buddha) developing a heartfelt Prayer and intention that I will offer to the powerful forces of life. This will simultaneously be the most woo-woo-hoo-doo thing I do all week coupled with the most direct, clear, no-bullshit course of action, destined to manifest because I will have harnessed my intentional Prayer to the physical elements and to my own creative, blooming, embodied life force energy. (That, my Adept friends, is magic!) It might feel right for you to join me at this time. Please do! The roadmap is outlined below. See if it speaks to you, I would welcome a companion or two. I'm a bit lost at the moment, tbh.
Approach: If you’re “in” we will have a “Zoom In / Zoom Out” approach that we perform together through a series of simple morning writing exercises culminating with a Day dedicated to embodying the Prayer: the Super Flower Blood Moon on Wednesday, May 26. Important note to interested Selves: full and rigorous live participation is requested for best results of this science experiment. Because make no mistake: this is a living, breathing science experiment where I bring many things that I have learned into an elongated experience where I can dive deeply into Realizing a fervent Prayer burning in my heart. Do you also have a fervent Prayer that needs some ignition? If so, again, you’re welcome to join me. I would love and welcome companions.
Sadhana: This particular science experiment has its own unique sadhana, or set of rhythmic practices that help keep the Forces “on the rails”. As many are aware “off the rails” is a place where we sometimes can get with these things. And it’s easy to get “off the rails” - so, so easy. So easy to not meditate. To lose focus and get distracted. So easy. A proper sadhana keeps things “on the rails” in the general direction of the Prayer. Or Dream. Or in an arc of human evolution as demonstrated by the Great Teachers of all the world’s traditions. A disciplined sadhana seems to be key in all of these scenarios.
How: for this particular science experiment, we’ll work with several moving parts, all of which will be outlined in detail over the course of a week:
May it be so.
Periodic updates from Aurah in the Field.